Branding can be a lot of fun, but for some reason it's really hard for me to work out my personal brand. This is important, of course, for folks who rely on their online presence to drive their business. I need people to be able to recognize me across different social media sites, and I know I need to stand out from the crowd of other artists and storytellers out there, but how? Perhaps you can relate!
I've been gradually refining my personal brand over the last couple of years as consistent themes have emerged across all of my creative work. I've worked hard on determining which themes I want to highlight, and there's a lot of soul-searching involved as I explore what I want to create in the future and who I am in my work today. Now that I know firsthand how tricky all of this can be, I thought I would take you through some of my process and the challenges I've encountered so far. I hope this will give you some ideas you can use to work on your own personal branding online.
The big things I'm covering here: Describing my work and figuring out a consistent look for presenting it online.
Where to start
The first step always seems to be the hardest. A lot of folks recommend starting by gathering inspiration from magazines, photos, films, etc. that resemble the feel you want to convey with your business or your work. Unfortunately for me, that isn't all that helpful because it doesn't matter what I like if it's not showing up in my artwork. It may work for you, but I've had to continuously revisit the common threads in my art to explore what impressions I'm creating and what I feel is most authentic.
These were the images I gathered today that felt the most 'me':
How do I want to describe my work/myself?
Because I have so many creative passions and interests, it's tough for me to describe my work clearly and concisely. Coming up with artist's statements in college was a nightmare!
One thing I've tried to help with related brainstorming is ask the audience. That's a great way to figure out what you're actually conveying with you work versus what you want to convey. Your motivations are important, of course, but it's handy to figure out if there's dissonance between your motivations/interests and what other people are picking up on throughout your body of work.
Most recently I asked my Twitter followers to describe my work in three words, and I plucked some great words from their feedback: dark, ethereal, haunting, captivating, nocturne, poetic, sketchy . . . I added surreal and romantic from my own thoughts and past descriptions from others.
I recommend writing this brainstorming down! It can be easier to spot themes and expand on your ideas when you're recording everything in one place. I tossed all of these words into my notebook.
What's my look?
If you're making a mood board or drawing from inspiration, it can be easy to pluck common colors from your source images. You might be attracted to particular patterns, like playful polkadots or art deco-inspired lines. Maybe you're a bit fan of whimsical script typefaces, and that's something that can tie everything together for you online. I recommend considering colors, fonts/typefaces, and patterns or other visual elements that you can use to maintain some consistency in your graphics, sites/profiles, and marketing materials.
For me-- this is difficult. Go figure! One would think a visual artist would find this easy, but alas . . .
Color: I've had a tough time navigating between my grayscale and color artwork, and I'm not sold on a purely grayscale color theme across my website and social media. Red is my favorite color, but I worry about giving off a goofy vampire vibe. Muted purples and neutrals can look great together, and they show up in my work here and there, but will that look too feminine or fairytale-esque? It's tough to know for sure.
Typefaces: Although I love writing as much as I love art-making, I'm not great with typefaces, so I'm having trouble settling on a couple to use in my ads and graphics (CLEARLY). I like the traditional, strong, reliable vibe of serif typefaces-- especially in all caps. I know that might pair well with a more modern, slender, sans-serif font, but there are so many variables and options! Today I'm exploring the pairing of Palatino with Helvetica. I'm trying to keep it simple.
Patterns and visual elements: I'm not much of a pattern gal, but my work tends to have a lot of texture that's on the natural/traditional side, with my digital brushes often mimicking traditional tools. My artwork features a lot of flowers and plant forms. I can use that for product photography, backgrounds, etc. Conveniently I can use my own artwork for marketing materials. Phew!
Here's a quick mood board I made today after reviewing some of Holly Casto's branding resources:
Where to go from here
There's a lot more to it: target audience explorations, products and stores, figuring out exactly what I have to offer that sets me apart from other creators . . . but those are probably topics for separate blog posts!
Although personal branding is still a work-in-progress for me, I hope this helped you in some way.
If you have feedback on how you view my artwork and which pieces stick out to you, don't be shy about sharing your thoughts! I appreciate the input.