Personal Branding Guide for Designers

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Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. Being good at your craft is not enough these days, being unique and authentic will make the cut, but only if enough people know about you. As Michael Simmons writes, authenticity is key in the digital age. Having a strong personal brand and following can lead to enormous opportunities and recognition.

Personal branding is becoming one of the most important key factors in any industry. Skills and boring resumes are not guaranteeing you anything anymore. You have to really start developing your own brand and building a tribe, or in other words an audience that will help you getting jobs, supporting you, sharing your work and getting recognition.

In today’s article I’d like to share some personal branding guidelines I’ve been experimenting with in the last couple of years. The techniques and methods used led me to speaking engagements, interviews on Forbes and Fast Company, business growth and business leads, not to mention the connections and friendships I’ve made.

Why should you care about building a personal brand?

There are numerous of reasons why you should consider strengthening your personal brand. The thing is your personal brand exists anyway, it’s how people perceive you, your work and your actions. To make sure that your brand goes together along with your values and how you wish to be perceived is to manage it. Moreover, building a recognizable personal brand will help you with the following:

  • Professional opportunities;
  • A better job;
  • Better contacts and clients for your company;
  • Industry recognition.

Vision

Develop a strong vision and make sure that you use it everywhere you go. Whether it’s to go to the moon or sail around the world, make sure it’s something big and bold, people remember these things. If you haven’t watched Simon Sinek TED talk “How great leaders inspire action” presenting “the golden circle” and “start with why” theory, make sure to check it out and come up with your own vision.

Who are you targeting?

Who is your message receiver, who are you talking to with your brand? The common mistake is everyone, we want to appeal to as many people as possible. The harsh truth is that if you try to please everyone, you’ll please no one. There is always someone who loves you for one thing and hates you for the other. Every person has an opinion, so you shouldn’t be concerned about appealing to everyone. Better think about your vision and long-term goals.

Use high quality images

No matter how great your website looks like and how many great stories you have to tell, people are visual creatures after all. Humans form opinions based on the first impression and images send more than needed information to make a strong impression and form an opinion about the brand.

Tobias van Schneider

According to 3M Corporation people are extremely drawn by visuals compared to written information.

“90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text.”

German designer Tobias van Schneider is a great example of high-quality imagery usage in personal branding communication that noticeably stands out.

Some more great examples:

Kerem Suer

Kerem Suer

Karim Rashid

Karim Rashid

Jeff Broderick

Jeff Broderick

Jim Ramsden

Jim Ramsden

Viens-la

Viens-la

Be consistent creating

According to Austin Kleon, an author of the New York Times bestseller “Show Your Work!” you have to consistently post bits and pieces of your work, your ideas, and what you’re learning online. Instead of wasting your time “networking”, take advantage of the network.

Think about all the great work you do but no one knows about it. Make sure to take an advantage of today’s internet ecosystem, post your drafts, ideas, updates, work in progress and complete work to get early feedback, recognition and potential leads.

There are some brilliant communities just for designers, Dribbble, Behance, DeviantArt just to name a few. Other medium can be your personal blog and portfolio.

Master storytelling

Storytelling is an enormously powerful skill that can set you apart from other faceless designers in the industry and help you shape your brand that people are interested in and eventually think of when in need of a designer.

Tomas Jasovsky

Instead of showing just your work, add some of your daily life to it, share work in progress, share your daily routine, share how do you find inspiration and the list goes on. A great example is Tomas Jasovsky, a Slovak designer who tried to get into a big company like Facebook, Spotify and after not getting in decided to pack his belongings and travel around the world with his girlfriend. He’s calling himself a nomadic designer and everything he shares is mixed with traveling, design, food and adventures. Who’s not interested in such a lifestyle?

Some more examples:

Pieter Levels

Pieter Levels

Ryan Putnam

Ryan Putnam

Make connections

It’s incredibly important to start building your professional network and get industry leaders into your circle as you will be perceived as one of the leaders as well.

“Your network is your net worth.” – Tim Sanders, author, public speaker, and former Yahoo! director

There are many ways to start connecting with people and you should not necessary focus just on designers, any connection is good and may lead to a “top dog” designer that you may not be able to reach from another designer.

How do you get people interested in you? You don’t, you start by listening to them and trying to provide them value in any way you can, only then people will start connecting with you in a genuine way and forming long-lasting relationships. If you want to learn more about networking principles for designers check out my article I wrote last year: key networking principles for design entrepreneurs.

