A Brand Identity starts with values, not imagery

Every past attempt at creating my personal brand started with imagery and surface beauty. I realize that those aren’t what makes a good brand. Good brands start with the values. To be fair though, understanding your own values can be a difficult, personal, and sometimes an exhausting exercise.

I started mucking around with design in the summer of 2006, when I got an old hand-me-down copy of photoshop and illustrator (cs 7.1 I think it was). I started mucking around with websites around 2010, and mucked around with bootstrap and WordPress so much that I was able to land my first job as a contractor at Science-inc through my small body of work.

Throughout that time, I’ve never created a personal brand that I’ve felt proud of, although it isn’t for the lack of effort. But I feel like all of my usual efforts have gotten me nowhere. The usual cycle is that I see someone else’s website or ephemera, and I think, “Wow, I should have something cool like that!”. Immediately I crack open the latest design software I’m using and get to work, designing layouts, pairing fonts. After a few hours, I tucker out and never touch the work I’ve done.

This time around, I’ll be trying a different approach. I’m going to avoid getting into the visuals and instead concentrate on understanding the inner brand. Since that brand is myself (a person), I will have to dive deep into the value system that would be accurate and represent me in a way I’d be comfortable with presenting to the public domain.

Photo Mar 18, 10 02 30
“The Personal Identity stack” – A quick model for my brand architecture outlining some of the elements I will be focusing on during the semester.

Where can I go to understand my own values.

I went two places to understand my the values of my personal brand: my brain and my classmates.

My brain has a version of myself that no one else sees. How I perceive of myself could be s a warped landscape which may or may not be different from the outside perceptions of the outside world. So the first thing I did was create some values that I think I hold.

Next, I went out to a few classmates, and asked what it was like to work with me. I asked classmates because they are people who have worked with me and interacted with me consistently for the past two years within a very work-like context. I wrote down some words used to describe me.

Next, I compared the two sets. The sets generated from my mind and ones taken from the outside. Were there any outliers? Were there surprises?

I decided not to just go with the words that appeared in the union. I took some outside that felt real.

@TODO Add the graphic of values.

Branding my Personal Identity – starting with a plan.

Creating an Identity System is one of the hardest things to do, especially for yourself. I tried doing things a little differently this time by following a simple formula.

One of my biggest challenges holding me back from developing an identity for myself, is I get so caught up in the visual design at the beginning of the process. I see all of the shiny, new, beautiful, deliverables of the work out there, that I panic and immediately thrust myself into a high-fidelity designs without building on any values, vision, or tone. Eventually I hit a wall and give up, so I’m trying out a different approach this time around. Instead of starting to build the beautiful visuals first, I’m going to try to follow a simple formula.

Vision + Voice + Visuals = Identity

There’s some great advice starting around the internet regarding how to build a personal brand. However, it was Devan Danielle’s website that boiled down those shiny identity deliverables into three simple pillars: vision, voice, and visuals. I’m going to try to define each of these pillars before jumping into visuals this time.

Next Steps:

The minimum viable identity (MVI?) for my personal brand will start by defining what my vision, and voice will be. After those are established, I’ll be working on building out the visuals of the brand (the easiest and probably funnest part for me).


Starting my site’s Information Architecture through a content audit

A quick session helped me develop the rough information architecture for my portfolio site.

Why Information Architecture is helpful during this project.

Doing Information architecture during this project will ultimately help fulfill two objectives. Firstly, it will help me see where all the content or information currently is in a system. The second, is to see where the information could, or ideally should be, in order to solve a business problem. As of this moment, my own “business outcomes” for my portfolio are loosely tied to my goals, but still feel hazy to me, so I decided to focus my energy on the first objective.

Starting with the content audit

I started with the first objective in mind: see what I content currently have. Here was my general approach to starting

  1. I tried to think of everything I wanted to put on the site in the MVP: the actual site content, the blog posts, and the work & projects. It didn’t matter if this was actually going on the site, or would be hosted elsewhere (like a wordpress blog) I just wanted to see everything in one document.
  2. Then I created a spreadsheet with the general content outline, and started  inputting the content, blog, and, other things I had.
  3. Looking at other content-audit and information architecture starter templates around the web, I filled out any other missing fields in my spreadsheet
  4. I added any fields I could add to my content.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Next Steps:

For some next steps, I would see where my content could go. At this point, that means two things. First, brainstorming what topics I’m interested in writing about. Second, I would begin doing some SEO research to find what keywords and search terms people are often looking for around UX and IxD fields.




Basically, to start doing information architecture for a site, I like to start with spreadsheets. This may seem, moving too quick into high-fidelity, but