Finding me

Finding Me: The Story of a Brand

When you are your brand, you have to figure out who you are.

You not only have to pick a message and mission but you have to pick a font and a logo. It’s not enough to simply be… you have to show people who you are.

I’m a rule breaker and I prize my individuality. Not the hardest brief for a designer but still, I’m a fun riddle. I needed a designer to help synthesize “me” into a brand. How do I want you to see me?

I had a branding strategy that I had laid out in my business plan and I was anxious to get started.

* You can read all about how I was given a business education and money to start this blog in my article “Why The Boulder County PIE Program Gave Me $5000 To Start My Business.

The first step was to get a photo shoot. I had decided I wanted tintype photos, specifically from a photographer I had seen and admired, Tim Brown Photography in Salida. His studio was 3 hours away and I was OK with that. I was willing to make the journey because I knew the photos would help my graphic designer “Nevergohungry” at 99designs find the right direction for my brand.

Getting a tintype photo shoot isn’t your normal photo shoot.

You only get 2-3 shots in a typical session. You have to figure out a pose, hold still and hope you’re not throwing an expression that would ruin the whole thing. I’m notorious for my RBF (resting bitch face) and I can usually find a good photo or two of myself in a series of say, 20 or so shots. Which is a nice way of saying, I throw bad expressions most of the time.

When you consider this piece of important information you might wonder why I thought tintype photography would be a good format for me. I have no answer for that. Let’s just move on.

The night before the shoot and after I’d climbed into bed, Mark (my partner in crime and enthusiastic photographer) decided that NOW would be a good time to figure out my shots. To say I wasn’t very enthusiastic for an 11 PM in my PJ’s photoshoot brainstorming session would be an understatement. 

Nevertheless, I complied and even managed to put on a different shirt for a few shots.

Now I had a plan, some good images to work from and I hoped I had my face figured out.

After a 3 hour car ride, a fill up at my favorite gas station and some questionable junk food we made it into Salida.

We had a blast at Tim’s studio. Not only did we both thoroughly enjoy the entire photography process we also learned all about the history of his vintage lenses and cameras. Hanging out in the rustic charm of his studio wasn’t a bad way to spend the afternoon. I highly recommend the experience. 

Here’s the surprise… the best part of the whole adventure didn’t happen in front of the camera. It happen in his darkroom. We got to watch him develop the tintypes. Simply magical! I could watch him develop photos all day long.

Out of Six tintypes, I thought four of them would work for ez jo?

I liked the idea of using bits and pieces of the photos instead of using the whole image. There was a lot of potential within each image. I had accomplished my goal of getting unique photos that would help launch my brand. 

My designer agreed. He was blown away by the images and was very excited to get to work. And then I waited. And I waited some more.

I was filled with a million ideas as to where he could take everything. He had my directions but I had also given him complete creative control. I loved his aesthetic and hoped that if I put my story and vision in his hands, he’d create magic for me.

And then we came up with the logo for ez jo?

It was based on his handwriting which I thought had a unique oddity to it. Perfect for me and for ez jó?. I was getting excited. My brand was starting to get fleshed out.

I had to survive on loving that logo for a long time while I kept waiting for my business card design. That design, its style, its colors, all of it would be the basis of my brand. Who does he think I am? Would I agree? When do I get to see it?! Waiting was the hardest part. 

Finally, he said he was close to showing me his concept. And then the impossible happened. He said he didn’t like the direction he was going; he was stuck and wanted to know if I had any other images that he could use. Remember those test images I had made the night before the shoot? I sent him those and hoped they might help.

And then I waited some more.

Finally, early one evening in July of last year, I got an email. My business cards were ready for me to review. I was going to see my brand! I held my breath and open the files.

It was nothing that I had ever expected.

Not in a million years. The tintypes were nowhere to be seen. They had been replaced with an image from that late night, no makeup, PJ’s photo shoot that Mark and I had made. The choice of the image was also a complete surprise. He didn’t even pick my favorite shot which I thought would’ve been the obvious pick. Some other, unconsidered, offhanded image was now the cornerstone to my brand and let me just say, he designed the shit out of it.

I became my very own Warhol. I was instantly transported to “Interview” magazine circa 1980’s. Can’t you see this design on that cover!! Hell yes, please and thank you!

He had taken the photo and reproduced it on eight separate cards with eight different color moods. So many choices, so many good possibilities. Which one do I like the best? Which one is more me?

My designer knew exactly how to explain my choices. Flattery and praise, obviously.

I was presented with the idea of not choosing.

By using all eight designs to express my individuality and rule breaking personality I would be declaring my brand. Why be one thing when I’m never only one thing. Be the full spectrum. Brilliant. Definitely worth the wait. 

I LOVE giving out my business card. I’ll happily let you pick the “Dia” you prefer. After you pick, I’ll tell you my favorite. I can’t wait for “Nevergohungry” to design more collateral for me. I’m hoping for a book next! (I might need to create a kickstarter for that one!)

As for my beautiful tintypes… they hang on my wall and sit on my desk. My best intensions for them to be the cornerstone to my brand fell to the wayside but that doesn’t make me love them any less. I love sharing them, telling their story and occasionally using them for my headshot when I go on auditions. They definitely get me noticed and make me memorable which is exactly what they are supposed to do.

Do you have a branding story?


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