The Brand of You

I used to work at a branding agency. I also currently teach and mentor students. Not only as a university-level adjunct professor but also with my Good For Grasshopper side project. I also have weird dreams of giving commencement speeches.

I am a nerd to the core. Proof? There’s a checklist following.

At one of the agencies, I was tasked to put together some branding checklists to make sure that the processes of the agency were consistent from project to project. I scoured the internet to see if anyone had published a comprehensive process list – or at least one that might have some steps we didn’t have and might have wanted to implement.

Of course, when you search using the words, “branding” and “checklist,” you get a million results – some good and some bad, but all more to do with what makes a brand a brand. That didn’t help me much with that agency checklist, but it did help me put together an article for my student audience. As I was reading the entire internet, I found the ways we talk about branding a company are also appropriate guidelines for defining oneself as a designer — especially a student designer who wants to enter the field.

Since it’s coming upon graduation season, and a whole flux of seniors are about to descend upon the field, I thought I’d borrow from that past article to help guide some of Imaginuity’s aspiring creative readers. And if you’re a seasoned professional, these could help you with your personal presence as well.

What follows are a few points from some branding guidelines and questionnaires I put together as an inventory of considerations our young friends might gather to help when (a) figuring out what kind of designer they want to be, (b) who they want to work for and (c) starting to sell / promote themselves to potential employers.

Now to address the audience …

Dear Students/Young-graduates/People-with-jobs-who-want-better-jobs:

Firstly, congratulations. You’re about to embark on a new path. Some of you have already found jobs. Some of you are about to start interviewing. But let’s pause a moment. Right now, is the perfect moment to really think about who you want to be and where you want to go. Before you put that portfolio/resume together and make those phone calls and send those emails, take time to think, process and resolve the following checklist. I left the “branding” talk in there because you should take a step back and look at yourself as a brand.

1. What is your brand vision?

What is the vision behind what you do? How do you describe your design, your aims, your goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?

2. What are your company values?

This is pretty self-explanatory. What are the things you value? How can you incorporate those values into the way you design?

3. What are the good and bad features/attributes of your brand?

Where do you excel? Where do you need improvement? Really think about this, be honest and be humble. Your idea of “expert” in Illustrator is probably closer to “novice” to a Creative Director.

4. What are the bad aspects of your brand, and how can you dispose of them?

What are some negative impressions you might have left behind, be it at a past internship or with one of your old professors / adjunct or others? Think about the impressions you may have left or mistakes you might have made, and make sure you know how to address those issues if they come up in an interview. What can you learn from these experiences, and how can you improve?

5. What are the practical benefits associated with each of the good features/attributes?

What can you offer with your skills, design or otherwise?

6. What are the emotional reasons why customers might buy your products/services?

How skilled are you at interviewing? Another part of getting a job is how well you present yourself. Whether the CD or hiring person likes you. Looks (the book) are great, but personality does go a long way.

7. What are the rational and emotional personality characteristics of your brand? What can you do to bring these personality characteristics to life? 

Again, your personality, along with your work will help you stand out and be remembered. Think of ways you can incorporate parts of your personality into your presentation (but don’t go overboard).

8. How can you use the brand personality to attract and retain more customers?

Think about ways you can follow up with CD’s/AD’s or others you might meet at industry meetings, portfolio reviews, etc. Learn to network. Make sure people want to recommend you. How can you do this?

9. How can you deliver on the promise of your brand?

Once you get the job, make sure you can back what you say. Delivering on your promises is very important.

And lastly,

10. How are you going to generate more trust in your brand-customer relationship?

Once you have the job, keep improving upon your brand. Go back from question 1-10 periodically throughout your career, like companies do when they reassess their presence in their customers lives. Like brands, creative directors and shop owners and clients want a designer they can trust and believe in to get the work done and done well.

So, reevaluate your goals. Look at your negatives and positives and continue to make your brand (your presence) bigger, better and more trustworthy, and one day you might be like the Apple of the designer world. Everyone will want you, and all the other designers will want to be like you.

Drops mic.

P.S. We’re hiring. Imaginuity Careers 

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