Nurturing your personal brand isn’t a right just reserved for aspiring ‘influencers’—small tweaks to your digital domain can have a huge impact on future prospects for both freelancers and full time employees too. We asked the experts how we can actively manage and cultivate our brand through the power of good, simple design. What ensued was a challenge to overhaul our lives by designing seven different projects over seven days.
The landscape of our job economy has changed dramatically in recent years. Suffice to say that attracting prospective employers and clients alike requires a little more effort than hastily typing out your resume in Times New Roman on a flimsy piece of A4.
As the gig economy continues to grow, freelancers are expected to be the majority workforce by the year 2027. This means that if you haven’t already, 2018 is the year to—brace yourself—nurture your personal brand. Regardless of whether you’re a freelancer or a full time employee, a professional image that showcases your skills, values and personality is integral to making yourself visible in an increasingly competitive (and rapidly changing) job market.
“A personal brand is the public perception that’s the sum total of who you are, why you do what you do, what you stand for and what makes you different and unique,” says Trudy Johnston, the director and all round bright spark at Vim & Zest, an Australia based digital design campaign agency. “It’s what builds your reputation and makes you known to those you’ve yet to meet.”
“A personal brand is a visual identity and is the embodiment of who you are, your values, your lifestyle and your personality as a brand,” adds Emma Terrens, Vim & Zest’s graphic designer. “It is something that requires the same level of care that we give to ourselves as it is how a wider audience perceives us and so it’s essential to present yourself well.”
When we build our reputation and manage it well, we’re better able to communicate our intended messages and therefore we begin to establish our influence, continues Trudy, who notes that the more influential we are, the easier it is to leverage our profile for wider opportunities. “The most important factor in establishing and building a personal brand is to be authentic and naturally ‘you’,” maintains Trudy. “This is what is the most compelling and builds trust in the minds of your audience.”
While developing an online influence might sound like a daunting prospect, there are simple ways to help you cultivate your personal brand through design. Here’s how to do it in just seven days.
“The image you want to project has many different facets—visual, text, audio. These all have search metrics attributed to them,” explains Trudy. “So you need to consider in the first instance how you visually portray yourself, your style, tone of voice etc. Then implement consistently throughout all your communications channels.”
To better help you establish who you are as a brand and what your intended message is, experiment with one of Canva’s mood boards, like the ones below.
Collecting and packaging together fonts, colors and content that you find inspiring will enable you to develop a solid brand identity. “Find an element you like about your brand—whether it be a colour, a line, an icon or a general theme— and accentuate it across all channels mentioned,” says Emma.
In terms of building brand identification, nothing is more important than your logo (for further guidance on how to create the right one, check this out). Regardless of whether you’re at the helm of a big business, a sole trader or even a full time employee with a killer side hustle on the go, your logo is your opportunity to translate your personality into visual design.
“Design is a voice without words,” explains Emma. “Making a statement can be as easy as applying a bold color and using it consistently across your brand, or even working with a basic shape such as a circle.”
However, there’s more to designing a logo than being lead by personal taste—you need to know your audience and their needs intimately. “However you wish to present yourself, you must always come ask the essential question, ‘who is my audience?’ and ‘how does my style fit (or not fit) those whom I am communicating to?’” poses Trudy. “For example, if you’re seeking a corporate promotion, your style and profile needs to work and articulate the visual language of that arena. On the other hand, if you’re an entrepreneur or a creative, being idiosyncratic or ‘out there’ maybe completely appropriate and relevant.”
Once you’ve settled upon a logo that works for you, include them everywhere from your email signature to your invoices in order to further cement yourself as a brand.
In a world of online applications and LinkedIn, you would be forgiven for letting the aesthetic of your resume slide. Does your resume really matter? In a word; yes. This document is a direct representation of you and has the potential to make or break the application process—so it’s time to dig it out and give it the facelift it deserves.
Opting for a template with a strong header—big and bordered, such as the templates below—will draw the eye to your name. Again, using uniform colors shows you know your own brand as well as adding an element of cohesion to you as a candidate.
Make life for your recruiter easier (and gain some brownie points in the process) by using clever design to emphasize the most important areas of your resume. Remember, your resume is an opportunity to showcase your creative side so give yourself permission to think outside the box when designing yours.
93% of employers admit to checking out the social media accounts of potential candidates, so regardless of whether you’re a gig worker on the hunt for potential clients or a full time employee on the lookout for new opportunities, there’s no time like the present to spruce up your online profiles.
