The Brand, The Glasses, and the Orange

December 13, 2016

True Story: The first time I attempted to brand myself, it was an unmitigated disaster.

It was just after I left my stable, 40-hour-a-week-with-benefits job to pursue a career as a designer. I knew that I was going to be freelancing for a while, so I figured it was time to do that which so many of my age (designer or not) like to do: Brand myself. It went by the books at first. I sketched out some logo ideas, pulled my favorite into Illustrator, and started fussing with anchor points. I wasn’t in love with what I had created, so I submitted it to a design forum to get some feedback.

Almost every reply was to tell me that I was not ready to be a designer. At the time, I was hurt and confused. Not that my piece had received negative feedback: I knew it wasn’t where it should be, and I wanted advice on how to make it better. What I got wasn’t specific things, but an over-arching call to go back to the drawing board and do some learning. While the advice wasn’t formatted in the most productive way, in retrospect, I can understand why someone would say that. I myself am tempted to delete the files myself out of embarrassment. It’s pretty bad!

It would be a lie to say I wasn’t discouraged. I was. There may come a day when I’ll drag out that file and craft a story about perseverance and learning and not giving up on your dreams—but it is not this day. Suffice it to say I was still determined to make a career as a designer, but I did put the logo project on hold. For a good long while. In fact, I never really, officially, came back to it.

I was working for one of my first clients. It may or may not have been around 2 A.M. They had a strict deadline and I was wrapping up well within time, but I wanted to put everything together in a nice package for them. A debrief, as it were. Blurry-eyed and yawning, working by the light of my bedroom closet (where my “office” was at the time), I threw together a simple color palette based on what simply didn’t clash with the company’s brand. I knew I wanted my business to be called “Designs by Gina” (a holdover from my disaster-attempt), so I threw together some simple typography. Hell, my 2 A.M. brain said. Throw in some glasses; I’d sketched something like that earlier, hadn’t I?

Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. I got the gig and had built myself a solid starting point for my own personal brand.

Of course, it needed to be refined. I cut the ‘s’ and dropped a bright red color from the scheme I had drawn up. But the bones of it were there. When I finally sat down to solidify my brand, I felt no desire to do much different. I hadn’t seen anyone use their glasses to brand themselves before, and they are a prominent feature of my face. It also gave the impression of focus, analytical thinking, and vision—all things I bring to my design.

The funny part? I didn’t realize my primary color was orange! I had been working on an older flat screen LCD, and when I moved to my retina display, I was very surprised to see orange staring back at me. I thought about changing it. Orange is not my favorite color; it’s usually not even in the range of options I consider when working with color. But something about it felt right: Warm, full of energy, hard to miss. More serious than yellow and much less aggressive than red. It suited me.

So, naturally, I plastered it all over my website. I embrace serendipity. I also lack subtlety.

I’ve included all the branded items I’ve done (so far) below. I think it iterates well, and it makes a great and memorable impression when I’m meeting and working with prospective clients. It is also clean and to the point, which is how I like to run my projects. I have a feeling I will want to further refine it as time goes on, but for my first self-branding to see the light of day, I think it works just fine.