Any brand identity is supposed to tell a story. This is mine.
My ‘brand’ is inextricably linked to that of my company The Logo Factory and has been since day one. Not surprising really. I run our studio blogs, our social media feeds and various Facebook pages. All of those are branded with my studio’s name name and cog logo. I have no issue with promoting my company, our design services or my sometimes headstrong opinion under the TLF banner. That’s not what this is about though. This is about my brand, the graphic identity that represents Steve Douglas.
Personal vs. corporate branding.
When it comes to my personal activities on the web, and while I can be a mouthy son of a bitch, I’ve tended to be a bit more reserved in the visual department, struggling with my personal branding for years (even now, I’m a bit uncomfortable about this website as my photograph and logo are just so damn big). Thing is, in this era of social media and resultant interactions, one almost needs a personal brand (as opposed to a corporate one), especially if you’re someone who designing logos and brands for a living. And with that out of the way, let’s take a look at why, and how, I developed my own personal ‘brand’ and why that toothy grinned kid is staring at you from the front page of this website and below.
Branding in the social media era.
Social media networks like Twitter and Facebook, expect you to use a photograph of yourself somewhere, especially as an avatar, but I’ve always had an issue with that basic premise. In terms of branding, a photo doesn’t have longevity and is one haircut or shave away from being obsolete. Besides, anything with my photograph just embarrasses me – I have a face for radio not TV – so rather than using a head shot (which would invariably look like I just walked off a Russian trawler) I wanted to use a portion of the photograph you see below.
It’s a photo of me and my Dad, when I was but a toothy-grinned youngster in Northern Ireland. It’s one of my all time favorites of us, and if I recall correctly, the picture was taken at one of those instant booths of days gone by, at a holiday resort town called Portrush. They’d spit out a strip of three or four pictures and the pic above is the best of the lot. It’s indicative of a simpler time in my life, especially when it comes to my relationship with my father and represents an era where things were innocent, full of wonder, and I had an unclouded and optimistic view of the world. Like most sons, I saw my father was the most powerful, intelligent and wondrous person on the planet.
Not bad times those.
It’s an attitude I’d like to present the world – the wonder of the world through the eyes of a child.
Personal? No question.
From a technical point of view, the photograph I wanted to use was a bad choice. It was really old, really small (there was no negative available,) it was in a faded monochrome sepia tone. Bad news all around. To compensate for the limitations, I carved out my toothy visage (blue square above) and ran it through Image Trace in Illustrator to turn the image into vector based artwork. By doing this I could use the photograph at any size, without loss of fidelity and visually, the posterized effect is far more interesting than a simple swipe of the photograph. We can tinker with the colors any way we wanted, locally or globally. Like so:
I eventually settled on blue – it can handle black and white overlays – and from a color psychology angle, it’s a safe, secure and trustworthy hue.
As this is an exercise in personal branding, I didn’t want to use some glitzy corporate typeface or icon. I wanted something a little more, well, personal.
My signature maybe?
Something to always (always!) keep in mind with this sort of thing (I learned this at my first design job – a paste up artist for a magazine) is that whenever you see a signature, say the bottom of a magazine editorial, an ad endorsement or what have you, it’s highly unlikely to be the real McCoy. Nobody wants their real signature being sent into the wild, especially in this era of identity theft, so most printed signatures are made to look nice rather than be accurate.
Instead of using my real signature (which is too illegible for a logo anyway) I used on an old scribble I used to sign paintings and illustrations with back in the day as a starting point. Using a nice thick Sharpie, I wrote quite a few versions until I was happy, scanned it and then traced it digitally by hand into the version you see above. I added my first name in a small, unobtrusive comic book style typeface, and Bob, as they say, is your Uncle.
An uninspired icon.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. A light bulb to represent ideas. How woefully original and inspired, especially for a guy supposed to be expert in such things. Maybe so.Here’s the thing – nowadays a light bulb representing an idea has become a cliche, done to death by everyone and their dog. Not so much when I first started using the pen nib/bulb combo way back in the mid-nineties. Let’s take a look at that:
Yep – that’s how my business cards looked back in 1994. Because I wore three hats at the time; designer, illustrator and photographer, I had one for each purpose. In terms of the technical; I had just switched over to a Macintosh 6100 PC computer. After using an Amiga since the mid-eighties, it had finally given up the ghost and because manufacturer Commodore had gone belly-up, production of the machine had stopped and it was impossible to find supporting shops, have it repaired or even get parts. Switching to Mac software, I had fallen in love with the gradients in Adobe Illustrator (v5.5) and applied them very liberally on everything I did. The font is Anna, a fave at the time. Yes, modem. Yes, that’s an old SLR camera (a pretty decent rendition of my trusty Canon F1 with attached motor-drive) and yes, that is indeed a floppy disk, which would remain in vogue for a few more years after these bad boys were printed.
Yep, that pen nib (it was supposed to be an actual pen nib) is a theme that’s been with me for over 20 years so despite being an overdone visual metaphor, it’s very much my overdone visual metaphor and I’m going to continue using it. Not to say it’s here for keeps. Every once in a while I lose it. Go without it for a few years. Redesign the entire thing and put it back again.
Now, it’s back again.It’s a lot different than its shiny, glossy predecessor – a simplified graphic with a modern nib. The first high fidelity pass on the light bulb was a little too sterile so I roughed it up a bit. That was a bit much, so I settled on a combination.
Still not sure which one I’m going to stick with but I’ve changed it before, so I’m not in any real hurry to commit to anything just yet.
Even after 30 some years.
Don't Be Shy
Drop me a line anytime, and I’ll try to respond to you as soon as humanly possible.
Unless it’s a weekend. A holiday. Or I’m really, really busy tinkering with someone’s brand.