“Brand” is one of those funny terms that can mean different things to different people, but it’s most commonly associated with the visual design elements of a logo or business. David Ogilvy defined a brand as a “tangible sum of a product’s attributes.”
My favorite definition comes from author, speaker and creative marketing extraordinaire Seth Godin:
“[A brand is] the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another… But your brand is a story, a set of emotions and expectations and a stand-in for how we think and feel about what you do.”
When one reads Godin’s definition, the need to put a conscious effort into personal branding becomes quite clear. This is especially true for graphic designers and other creative professionals simply because the value and potential of what a creative professional can provide to clients, co-workers and organizations aren’t always well understood. A personal brand that’s well-executed helps a graphic designer stand out from the pack and showcase their unique value; whether they’re a job-seeker or long-time employee; an agency or in-house designer, or freelancer.
Here’s my list of must-have components a graphic designer needs to create a powerful, personal brand:
Be True – It’s true what they say, you can’t be everything to everyone. But, why would you want to? As a creative professional, you’ve undoubtedly accumulated a very unique set of skills and experiences that the world should know about, so showcase what makes you, “you.”If the development of a corporate identity is your sweet spot, highlight that on your portfolio. If you’re a fantastic presenter, volunteer for the role–your introverted teammates will probably be relieved. Also, be sure not to undervalue soft skills. Many co-workers and would-be employers would rather have a designer that’s easy to work with and jives well with the team vs. a highly talented but brooding individual. If you’re highly collaborative, highlight that in your ‘elevator pitch’ and demonstrate your collaborative nature during meetings.
Be Memorable – Remember the mention of the phrase ‘elevator pitch’ above? If you don’t have an elevator pitch, start creating one today. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s a very short speech that states your background, experience and what you bring to the table in a fashion that makes you stand out from the pack. An elevator pitch should be brief, but memorable. Crafting a good one will take some time, so put some real thought and effort into it. Note: an elevator pitch isn’t just for job seekers or freelancers. If you work at a large company or agency, for example, you should be ready to introduce yourself to the CEO if the time arises. I regularly use my elevator pitch when representing one of the brands I manage at conferences or tradeshows. When I present to a crowd, my elevator pitch is my opening line 90% of the time. If the idea of creating a memorable elevator pitch sound daunting, check out this post for helpful tips and examples.
While we’re on the topic of being memorable, business cards are a must. For a graphic designer, it’s a tangible way to show off your skills and prompt an individual to go to your website to learn more about you. In addition, having one ready at the conclusion of your elevator pitch makes you look prepared. One word of caution—don’t go cheap. Use quality paper and budget to work with a printer that cares about their craft. You want the recipient to leave with the impression that you have a sharp attention to detail and you care about everything you stand for in your personal brand.
Be Consistent – people learn by repetition, so a big part of making your personal brand memorable is making sure you’re communicating the same message, over and over. This can be said in different ways, of course. For example, how many ways can you talk or illustrate that you are innovative, collaborative or creative? Make sure the messaging in your personal brand– from conversations about yourself at networking events to social media posts, to the visual identity you’ve created for yourself—emphasize your strengths and what you want to showcase.
Another part of being consistent isn’t just what you say, but how you say it. Make sure— whether you’re representing yourself through social media, during a presentation, in your resume, or in your online portfolio—that you use consistent “voice” that not only conveys your goals and intentions but also appeals to your intended audience. As with your graphic design work, who your audience is should be considered first and foremost.
Be Daring – The key to any successful brand is making your audience the central character in the story. When developing your personal brand, keep in mind that your audience is the hero and you are the daring guide that will solve your audience’s problems and point them in the right direction. Never miss an opportunity in your personal brand to be bold and convey the value only YOU can provide.
Being daring may also mean stepping up to the plate and accumulating additional skills that are the perfect accompaniment to graphic design.