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The Art of Self-Branding: Part Two

Become an Environmentalist

Update: Read Part One | Part Three | Resources

So you’ve finally regained your memory, and you’ve captured the essense of your personality through self-reflection and personal research. What now?

Recycle, Reduce, Recover, Reuse.

Forgive me, David Suzuki. I’ve appropriated environmental measures for the benefit of brand and design. Silly as it may sound, there is a method to this madness.


Some say nothing is ever original anymore, but that doesn’t mean you can’t “recycle” something old to be something new! Research what already works!

Grow your visual knowledge. Start by making a list of companies, slogans, comic books, TV shows, movies — anything that has a message to say that’s primarily through visual means — that you are fond of or feel that reflects your own personality. Then, make a list of every possible animal you think reminds you of yourself. Same thing with inanimate objects, and things in nature. Write down some adjectives you feel that describes things in those list. Forget “sillyness” — anything and everything is game.

Now, study the items on your list. What do they have in common? What differs? What do you absolutely love? What about some do you hate? Can you tell I like lists?

At any rate, all this simple research serves to help you enforce how you feel about your own brand and branding itself. Now you know what works and what doesn’t. While you haven’t even started on your logo, you’ve already subconsciously skewed and narrowed your point of view, which will help when you finally start the logo.


You have all this information in your head — now “reduce” all the knowledge to the bare essentials. In short, stereotype yourself.

Forget the current negative connotations that stereotyping brings. In fact, the archaic definition of “stereotype” dates back to the printing press: A metal printing plate cast from a matrix molded from a raised printing surface, such as type. It’s design history!

So when I say stereotype yourself, I mean it in the best way possible: to take your research and definitions of self, and then represent it in the most basic way possible, visually. Now start sketching!

You don’t need to be a Picasso to sketch: the practice is just a simple creative brain dump. Get your thoughts out of your head, and into something tangible. That already makes your brand more real, immediately. Once you do start sketching, try as many variations as possible: text only, text as image, images with text, image with text as image, etc. etc. etc. Find as many visual metaphors as you can.

While you’re busy sketching about, always be honest of yourself but be aware of your audience. If you’re a zany guy but want a majority of your clients be corporate, then you’ll have to tone things down appropriately. The same goes vice versa.

And another tip: always start in black and white. You will be tempted to stray and start fooling around with colours, but the point of all of this is to get to the root of yourself. When you add in colours, it adds a more complicated dimension that will confuse you before you’re done. Extra bonus: You have an alternate b/w logo ready to use for alternate print uses.

Test, test, test. Test your logo against different background types. Black, white, reversed, light colour, dark colour. As always, ask for honest opinions. You won’t get anywhere if you don’t test your own theories out. Just the same way the Adjective Exercise in Part One helps you compare your own perception of yourself against others, you need to do the same visually too.

At this point, you should be testing some type choices as well — always ask yourself if the typeface reflects your brand. Not all serifs are made the same. Find something unique to separate yourself. It’s very telling that several people have asked what typeface I’m using for the headlines in my posts. (It’s Target Book, btw)


Now, you have your logo down nailed. Bravo! It’s simple, to the point, and manages to be clever without being cloying. Time to add a dash of colour. Again, simplicity is key, and without thinking, you may already have picked out your colour scheme: look in your closet! People tend to choose clothing that reflects their personal style and how they want o be perceived — looking inside your closet helps you narrow down very quickly what you already prefer and use to reflect yourself.

Of course, that’s not always the case, so it’s time to look at colour profiles. Each colour has a meaning and naturally evokes certain emotions. Be careful, because each colour also has a bad connotation to counterbalance its good. It’s reflective in nature. Easiest thing to do is to look at your adjectives and your “Recycle” list, and match things up. One of your strongest adjectives is fresh: blue and green immediately come to mind. Or perhaps you identify very well with Franz Ferdinand: a strong black with a basic bright primary colour may work.


So you’ve got your logo and colour scheme down pat. You’ve chosen your typefaces. Now it’s time to “reuse” it. As I mentioned before, consistency and cohesiveness is key to a brand. You need to be able to take what you’ve just created and apply it as best as possible through many different channels and mediums. This is why Brand or Corporate Guidelines exist. It’s not because there’s a huge need to bring a totalitarian regime to the company: a consistent and cohesive brand avoids confusion and sends a very clear message. When properly enforced, you can reduce costs, stress, and make sure that honesty is at the forefront.

As a designer, I’ve focused a lot on the visual-side of branding. I haven’t gotten deep into copy — which is just as important. You can also apply the same rules with the writing of your marketing materials. Remember: a brand is an idea and perceived value formed by its intended audience based on a company?s culture, product, and service. Don’t forget to reach out to as many possible outlets your brand can be applied.

Recycle, Reduse, Recover, Reuse: All these steps are to make sure every decision you make regarding your brand and identity have a meaning. If you can’t justify a type choice or even a sentence of body copy, then you don’t have a brand. Period. Always have a reason.

