Do Artists and Designers Need Their Own Brand?



[Guest blogger: Angela Ryan of The Design Blonde]

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Short answer: Absolutely, yes.


When it comes to branding, one of the most common misconceptions about branding is that branding is “just a logo” or that “artists are their own brand” – which neither is true.


Throughout this article, I’m going to further explain the distinction between branding, identity and logos – and talk about why each is important for creatives, artists and designers to further their career or business.


Let’s Talk Terminology

Before diving into the semantics of branding, I’d like to start by clearly defining some terms around the subject.


BRAND IDENTITY

A brand identity is made up of many components, including a logo, general aesthetic, tone, font choice, etc. It is shaped by whom the company wants to appeal to and what message it wants to communicate. (Source) Your brand identity also includes foundational language (positioning statement, mission, vision, values, etc.) and can also include additional components like personas, archetypes, mood-boards and more.


LOGO

A logo is a design asset that is meant to serve as a recognizable symbol to represent an organization or company. (Source)


AESTHETICS

The look and feel of your brand. Aesthetics include elements like color palette, typeface, photography style, and more. (Source) These components are usually included in the “style guide” section of a brand guideline.


BRAND STRATEGY

A brand strategy is a well-defined long term plan for the development of a brand to achieve specific goals. The objective of a brand strategy is to affect all aspects of a business that is directly connected to people and their emotions. (Source) The brand strategy includes components from the brand identity, but the brand strategy includes more than just the creative aspects.


Brand Strategy In a Nutshell

Branding and brand strategy is all about telling your customers who you are and what you do. Good branding tells them that you are better than your competitors and/or that you specialize in a specific style or skill.


Take this example… Let’s say I’m a painter, and I center my brand about being the “best painter in the world.” This tells your potential customer nothing of value. Anyone can say they’re the best painter in the world. However, if I shift my focus to something like “paintings using handcrafted botanically-based paints” (paints made of flowers? I don’t know, I’m making something up) then I’m speaking about something related to my customers’ interests. A focus like this would set me apart from other painters.


*Key Takeaway – Your brand strategy is not about you. It’s about your potential customers and connecting with them.


Making a Name in Your Industry

Branding is all about making a name for yourself or your business – and yes, even as an artist or designer. While you are creatively expressing yourself and owning your own aesthetic as an artist, it’s different from your brand, and here’s why.


Branding is a business decision.


It’s not a personal expression or style. A brand is a vehicle for you to stand out in your industry and grab the attention of your audience. Artists and designers should focus to create a strong brand strategy to support their awareness efforts.


As a creative, it’s important to focus on awareness, especially now with creative side hustles becoming more popular than ever since the pandemic started. It was already challenging enough to stand out in the industry without the immense growth of side hustles on platforms like Etsy, Fiverr, UpWork, and more. Therefore, artists and designers should invest in branding now more than ever before.


Where to Begin with Branding


Now that you understand why branding is important for creatives, it’s just as important to develop a game-plan for how you're going to create and deploy your brand.


Branding yourself is one of the most challenging things one can do for themselves.


You are not your ideal customer and you may have a hard time separating your thoughts and feelings from what your ideal customer is thinking and feeling. It’s wise to invest in your branding and work with someone. There are a wide range of options from freelancers to advertising and marketing agencies you can consider when it comes to selecting a designer or brand strategist.


Ideally, you should select an option that suits your budget and your professional interests. For example, finding a brand strategist that specializes in working with artists would be more beneficial than working with a designer that specializes in branding financial institutions.


As a Graphic Designer and Art Director by trade, I will always recommend working with a brand strategist, graphic designer, or both – and yes, even if you are a graphic or brand designer yourself, I recommend at least approaching a brand strategist to help you. You may even consider working with a business, creative or career coach, like Melissa or myself, to help you create and develop your brand.


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About Angela


After several years working – at advertising agencies, in-house, volunteering on the board of directors at AIGA Wisconsin and owning a freelance business – and meeting hundreds of other creatives, I’ve developed a well-rounded, diverse background in design, brand strategy and mentoring others in the industry. I began freelancing in 2015 while earning a BFA in Design & Visual Communication and working in-house at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Restaurant Operations. Post-graduation, I landed a job at SRH, a boutique marketing and advertising agency, first as a graphic designer and now as an Art Director.


I first found my passion for educating with my clients; teaching them to work with a designer for the first time, educating on design terms and branding applications. Showing how to implement their new brand into all aspects of their business has been a crucial point in developing relationships with my clients.


‍I have always had a passion for empowering fellow creatives and helping them achieve their goals. I also aim to inspire students and young professionals who are entering the industry. In 2020, I decided to pursue my passion for coaching and mentoring others by launching my business, The Design Blonde.



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