Self-Branding: Frustrations Abound!

Any design student, self-published artist, or someone setting up a personal website knows the true pain of self-reflection.

We’ve all had that moment. You’re at a party, new job, a cocktail hour, a networking event; someone asks, “So, what’s your favorite movie?”.  And then your brain fails you and you forget every movie you’ve ever seen.  Because talking about yourself is pretty difficult.

When attempting to self-brand, it can get pretty nerve-wracking trying to put your entire complex ‘self’ into a small, readable icon+wordmark. Do I use my name? Nickname or full? Do I make up a company? What kind of legal junk comes with creating and working under a company name? What are my wordplay options? Exactly how strong is my pun game? (Apparently not at all strong.) Okay back to the drawing board, which means my bed, I’m going back to bed.

Its often not someones favorite thing to think and talk about themselves. It almost feels like bragging on most occasions. Especially when you plan to create your tagline and write it on your own business cards to hand out yourself. You feel like you have to be so impressive and suave all in one go.  And  fit it all on one line. Kill me.

It can make people do silly things, like be overly  “””quirky”””:

Ex. “My name is Frank, and I’m the best at teeth-doctoring”
said no one ever, and its called dentistry, Frank, oh my god. 

Or you can try to fit too many things in, like every career, hobby, sports team, and every book you’ve read:

Ex. “Ron: Lawyer, Paralegal, Surfer, Golfer, Ship-in-a-Bottle Maker, Phillies, Steelers, Twilight.”
You sound like actual Barbie™.

On the flip side, things can get very impersonal really fast:

“Tom. Hiring Me Is Like Dying & Going To Heaven”. 
You’re all the way up at a 14, and I need you down here at a 6.


I always fall back to an old method of identifying things about myself that we were taught in college.

First Step: Mood Boards!


Get out your glitter glue and safety scissors – its craftin’ time!

Moodboards are little exercises that allow you to focus on your own interests, hobbies, past times, and personal styles to help you understand you. After thinking briefly about yourself, you can come up with a cursory list of things that you enjoy. It can be your pets, food, your room, the video games you play, the music you listen to. Whatever you got – put it on the list, nothing is too small or big. Once you have your little pieces, you can either cut and paste them onto a physical board, draw them on a page in your sketchbook, type them into a fancy Word Doc! Whatever will get you looking at a manifest of you. Don’t be shy with colors, either, it might help.

I really enjoy these because they allow you to get out of your own head and work with your hands. All you have to do is think, “Ah, yes. I do love Hannah Montana.” and in a flash of construction paper and glue sticks, her picture goes on the board! Repeat this until you’re out of space!


Second Step: Theme RoundUp!

The real introspection begins when the board is finished!

What common themes do you see? Are there an abundance of a certain color you notice?  Maybe you’ve got a part of your color scheme. Is there a pattern of cute things? Maybe your icon can be a cute bow, or a little sweet dessert.  Do you turn your focus to hands-on activities?  Hand-drawn logos and typefaces may be for you!

You can begin a new board just for these ideas, or just re-cut the board you just made. Consolidating all of the ideas you’ve gathered and refined is a step closer to your branding.

Let’s, as an example, follow the thread of hand-drawn and hand-written logos and wordmarks.

Third Step: Brand Name!

So, my first (and only real) pointer here is that you choose your brand name to be one you’re most comfortable answering to. If your name is Elizabeth, but everyone calls you Lizzie (and hopefully you prefer that name too), that’s the easiest for you to go by and therefore makes the most sense for you to brand under. Of course you can deviate, forging a new career path with a new name is understandable. My two cents are there if you want them!

There is another option: Creating a “company” name.

This is what quite a few of my school-mates decided to do post-graduation. They chose a name that was special to them in some way and branded it as its own entity. My only warning, be careful what you choose, there are quite a few youtube personalities-turned-celebrities still having to go by cartoon names because they branded with their usernames. Please don’t use your username (looking at you, SuperBunyHop).

When you choose your name, you can play around with the illustrative nature of the letters/shapes that your name makes.

Fourth Step: Doodles and Sketches!

This one is pretty self explanitory: put some pencil on paper and write, draw, doodle absolutely anything that comes to mind.

And I mean everything. You’ll never know what you come up with in your blind doodling rage. You may sketch for 5 minutes and fall in love or it can take a couple visits to the same page of doodles.  Sketch icons, drawings, other peoples logos, and write your name in typefaces that you like. I cannot recommend that one enough. I love re-writing text and attempting to copy a typeface to the “T” (literally).

My hottip: Find a typeface you like, and print out a page of it written 5-6 times in a big font size. Grab some colored pens and doodle through the letters and the curves, connect the letters and play with their thicknesses. I’ve found quite clever logo solutions with this method, and even if it doesn’t bring you any finalists it gets you drawing and getting creative. Nothing wrong with that!

And finally, I love to check up on font websites like DaFont, and LostType for new and custom fonts. And, hey, you can always create your own!

Fifth Step: Finalizing A Sketch!

YOU’VE DONE IT YOU BEAUTIFUL BIG-BRAINED SO-AND-SO! Finally a sketch that could be the beginning of a beautiful branding!

Not a lot to do on this step. Start by inking your sketch in a bold black pen, something that easily contrasts when scanned, or photographed.






Of course, its not always as easy as it sounds, but the truth is that at the end of the you have to be confident in yourself, because no one else will sell “you”. You’ve got to do that!