Below are some handy websites and social networks for meeting new people.

  • Startuptravels – connect with the world’s startup scene. Meet entrepreneurs and startup enthusiasts in over 160 countries.
  • Meetup – one of the biggest platforms in the world for meeting people on pretty much any subject you can imagine.
  • Dribbble Meetups – Dribbble Meetups are a chance for designers to socialize, talk shop, and foster their local design communities.

Get some press

There is nothing more powerful than a well respected publication coverage of you, your story or your work. It adds a lot of credibility and trust to your brand and sets you apart from all the competition in your industry.

It’s not that easy to get press coverage though, you either use your personal unique story or build something remarkable and controversial, like an innovative redesign of an existing product or a new concept for something that would be cool if existed.

Tomas Jasovsky

A great example is already mentioned Tomas Jasovsky, a Slovak designer who came up with a design concept for Instagram for Business and got coverage by tech publications, one of them being The Next Web.

Some more examples:

Paul Jarvis

Paul Jarvis

Widely discussed Leo Drapeau’s iOS 7 Redesign

Leo Drapeau

Associate yourself with other strong brands

Work on your credibility part of the brand. Getting press is cool but might not be enough to impress potential clients. People love doing business or trusting people they know. If you are just starting out and don’t have a big audience, it’s better to associate yourself with bigger brands and companies you’ve worked with, helped or consulted them in any way. That way people will share the trust they have with a brand and associate it with your brand giving an enormous boost in brand credibility and likeliness of a new lead or customer.

No Divide

Check out an example above, an elegant yet convincing way to show off and gain some more trust from first time visitors who might be familiar with Badoo, ITV or O2 brands.

Some more examples:

THENERO

THENERO

Tushar Merwanji

Tushar Merwanji

Monitoring

Monitoring and tracking how you are perceived and talked about online is extremely important in order to establish genuine connections and catch true fans. There are many tools online you can use to track your personal brand on the web as well as social media and respond or chip in the conversation.

  • Google Alerts – it’s a simple, yet brilliant tool that allows you to create custom email alerts with certain keywords and see who is talking about you online.
  • Mention – this tool allows you to monitor the media, your brands and competition in real-time, on all-devices, for free.
  • Klout – helps people who want to be great at social media.
  • Brandwatch – powerful social media monitoring and analytics tool, chosen by pioneering brands and agencies all over the world.
  • Brand24 – gives you instant access to mentions about your brand across the web.

Just be yourself

May sound like a cliche, but you simply have to be yourself. If you don’t like the way you are, develop better habits, improve yourself and show people who you want to become if you are too shy to portray your current-self.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ― Oscar Wilde

From my experience I can tell you one thing, being humble and honest always wins against lies and arrogancy. Tell people your goals, share your vision, tell your own unique and authentic story and you will see people following you and connecting with your story, your brand and personality.

Conclusion

Personal branding is no way rocket science but it takes years to develop and maintain. Hopefully my experiences and experiments I’ve shared with you in this article will help you in developing your own personal brand that leads to professional opportunities, meaningful connections and industry recognition.

I am curious to hear your thoughts on personal branding. What are your strategies in engaging more people, how do you network and promote your work?

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6 Comments
  1. lee Feb 5, 9:15 pm

    No women in design, eh? Guess we don’t brand ourselves well enough …

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    • Jess Feb 8, 9:46 am

      I noticed this as well – surprised to see the article was written by a woman so maybe we just don’t use big photos of ourselves? :-)

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      • Paula borowska Feb 8, 8:04 pm

        Hey – this article is wrongly accredited. I did not write it. I just emailed DM about this. Sorry for the confusion :(

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      • Andrea Feb 13, 12:57 am

        Agreed, the lack of diversity in the examples is a bit extreme. And whether or not women are less likely to include large photos of themselves on their homepages, I notice none of the generic examples represent female designers, either.

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    • Olesia Feb 8, 1:47 pm

      That what I thought when finished reading the article. I reallyy want to become a designer but is it possible that women are so shy that they don’t do their own personal brand web-sites? And I thought (hope by mistake) that only men are so cool

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  2. Noelia Feb 5, 9:27 pm

    Great post! it is not easy for designer to brand themselves but this examples prove it worth it.

    Reply
    0

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