Designing for yourself is one of the hardest things to do. This is because, quite frankly, we don't even know ourselves at times. I want to take a little side journey into something I call 'brand sculpting'.
Not to sound like a broken record, but I think branding doesn't pertain to only businesses and creatives, but it also applies to people. So even though I'm speaking about this in designer friendly terms, you might want to consider this for yourself as it can help shape who you want to be, and it can potentially shape your future.
Brand sculpting is the process of understanding who/what the brand is and then slowly add or chip away to "sculpt" it into that final piece. The coolest thing about sculpting is that at any time you can add or remove parts of it. As time passes, your brand will evolve and it's good to have the flexibility to change. Granted you don't want to be changing your brand too drastically, and that's why we want to build the core first and lock it down.
I do this whole process using Procreate and my iPad, but feel free to use a pen and paper, sticky notes, notepad, word doc, or whatever floats your boat.
Core Building Blocks
Just like a lego structure or any building for that matter, we need a few core blocks and corner pieces that will strongly hold things in place. After researching and taking courses (both free and paid) about branding and identity design, I've found a lot of similarity in the processes between the experts in the industry. We can identity plenty of brand attributes by answering a few questions about ourselves:
- How do we sound like? (Voice)
- How do we look? (Look)
- What do want people to feel? (Feel)
- What values we want to share? (Tone)
And typically, the exercise would be to spend 5 minutes on each category coming up with words to define those categories. However....that doesn't seem fun to me and maybe not a fun exercise with some clients. Instead, I thought to myself...what best represents me. I looked around and thought for a bit, and it was right in front of me. Well, in this case, it was around me: my room.
It's kind of interesting to note what was in my room, and the way it was laid out, and the items I had around. It was almost the perfect representation of what I was, and what I wanted my 'brand' to be. For those that haven't seen my room, here's an image for reference:
As you can see, there's a whole lot in my room, but it speaks for itself. A good chunk of my room is dedicated for work which shows that I value my work and I make sure I'm working at my full potential. Another chunk of my room is filled with action figures, and pandas, and other trinkets to attest to the fact that I do have a fun/colorful side or perhaps a style that's cultural based. And my room is pretty structured, clean, and laid out to show that I enjoy minimal yet functional things.
Now, there's a caveat to this...you want to showcase the "desired" state. Maybe for some reason you're house is a mess and things are out of order. Or maybe you just moved into a new room and so you have no furniture itself. Don't just put down your a minimalist if you're really not one. So try to idealize your perfect room if you had infinite money/resources.
Dualistique Brand Attributes
Here's what I captured from my little brainstorm. My overall attributes that I wanted myself to be and want my website, designs, and work to also showcase are the following:
As I grew as a designer, I feel like these are also values that I apply to my work as well, and so there's a great synergy between them. I don't have to work extra hard to tie things together. Hopefully my goal is that when people see my portfolio that's mirrored after my attributes, then they should expect work that has the same attributes.
Another thing to note is that some of my values are quite opposites or could be. My room looks both minimal and complex depending on how you look at it. This further ties into my "Dualistique" brand and the reason I chose "Dualistique" as the name. I might do a later segment about that in some fashion, but essentially I always enjoyed the idea of yin and yang. Without experiencing one side, you will never see the other side.
Alright, we got our core branding blocks, we know who we are and what we want to represent to other people. What's the next step? No, it's not design. People that dive directly into logo design or website design put themselves at a disadvantage, because 99% of the time...you're not on the same page especially if you're dealing with a client. For instance, my view of minimal might be different than your view of minimal. And so there's a process that's been pretty popular and rising in the design community called: Stylescaping.
Stylescapes are essentially mood boards but it helps flesh out a brand direction depending on a set amount of brand attributes. I've taken a course on it, produced by TheFutur, and I totally recommend it for any designers to invest in it whether you buy the course or you dig through YouTube land and try to find all the videos that pertain to it.
What it does essentially is that it takes values of a brand and gives a slight 'future insight' of what it can be. By taking elements from different sources, it's not meant to explicitly say, "we're going to do this exact thing" but more of a "your brand can utilize a similar tone or voice of this example. There's kind of reason why a lot of brands seem so similar these days and it's most likely that their vision of the brand is similar just altered a bit. Below is my stylescape. There's different ways to approach it, but for the purpose of myself, I wanted it to be more of a mood board and a reminder of certain things and elements that I feel would show off my brand attributes. I took some notes of the similarities of the things I chose. There's a reason why we sometimes get attracted to certain type of art, or certain type of feel in design. It's great to go deep dive and figure out why. I learned that I really love grids, and there's a specific type of grid setup that I always seem to enjoy the layout of. Other things to note from my stylescape is the bold typography, the use of empty space and offsetting certain things to make things look unbalanced, but it's anchored in a way.
I'm actually currently doing this same process for another project of mine, and I find it fun visualizing what things can be without having to actually design yet.
So when do you know if you're done? To be honest, this process could take some time. It could take days. You really want to actually do 2-3 of these, because you want to explore interesting options like, "What if I really make my brand super carefree? Would that mean I use a lot of colors?" or "What if I take my brand to be super structured? That might mean everything is kind of boxy or laid out like a city grid". These are things you can just play with and find inspiration to build your stylescapes from. And once you have them all laid out to see, you can start to visualize who you want to be.