Monday, May 10, 2010

Branding For Illustrators

I was asked to do a write up for Zero 2 Illo: the blog for aspiring illustrators.

Branding For Illustrators

Branding is all about you. It involves the way you write about yourself, the way you talk about yourself, and the way you promote yourself. Often it is hard to imagine illustrators as a brand, but they are. Your name, style, marketing method, and online presence say a lot about who you are in the creative corner of the world we call illustration. Your voice and persona help you stand out from the rest of the creative pack and makes you unique as illustrators. You need to approach things differently then say a company or corporation. Allow yourself to have creative freedom, it’s a must in this industry. You may all be freelancers and work for yourselves but you still need to make yourselves recognizable and promote yourselves the best way you can. Some of us work very simply, some have small budgets and others are quite content to stay in our studios all day while marketing online. It all depends on what works for you and what is important to you when it comes to your marketing efforts.


Simply put, it's your approach plus your creative package that makes you marketable. Your icon/logo, website, blog, style of work, networking, and the ability to talk and write about yourself is what sells it. Things to consider when approaching your branding and promotion are:

• Your Image
Make yourself memorable. Your promotion efforts are a good start when considering this. In order to be recognizable you need to make sure you are covering all your creative angles. Many illustrators have a unique distinctive style that sets them apart. This can be achieved by how you display your work online on a website portfolio and the type of work you do. If style is something that you worry about then start with a theme. Often this is the quickest way to create similar work to promote yourself. This theme can be determined on what market you would like to advertise. There is no sense in having images of animals in your portfolio if the market you wish to work in is fashion illustration. Remember your style helps folks remember how you want the creative world to see what it is you create.

• Your Target Audience
The best way to pin point this is to ask yourself these questions:
Who is your ideal client? Who is your dream client? Who would you be sending your work to? Who would be interested in what you do? Once you have determined the answers then compose a list of contacts. This information should include their contact name, their email, their mailing address and phone number. Add to it and update it often to keep on track.

• Your Online Presence
Having an online presence is one of the most important ways to get yourself out there. Despite the risks of having your work online, it's still important to make your portfolio accessible while making sure you keep it safe as much as you can. Your website can spotlight a portfolio, your biography, contact information and other important information that prospects want to see such as; a client list, education, spotlights and the markets you work in.

Your blog is a great way to illustrate in a journal style where you can highlight your latest projects, spotlights, works in progress and entries that involve your thoughts on what you do and the business of illustration. Community sites such as Illustration Friday, Escape From Illustration Island and Sugar Frosted Goodness helps you stay involved. These sites can motivate, keep you informed and lets you get involved.

Other networking sites such as LinkedIn, Jacketflap and Facebook can also be used to promote yourself. If you are on these sites as a way to promote yourself be as professional as possible. Remember to keep your brand memorable and make sure you are portraying yourself as your best creative self. Best not to post those pics from last weekend’s party just in case!

• Your Marketing Slogan
If you could sum up what you do in a quick sentence, what would it be? A good approach is to go online and look for like-minded creative’s who have great branding styles. Good examples of brands that are recognizable are:
Holly DeWolf illustration: a handmade experience
Claudine Hellmuth: Hip art for playful hearts.
Jeff Fisher Logomotives engineers innovative graphic identity solutions in helping businesses and organizations to get, and stay, on the right track.

• Your Title
Do you have a title other than 'Illustrator'? You can get creative and go beyond the obvious. One way to approach it is having a creative nickname, something that says you in a distinct way or add something that interests you. Some of my favourites are: Ilise Benum is the Marketing Mentor, Colby Nelson is also known as Colby Sunshine, Jannie Ho is also known as Chicken Girl.

• Your Logo
A logo or avatar online helps you stand out. Your logo can be placed on business cards, stationary, your website, postcards, and invoices. When online having a recognizable avatar of a professional photograph or illustrated image will be a great addition to help get you recognized on online groups, forums and blogs.

• Your Talking & Writing Approach
It's really important to be able to describe what you do especially in those 'on the spot' moments. Sometimes life throws you questions at the oddest times. You maybe in an elevator but questions have a way of filling in space when we are not always ready. Rise to the challenge. There are times when you will need short explanations of what you do. Other times you may need a longer approach. Look at it as educating someone on what you do. A little information can go a long way.

• Your Networking Approach
Often we need to escape the confines of our studio spaces to see the light of day. Its nice to surf online for business sake but it's also nice to surf the real world too. An escape to consider is networking with other creative like-minded souls. This is where you can practice your verbal skills and talk about yourself and what you do. The nice thing about doing this is the more you do it the better you get at it. Look at it as practice. They don't have to be strangers for long. It all comes down to changing your perception.

• Your Expertise
If you love illustration, then write about it, talk about it, talk about the good things, write about what interests you, and contribute. Many feel they have no voice or they have not been in the business long enough to contribute. If you are in it, studying it, working in it, love it then you have a voice. This not only helps give you a professional voice but also establishes you as expert while helping you make a name for yourself.

Lastly, it's up to you on how you add personality to your product plus the creative experience you bring with it. Over time, your brand or image will develop and change. Keep in mind, you are creative. So that means you are always going to be in a state of creative reinvention. Branding can be looked at as creative promotional play. Step out of the norm, step out of your creative shell and enjoy the process!

© Holly DeWolf 2010

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