6 Steps to Building Your Personal Brand

Welcome back to the 2-part series on Personal Branding. In this series, we're diving deep into why you need a personal brand and how to build your personal brand as an architect and designer. I'd strongly recommend you to read the 1st post below first and then come back to this 2nd post!

  1. 5 Ways Personal Branding Can Forward Your Career

Now back to today's topic - Let’s actually build your brand. Whenever someone sends me their portfolio and asks for feedbacks, I always tell them to build a personal brand first. Many intern architects overlook this, because we are architects not graphic designers. We build buildings, not branding. 

Building a brand is a self-realizing process.

They think that employers only look at their drawings not the pretty fonts around it. But branding is more than just putting your pretty renderings in a pretty Indesign template. It doesn’t just help you find a job; it helps you realize who you are as a designer/architect.

Let’s talk branding. Whenever someone sends me their portfolio and asks for feedbacks, I always tell them to build a personal brand first. Many intern architects overlook this, because we are architects not graphic designers. We build buildings, not branding. Read more on the Millennial Architect blog. | joann lui

1. Set Your Goals

I want to be ________________________________________________________.

Before we start a brand, we need to know what we want. Do you want a freelance job or a full time position? Do you want to work in a small firm or big firm? Or you could be happily employed and just want to build a clear identity for yourself. It’s as simple as filling in the bank (well it takes a lot of thinking but you know what I mean).

I have always had one goal in mind ever since I graduated:

I want to be in an international progressive firm that believes in high quality design.

2. Create Your Brand

I am __________________________________________________________________.

Figuring out who we are is the most important ingredient in this recipe – and not an easy one. The architecture and design field is so broad that it’s so easy to get lost. We can go into design or construction, buildings or interiors, commercial or residential. To me, I am into urban architecture because designing a building in urban settings proposes so many design challenges. I know this because I have worked on buildings that are in the middle of nowhere with beautiful sceneries, but half way through the design process I lost interest. The second most vital thing to me is graphics. I need everything to be well presented visually.

This comes with a lot of brainstorming and self-doubts. To absolutely trust ourselves on who we are is a struggle to many of us especially when we are still young and inexperienced. Your brand might be about sustainability, or community-focused design, or it could be about you being a furniture maker or a pastry chef. But whatever it is, let’s write down one sentence to describe you.

My brand is simple –

I am a creative individual who is interested in urban architecture and graphic design. 
I want to be in a progressive firm that believes in high quality design.

Of course I can elaborate on that when I write an “About Me” or go for an interview, but for this branding exercise let’s keep it as simple as possible.

 3.Visual Identity

Now this is the fun part! If you like graphic design as much as I do, you are going to have so much fun doing this. One of the easiest ways to identify us is through graphics; after all we are in a visual profession. It’s not as easy as picking a pretty font and putting some colors on it. Just like your design work, a visual identity is a reflection of your goals and passion.

Visual identity is much more than just a logo. At a minimum, for a typical architect/designer, you need these:
- Resume (See my post on How to Make an Awesome Resume)
- Business Cards
- Letterhead
- Work Samples
- Portfolio
- Website (including domain name and email)

4. Keep it Consistent

With Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V, there is no excuse for not being consistent in your brand. Having a coherent brand is more important than you think when it comes to job hunting.

In most of my interviews, the interviewers always mention that, “we can tell that you are organized and detail-oriented, because it shows through your portfolio”. When it comes to how organized, detailed and efficient you are as a worker, they can only tell from what you show them because they have never worked with you before. The last thing a firm wants is someone who can’t put together a consistent presentation right before a project deadline.

5. Keep It to Yourself

I know this is against probably every belief in the architectural world, but through many trials and errors I have learned that when you are designing for yourself, keep it to yourself.

Yes you can ask a couple design friends for their feedbacks, but ultimately, it’s about YOU. I went through numerous versions of my logo based on other people’s opinions. I even took a graphic design class at SVA with a world renown designer, but at the end I didn't use what he told me to do in class because it simply wasn't me.

Some people think my logo is too graphical and loud for an architect, but that’s totally okay. I designed my logo that way, because I stick to my goal - I want to be in a progressive design environment that is exciting and fun; not a traditional black and white firm that designs white everything. If you don’t like my bubbly funky logo, you probably wouldn’t want to hire me. Firms that would offer me a job usually have the same design mindset as I do.

6. Fake It Until You Make It

It's an old saying, but that's what personal branding is all about.

It’s about who you want to be, more than who you are now.

Amy Cuddy in my all-time favorite Ted talk tells you how important it is to fake it until you make it - this is not about branding rather it's about body language, but the point she makes about fake it til you make it is so true!

Thanks for reading. I hope this help you build a brand that truly represents you and help you get to where you want to be.

Do you have more ideas about branding? Share with us your brand and how it helps you achieve your goals.


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