Jacqueline Marcuzzi, Vim & Zest’s account manager and social media specialist, agrees. “Aim to make an impression with every piece of design—whether this is their first interaction with your brand or hundredth, be sure every design speaks to you and your brand,” she says, noting that your website and social accounts need to be “impactful”, with a consistent look and feel.
Lay typography over the top of your own images to make your Facebook cover pop, much like the templates below.
Ideally, your Twitter header will be both aesthetically pleasing and informative to your visitors — use this as space as an opportunity to hint at who you are and what you do.
You can add a sense of consistency and cohesion to your accounts by using the same (or slight variation of) cover and profile image or design across all of your social media channels—uniform images and colors will mean that repeat visitors to your pages will begin to recognize your brand.
Amending the dimensions of your profile images or designs across each platform will add an element of professionalism to your online profile. Opt for a versatile design that works well in a square, circle or rectangle space, such as the template below, which could be easily customized to work as a Facebook cover or Twitter header.
The circular cutaways of the above template lends itself seamlessly to other profile picture thumbnails, such as Instagram (circular) or Facebook (square). “Visitors should be able to identify your brand style the moment they arrive,” says Jacqueline. “Be sure to keep brand look and feel consistent over time too.”
As well as fostering consistency, tweaking your cover and profile images according to the dimensions of your social channels will achieve an overall polished look.
Unlike your Facebook cover photo, you can’t get away with including an image just because it looks nice—your LinkedIn header needs to be both functional and impactful.
“The most effective tool for sending a message is imagery. Sure it’s a cliché, but a picture really does tell a thousand words,” says Emma. “Having an image for the sake of simply having an image won’t make an ounce of difference. It needs to mean something and tell a story.”
There are over 546 million LinkedIn users and counting, so using a visual aid like a banner will help set your profile apart from the competition.
When designing your LinkedIn banner, placing any text towards the middle of the top of the design—as seen on the templates below—will ensure nothing is cropped when placed on the screen. Remember, your name, position and other elements of your profile will be placed over the top of your banner.
With that in mind, you may wish to choose a template without any text at all. Providing that it’s relevant to your brand, this can often achieve an overall contemporary look to your LinkedIn profile. Experiment with your own using Canva’s templates here.
Of course, customizing a design with your brand colors or fonts—like below—will help foster that all-important brand identity. “A strong personal brand means that your reputation is your calling card. People already have a favorable impression about you before they meet you,” says Trudy. “Given that this greatly improves your networking opportunities, job success, ability to leave a legacy, invitations to join Associations and Company Boards etc, you want to ensure you project the best possible image.”
As our smartphones continue to take over our lives, the concept of a business card may feel slightly redundant to some. However, networking is all about making meaningful connections and in that respect sending or receiving a LinkedIn request pales in comparison to exchanging business cards in person.
If a personal brand is the way we are perceived and the impression we give, then our business card is a physical manifestation of those things—so it needs careful consideration.
“If our brand is strong, others will feel more confident in investing in your services, purchasing your product and becoming an evangelist for your brand,” says Jacqueline.
Before you begin designing your card, think back to the brand basics you established through your mood board. For example, are you playful? Modern? Or perhaps sleek and sophisticated? When choosing a template, it’s best to stick within these parameters. “There is nothing worse than a brand becoming something it’s not,” says Emma. “Essentially, all the bells and whistles mean nothing when they don’t embody your brand. Knowing who you are as a brand is as important as showing who you are as a brand. Stay true to your brand, and your audience will stay true to you!”
Irrespective of the type of brand you are, keep your card relatively uncluttered and allow the most important information sing.
You’ve updated your LinkedIn banner, given your resume a reboot and streamlined your social media accounts. You’ve got a stash of beautifully designed business cards in your pocket and, most importantly, you now know who you are as a brand. Heck, you might even be able to say the words personal brand without cringing. Maybe.
You’ll be relieved to hear that all your hard work has been well worth it. “Small design tweaks to the above channels can help to elevate your appearance and give you the extra boost you need to be noticed,” concludes Jacqueline.
All that remains is for you to now make a plan of action—what do you want to achieve in the short term? While there’s no shame in submitting your to-do list to memory, printing off a colorful visual aid that you can be proud of will makes you statistically more likely to succeed not to mention helping quell any anxiety about your workload.
A weekly planner or work schedule can add structure to a sometimes chaotic world as well as serving as a reminder of what you’ve achieved. Check out Canva’s selection of templates here or see below for edit of some our favorites.