In Pursuit of my Personal Brand
With my capstone portfolio class coming to a recent end, so does the hesitation and anxiety associated with developing a cohesive visual identity for myself. Building a personal brand for the longest time seemed to be a creative leviathan which I’d need to conquer and tame if I ever wanted to have a career in the creative field. I struggled for a years trying to find something that would accurately describe me and the work that I wanted to do; only when I took a few steps back was I able to contextualize and execute a practical direction for my brand. I found myself in nature, in exploring industry trends, in evaluations with my professors, in philosophy, and with my fantastic mentors at Karma Agency. The conclusion of which was a simple, pragmatic approach to self-expression.
When I started to establish my visual identity a few semesters ago, I took a personal branding class with the hopes that it would bring better self-articulation, but it seemed to promote the same roadblocks I kept hitting. It was a prescription to success with rules that would certainly help us maintain good business practice, but did little to bring an honest distinction in the creative industry. We had to memorize an elevator speech, were quizzed on proper clothing etiquette, and distilled ourselves into a few words that would seemingly help contextualize our brands: adventurous, passionate, organized, friendly, tenacious - a cocktail of generalized virtues that could be assigned to nearly anyone.
At no fault of the instructor or of the integrity of the class, I just wasn’t finding the insight I needed to build a brand that could represent me. Furthermore, I had philosophical differences with assigning such general terms to myself--with aligning myself to an archetype. One of Jean Paul Sartre’s fundamental ideas is that ‘being precedes essence’: we can’t be pinned down to one particular idea or concept because our ‘being’ is much larger than just a few ideas. When we establish ourselves as an archetype, we’re essentially limiting our own freedom. This mistake is relevant in personal branding because we want to be seen as an object of ‘organization’, of ‘adventure’, or of ‘passion’. It’s easy to fall into this trap too when we make our brand about a specific proficiency or hobby because we restrict ourselves, simply, to familiarity.
The days of specialization are gone. It’s pretty clear that to make it in an agency you can’t just be proficient at illustration or photography alone, if you wanted to excel you’d have to be multifaceted in your proficiency and multi-fascinated by every topic. In architecture they say that form follows function, and the same concept should be applied to personal branding. If my function is to tell stories from a multitude of perspectives in hundreds of unique ways, my form must follow and be equally broad yet stylized.
In listening to the advice from my mentors at Karma, and by looking the personal brands of designers that inspire me, my brand should only be used as a way to connect my work rather than overshadow it as a separate entity. Ultimately, by repeating the same design principles that inspire me: geometric sans-serifs, line art, bold patterns, and interesting color combinations, I can effectively build a style that connects my work in a realistic way. By itself, my brand is visually abstract to give myself room to continue growing as a designer under the style I’ve developed. My logo, ‘iski’, is a word-mark of a piece of my last name, simple and translatable with attractive natural symmetry.