Becoming a Brand: The Importance of Branding for Creatives
The internet has forever changed the way creative fields work. As creatives, our opportunities for work and education are no longer limited by location or cost. Without leaving home, we can share our work with clients overseas, or learn from teachers on the other side of the country. Anyone with enough drive can arm themselves with the skills necessary to begin a career as a creative professional. While this radical shift in the creative landscape has revolutionized the sharing of ideas and furthered the development of many disciplines, it has also proven to be a double-edged sword. With increased opportunity, came increased competition.
So, how do you stand out? Potential clients and employers want to work with someone who knows what they’re doing. Someone dependable and professional. Maintaining a carefully crafted online presence can communicate these values and help you to stand out amongst a sea of options.
Here are some key things to keep in mind while designing your online presence.
Like standing before a blank white canvas, as creatives, we often find ourselves confronted with an infinite number of forks in the road. Rather than learning which paths to follow through trial and error, we can create a map to help guide our decisions from the start. In terms of branding, this is a key set of words you use to define yourself. Their purpose is to narrow your focus and serve as the umbrella under which all of your creative decisions are made. Early on, this can seem daunting. Your creative voice might not yet be clear to you. To gain some insight into what speaks to you, create a mood board of your favorite work. Seeing these pieces side by side can help to reveal patterns in your taste, and provide you with a better idea of a possible creative direction.
Choose 5 words that are specific enough to conjure clear imagery, yet broad enough to allow for exploration. For example, an illustrator might choose tactile, decorative, vintage, airy, & pastel to describe their work. These words trigger associations with mediums, color palettes, and period-specific styles while allowing room to explore different subject matters. The goal is to remove guesswork, so the more specific the better. Striking a balance can be tricky, but finding a set of words that resonate with you is worth the effort.
Now armed with a clear picture of the traits you’re aiming to project, adhere to them in every aspect of your online presence. From color choices to logos, and fonts, use your keywords as a checklist to ensure a consistent voice. Though these may seem inconsequential, these are the types of details that other professionals will notice. Taking the time to carefully craft an identity will make you memorable. Over time, these details will become calling cards and help your work to be instantly recognizable.
Find a Niche
Your vibe attracts your tribe. Projecting a clear image of exactly who you are and what you do will simultaneously attract like-minded clients/employers while weeding out those likely to be a poor match. For new creatives, hungry for work, this may seem counterproductive. When constructing your portfolio, resist the urge to include mediocre pieces in an attempt to demonstrate range. Trim the fat, and play to your strengths. Building a portfolio with a narrow focus will land you projects you’ll enjoy working on, which will show in the work, and lead to more similar opportunities.
All things change. Over time your tastes and skills will evolve and your brand will grow to reflect that. Concise branding won’t eliminate all of the forks in the road, but taking the time to shed some light on your target will also illuminate the steps to get there.
Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.