Read Part Three

16 blabs to The Art of Self-Branding: Part Two

Add something to the conversation!

Picture of AJ

Name AJ

Date Nov 10
11:26 PM

the recycle, reduce and reuse idea is good. I’d add, use your own work as source material.

Go through the files (paper or digital) and look for common threads in the way you work, adjectives that are true and descriptive. Similarly, you’ll see how you don’t work, which helps define where your strengths are.

Reduction applies to concepts, as well. Once you’re done looking at all those files, and you have a pile of adjectives that describe your work (or how you work with people), try Rewriting it as a 500-word essay. Then a 100-word bio. Then a 50-word blurb. Then a 10-word tagline. What you throw out will expose the core truth of what “is.”

Recover can refer to the recovery of waste materials, usually. So if you have experiments or drafts that didn’t make the cut, look at those too. Maybe, take them and make something new from them – an old layout with a new colour scheme, or the font that the client didn’t like but you loved.

On the subject of logos – not everyone needs one. (When bands have carefully crafted logos and still suck, it’s the logo that takes the hit.) A logotype can be just as powerful, and absent that, sheer consistency of colour and type can be an example of “Reduce” in action.

Picture of Lea

Name Lea

Date Nov 11
06:11 AM

Hi AJ! Thanks for the further clarifications and suggestions. Those are great! :-) Keep ‘em coming. :-D

I also agree with saying that not all entities necessarily need a graphic as a logo. A wordmark or logotype can be very sufficient and powerful in itself. When I mention logo, I meant it in all possible forms.

Inspiring as always! I havn’t waited so intensely for a followup article, since Mark’s ‘Five Simple Steps…’-series was on…

I never realized how much I have in common with the platypus… =P

Keep up the good work!

Picture of tyler

Name tyler

Date Nov 16
05:38 PM


Picture of Zeerus

Name Zeerus

Date Nov 16
10:39 PM

This is great Lea. I’m loving the series so far. I can’t wait for part three. Anyway, I used the same method when branding my own company. I started by looking at the designs I’ve created, and then assigned specific words to them. In the end I found all of the designs to be somewhat refreshing or different, so I ended up combining two arrows and came up with a “refresh” shape.

anyway, good luck with the success of this series. I’ve linked to it on my blog.

Picture of jack

Name jack

Date Nov 18
12:16 AM

what a bunch of silly fluffy fluff talk.

why dont you just get to the point and say ‘toot your own horn with your own song’

Picture of Lea

Name Lea

Date Nov 18
01:03 AM

Because that’s not what branding is. Thanks for playing, Jack! I’m here all week! :-)

Excellent advice Lea. I hadn’t seen Part One yet, so I’ll be sure to go have a look as well as Part Three once you finish it.

Picture of Daniel Scrivner

Name Daniel Scrivner

Date Dec 02
08:55 AM

You’ve definitely got some great ideas and insights into branding! Thank you for sharing them.

I’m currently working on developing a brand a new company with another designer and found all of what you had to share very applicable.

It’s so important to continue to ask questions, as you mentioned. The deeper, deeper you dig the more understanding and clarity you get about your brand and more your brand’s personality comes to life.

What I love most about brands, are their different personalities. How do you want your brand to walk? Talk? Carry itself? And even smile?

Treat brands like their humans and develop them as such. Great brands have never been dull and lifeless. Great brands are full of personality and energy. Each has it’s own distinct style and way of doing things.

And, in the end, that’s exactly what makes a brand… well, a brand! :-)

This has been an EXCELLENT lesson! I am going to walk away from this site with a new perspective branding.


Picture of Andrew Collins

Name Andrew Collins

Date Mar 02
03:12 AM

Brand ME.Inc… have you read much about Tom Peters and his thougts on Self branding? very cool stuff!

Become a brand – Distinct or become extinct…

Picture of Kieran

Name Kieran

Date Jul 27
07:28 PM

Great Ideas. Nicely put.

It’s interesting how different it is branding for yourself as opposed to someone else. Even though the same principals apply, you can get so much deeper into yourself. It’s a luxury we usually don’t typically have with clients. It’s important to take advantage of it.


Hi Lea, just wanted to thank you for a great, great article. You have inspired me to write my own. You can check it out on http://blog.baeck.no/2007/01/10/stand-out-from-the-crowd-with-personal-branding/

Picture of Bruno

Name Bruno

Date Feb 28
05:41 AM

Usually i like gaming sites but your page caught my eye and mind wow reading your articles it refresh my mind keep up the good work your doing and thanks

thanks lealea. good sharing.

Picture of Andrey

Name Andrey

Date Oct 22
02:28 AM

Extremely useful. After reading some books about SMB branding I should say you have a really interesting perspective on the subject.

I wanted to mention that sometimes even the shapes of the logo will likely to reflect your personality. I.e. I’m kinda careful and easy person and my logos always came out “unsharped” – rounded corners, soft shapes, etc. Aggressive sharp-shaped forms would make just a false image of myself.

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