Unsolicited Advice: Personal Branding

Unsolicited Advice from Adam J. Kurtz

Last time, we talked about resumes specifically… But what about your personal brand as a whole? I remember being a nineteen year old college junior, staying late after class to talk to my professor about managing a personal brand when i could barely figure out how to brush my hair. It’s sort of an odd thing to have to worry about, but we do really end up packaging ourselves into digestible bites.

Some schools build this component into their curriculum, some don’t. You take your initials and create a typographic form that serves as a logo, which you think is really cool for the duration of freshman year. You work on a traditional branding system for yourself as a business entity. You build yourself a portfolio website and you stylize your name… and then you use the same font on whatever resume you scrape together. Or you don’t.

Ultimately, whether we want to deal with it or not, we do end up needing to brand ourselves. So instead of dealing with it on a case by case basis, take a step back and thing about it. Figure out what your needs are, figure out what you have to offer, and decide what you want to accomplish.

Some of us are pretty straightforward. We need some print pieces for interviews, we have a traditional print portfolio, and we’re interviewing for jobs, until we land one. Others manage larger web entities, from a portfolio site geared towards freelance clients, to a small press, to an online shop, blogging platform, and more. What category do you fall into? Where do you want to be and where do you see yourself?

Some things to consider:

What is your voice? – Are you more straight laced or a little goofy? All business or a little personal? The answer might be in your work — do you do clean-cut design work for more corporate clients, or are you polishing a signature style doing editorial illustrations and occasional etsy prints? Get an idea of where you’re trying to steer yourself as an entity so that you can design branding elements that reflect that goal.

Who is your audience? – Are you creating branding pieces for interviews and professional purposes exclusively, or are you styling your personal blog? Figure out who you want to be primarily viewing your content before you figure out how to package it. If it’s all business, keep it more straight-laced. If it’s a little more party, have some more fun with it. This is pretty obvious but it matters. Your 90s throwback green slime .gif logo is fuckin’ sweet, bro, and I will totally buy a 5-panel snapback from your big cartel shop, but i’m not totally sure I want to hire you to do that custom wordpress site for my specialty pet food business.

What do you actually need? – Think about the full extent of your needs. Logo treatment, business cards, resumes, portfolio site, letterhead, blog
design, twitter icon, product packaging, email newsletters, stickers. Some logos are harder to reproduce, some colour schemes aren’t convenient for all purposes, some typefaces are less versatile across print and web applications.

Put it all together – Get your pieces down and then start to apply them and see what happens. Experiment a little bit. You know you have a logo treatment, primary typeface, and colour scheme, so if one day you realize you want to make stickers to distribute at an event or with print orders, you have the pieces to put together something quick.

Ask for help! - Not everyone is a graphic designer, but chances are you know some. See if you can trade your illustration/photography/etc skills for design services, or even crazier, even pay for them, because your brand is going to represent you before you even get a chance to, and it might be the deciding factor in whether or not you get considered for a work opportunity yourself. This matters so invest in getting it right. If you do create it all yourself, get some outside opinions from friends and peers. It’s no secret that it can sometimes be hard to see yourself objectively. Seek constructive criticism, and don’t be afraid to make changes.

It’s also important to remember that nothing is permanent. You are not the Walt Disney corporation. You do not have a 100 year legacy. Your branding can evolve as you do as a creative type. Your portfolio will grow and need to be redesigned. You will wake up and realize you cannot possibly maintain several single-topic blogs anymore and consolidate into one general purpose design/lifestyle/soapbox tumblr. Your style will grow and you will sneak new elements into your bag of tricks until you realize that once smaller pieces of your branding have actually become the most consistent and unifying. Your branding, just like your own personal style, will evolve as you do. So don’t sweat it.

Let’s talk about art, design & whatever “real life” is…

 
If you are in need of somewhat-unsolicited advice, you can email hello@adamjkurtz.com or ask right here! Your question may be answered in a future blog post, and if chosen, you’ll receive a surprise in the mail from me too!

 

Who is Adam J. Kurtz?

 
Adam claims to be a “graphic artist & media designer,” but that could mean basically anything. He graduated from UMBC with a degree in Graphic Design in May 2009, and has worked for some awesome clients since – but you’ll probably know Adam best from the internet (he’s all over it). He runs a killer blog, shop, and you can check out his portfolio here. If that wasn’t enough you can follow him on flickrinstagram too. He didn’t write this bio, but I did edit it. Oh, oops.

Trackbacks for this post

  1. Adam J. Kurtz > Unsolicited Advice

Comments are now closed for this article.