It’s official: Designers in today’s competitive landscape must develop their personal brands to effectively market themselves to clients. Without a distinctive and memorable personal brand, you become just another designer adrift in the vast sea of competition, forced to vie with others for the same opportunities.
Personal branding is described as an enhanced version of oneself, refined to highlight everything that’s pertinent to your work and vision. But what portion of this is deliberately planned, and what part is simply a natural aspect of interacting with others? Let’s explore and figure it out.
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It only appears effortless
The most effective kind of branding is subtle, or what some might call “no” branding. The goal is to meticulously cultivate your personal brand while making it seem as though you’ve done nothing of the sort.
Overly conspicuous “branding” can be off-putting. However, just because it appears that you’re not actively promoting your brand doesn’t mean there isn’t a significant amount of effort taking place behind the scenes.
Take, for example, a blog about design. You may adopt a playful tone, frequently sharing anecdotes about your friends, your dog, or a recent visit to a favorite restaurant. Readers might be drawn to your blog for the humorous and insightful comments you make, perceiving you as a humble and down-to-earth individual rather than a calculated marketing strategist.
The truth is, you are indeed humble and down-to-earth. Your friends genuinely do make those amusing remarks, and so on. However, there’s also a strategic marketing plan in play, where you emphasize certain aspects of your personality to shape them into a recognizable brand.
Your mission, whatever it may be, must be earnest and genuine. Trust me, people can discern if it’s not. Whether abstract or precise, your mission or goal needs to reside at the core of everything you do.
Do you aspire to change the world through design? While that may sound vague, it’s perfectly acceptable, provided your readers truly believe in your intent and can perceive it through your content.
Maybe you aim to educate fellow designers about the rewards and risks of the industry. This goal is also somewhat vague, but it offers ample room for you to interpret and convey the message to your readers.
Internal & External Views
Reconciling who you are as a designer and individual with what people expect from you professionally is essential. It’s akin to the Freudian id versus superego in design: instinct versus external influences.
Consider the example where you are a simple designer who blogs about design and includes random, human details from your life. You are still crafting a conscious brand that people have developed specific expectations about.
If you, the design blogger, suddenly began writing lengthy posts about golf simply because you developed a sudden interest in the sport, it would conflict with your readers’ expectations. This inconsistency could lead them to question the authenticity of your brand.
That’s not to say you can never shift topics or stray from the design-specific subjects you initially wrote about. However, keeping your general goal in mind – clarifying exactly what you want to communicate to your audience – and ensuring your content aligns with this goal is vital for a successful personal brand.
Filter, Don’t Add
Cultivating your public image isn’t about artificially inserting things; it’s about filtering out what doesn’t fit. For instance, if other designers are blogging about a hot design trend that you don’t particularly care for or have any interest in, don’t feel compelled to write about it just to keep up.
Writing about something that doesn’t interest you will lead to burnout, and your readers will detect your lack of passion. They may begin to ignore you as a result. Instead, focus on filtering out the things that are irrelevant to your personal brand’s main goal, whatever that may be.
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As we learned earlier, straying wildly from the main drive of your brand – such as posting about golf on a design blog – will turn off readers. It’s not that your message isn’t genuine; it’s that it doesn’t align with what they expect when they visit your blog.
Branding Is Like Happiness
In branding design, we often say that you can’t actually create a brand, just as you can’t create happiness. Think about it: Happiness is a feeling that arises from a memory of something good, whether it’s spending time with people you care about or engaging in an activity that brings you joy.
It’s the experiences that make you happy that lead to happiness. Similarly, it’s the experiences your clients and users have with your designs that build brand loyalty.
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