Is personal branding a worthwhile endeavor, or an embarrassing exercise in ego gratification? A look at personal branding in the age of social media.
As the owner and Creative Director of The Logo Factory, my ‘brand’ is inextricably linked to that of my company. Has been since day one. I live and breath the work we do at the shop, and most of my time is spent in working on, in or at the studio. I run our studio blog, The Daily Logo, our Twitter feed and Facebook page. All are branded with The Logo Factory name and cog logo. I have no issue with promoting my company, our design services or my sometimes headstrong opinion under the TLF banner.
Personal branding vs. Corporate
When it comes to my personal activities on the web, I’ve tended to be a bit more reserved, at least visually, and have struggled with my personal branding for years (even now, I’m a bit ‘squishy’ publishing this post as my photograph and logo are just so damn big). Trouble is, in this era of social media, one’s almost expected to have a personal brand (as opposed to a corporate one), especially if you’re someone who makes a living in the graphic design field. I guess my question would go something like this – is personal branding a worthwhile endeavor or an exercise in ego gratification? While I tend to lean towards the latter, I guess I’m going to have to act like I believe the former. As the creative director of a design company, I suppose it’s to be expected. And with that out of the way, let’s take a look at why, and how, I developed my own personal ‘brand’ and why that toothy grinned kid is staring at you from the head of this post.
When it comes to social media networks like Twitter and Facebook, you’re almost expected to use a photograph of yourself somewhere, especially as an avatar, yet I’ve always had an serious issue with that. Anything with my photograph just embarrasses me, so rather than using a current mug shot, figured I’d use a portion of the photograph you see above. It’s a pic of me and my Dad, when I was but a toothy-grinned youngster in Northern Ireland. It’s one of my all time favorites, and if I remember correctly, the photograph was taken at one of those instant photo-booths, at a holiday resort town called Portrush. The image is indicative of a simpler time in my life, especially when it comes to my relationship with my father. It represents an era where things were innocent, full of wonder, and I had an unclouded and optimistic view of the world. Like most sons, my father was the most powerful, intelligent and wondrous person on the planet. Not bad times those.
From a technical viewpoint, and as the photograph I was using was really old, there was no negative available, and it was in monochromatic sepia tone, I carved out my toothy visage and ran in through a tracing program to turn the image from a bitmap into vector based artwork. By doing this I could use the photograph at any size, without loss of fidelity. Visually, the posterized effect is far more interesting than a simple swipe of the photograph itself. That took care of my avatar. Now, on to my personal logo.
As this is an exercise in personal branding, I didn’t want to use some glitzy corporate font or icon. I wanted something a little more, well, personal. My signature perhaps? Perhaps. But here’s something to keep in mind. Whenever you see a signature, in a magazine editorial or what have you, it’s highly unlikely that it’s a real version. Nobody wants their real signature being sent out to the wild, especially in this era of identity theft. I’m no different, so instead of using my real signature (which is too illegible for a logo anyway) I used the hand-drawn lettering that I used to sign paintings and illustrations back in the day. Had to write quite a few versions before I had one that I thought would work. After I settled on an appropriate version, I scanned it, and traced it by hand into the version you see above. I added my first name in a small, unobtrusive type face, and Bob, as they say, is your Uncle.
Putting it all together
I’ve owned the Steve Douglas domain for a few years now. Actually, it’s a lot of years. For most of those, it’s sat on a lone server with a splash page and some random HTML pages talking about my wedding, a pond that I built and other personal ramblings that don’t mean anything to anybody (save the Mrs., who did like the wedding stuff). With the advent of social media, Twitter, Facebook and what have you, I found myself representing my company publicly, while spouting off some fairly personal points of view.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se, but it’s not terribly business-like. Might even be described as unprofessional. I also dabble in music (for video and Flash), a little bit of photography and other non-design related pursuits that I would like to share and talk about. Accordingly, I decided that I’d start using the Steve Douglas domain for things a little more personal and maybe even a tad more provocative. It wasn’t a one-of decision, but rather part of a large rebranding, repurposing and refocusing project for The Logo Factory itself that began last summer (you can read more about the entire thought process behind this move here and here). Firing up this website properly would allow me to let my hair down (what hair I have left in any case) and feature material that wasn’t restrained by being connected, in one way or another, to my day gig. The thinking behind the header is simple – the world through my eyes. A bunch of cool designer quotes along the bottom keeps the design theme going, even though often, I’m not going to be talking about design. And that, in a very abridged nutshell, explains the personal branding that you’ll be seeing around my personal blog, Twitter feed and Facebook page. Goofy, and maybe a bit mad I know, but well in keeping with the theme of my website – Diary of a Slightly Mad Designer.
Still not sure about the ego thing though.