Creating a Personal Brand: When Indulging in Narcissism Can Feel Unnatural

A snippet from my personal branding inspiration board.

In the age of social media, it may seem that we have full control over the version of ourselves that we present to the world. So we must have a good sense of who were are and how others perceive us, right? In fact, it’s not quite that simple when it comes to narrowing our identity down to a personal brand. When we attempt to create a focused visual representation of ourselves, we may find that we don’t fully know our individual identities all that well. At least that’s how I experienced it.

I recently began creating my UX portfolio, and while the personal branding process has been fun, it has created more stress than I would have expected. In class, we brainstormed ideas for our personal brands by thinking about which car model, celebrity, and well-known brand would represent us. We also created inspiration boards on Pinterest. At first, I went with the more predictable route of pinning photos of places where I’ve lived or traveled. Then, I thought of interior design styles that I liked. This stream-of-consciousness approach provided a lot of material, but I still felt that I could not create an appropriate aesthetic for myself.

Finally, my instructor suggested looking at my wardrobe for inspiration. Suddenly, I was able to think of a focused brand identity for myself. I have always been interested in the aesthetic that clothing can create, so I put a decent amount of thought into my wardrobe. I have one outfit that I used to wear to work, and when I wore it, I felt that I truly conveyed my personal style to the world. Or at least to my office. This outfit paired bright red with a tortoise shell color palette (black, caramel, and golden hues). It seemed obvious that this should be my color scheme.

Once I chose colors for my website, I was able to think of other inspiration, such as interiors, accessories, and other objects with an aesthetic that appeals to me. It’s hard to summarize the look in a few words, but I think of it as the feeling I get from visiting an old college library, my favorite clothing store, or a restaurant with a sophisticated and warm atmosphere. With these images in mind, I was able to capture the visual direction for my portfolio.

Then came the logo design. During the inspiration phase, I found an art deco design that appealed to me, so I used it to create a logo. While the resulting image was beautiful, I felt that it was not an accurate representation of me as a person. When I looked at it, I couldn’t help but feel that it looked more like a logo for a luxury hotel brand. It was a difficult decision, but I ended up scrapping my original logo and going with a simpler, more accessible look.

My original logo (left) and my current logo (right).

While this process may seem shallow and narcissistic, it requires a great deal of self-exploration and reflection to create a genuine personal brand. I am sure that anyone who has attempted to define his or her personal brand would agree.

My advice to someone struggling to create a personal brand: Think of one area of your life that you are really thoughtful about. It should have an aesthetic element, but it doesn’t need to be purely visual. For example, you could think of a book or a video game that you really like. Once you’ve identified something, think of the feeling it gives you and other sources of that feeling for you. The process should become much simpler and more directed from there.

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