Designing for yourself is hard work

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by Phil Gwynne | Design

After spending the past few years without a brand identity (whilst all the time developing them for others), I decided it was time to concentrate on building my own. Only as a designer, it’s never quite that simple, is it?

Design is rarely easy but it’s made so much harder when designing for yourself. This is because you’ll never find a client that’s more of a critic or perfectionist towards your own work, than you.

I must have spent more than a few weeks trying out various options for my own brand identity, whenever I had some spare time. But being hyper critical of my own work just ended up working against me. I found myself wasting a lot of my own time because I’d convinced myself a certain concept was ‘the one’ – developing it as far as I could – only to decide I wasn’t happy with it and scrap the idea completely.

After a few weeks of being my own worst client, I started getting really frustrated with myself. I thought maybe I’m just not that good of a designer? If I can’t do a good job with my own branding, how do I expect clients to have confidence in me to do theirs? These are questions every designer asks themselves once in awhile, it’s in our nature – but they can be extremely toxic and detrimental to our mindset and ultimately, our creative output.

Similar to experiencing creative block, I decided to tackle this frustration by forgetting about my branding project for a while. I’d come back to it when I felt I was ready. Though in hindsight, I wish I’d done this a lot earlier than I did.

A few months later, I came back to my branding project with a couple of rules I’d set myself: keep it simple, and choose progress over perfection. These rules helped me focus a lot better. They also ended up saving me time, as I threw out ideas at an earlier stage and I stopped striving for perfection – instead, I just wanted to achieve something I would be happy to have and for others to see.

My personal branded business card
My branded business card

In the end, I only spent around a week developing my new brand identity after starting the project again, and the result is something I’m happy with. I designed a simple monogram of ‘P’ and ‘G’ to represent my name, a limited 3 colour palette, and picked out complementary serif and san-serif typefaces to use throughout all my branding – Myriad Pro for headings/titles and Chaparral Pro for copy.

If there’s something I’ll take away from this experience, it’s to take a step back from your work before you start doubting and questioning yourself. When it’s your own personal work, it’s all too easy to over think, analyse and critique your designs. Set yourself some rules and boundaries to make the job not only simpler, but more achievable. After all, you’d be pretty hard pushed to find a client or peer who would scrutinise your work as much as you – so give yourself a break.

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