The thing I find truly fascinating about visual branding is the layers of meaning that can be brought into the design work.
Layers of meaning and symbolism can of course be used in all types of visual art, but in my opinion, it’s an especially important part of branding.
To be clear, what I mean when I talk about symbolism here is the use of imagery like the illustrations in your branding to represent ideas or qualities.
Symbols can come to mean something in retrospect, and that will be true for imagery used in your branding, that’s true for many big brands and was certainly true for my own logo design. Sometimes the image comes first and it gathers meaning as the brand grows.
But it’s also wonderful to make design decisions from the outset based on what has meaning for you as a business owner, and also what will have archetypal meaning for your customers or clients too.
Again to be clear…
“An archetype is a term used to describe universal symbols that evoke deep and sometimes unconscious responses. Archetypes are defined as recurring patterns of situations, characters, or symbols existing universally and instinctively in the collective unconscious of man.” Citation
When we use imagery that has universal meaning behind it we’re holding up little green flags for our audience that show that we’re the same as them, we think the same, we care about the same things. This is the very start of building up that ‘Know, like, trust’ factor with your audience.
When we add a layer to our branding that has deep meaning for us as the business owner, it means it’s more likely to feel right for us long-term. We do it once, we do it well, and we do it with meaning.
Take this Moth design for Helena Rose Photography; There is a layer of archetypal meaning with the design that like minded people will be drawn to.
The style of drawing, the witchy vibe of the elements, the Moth being a creature that is drawn to the light. This last point makes sense for a photography business where working with light is part of the skill of the art form. These are things that we intuitively understand as humans when we look at imagery, without really thinking about it.
And then we uncover the symbolism of what the design means for the business owner. It’s a deeper layer that might not always be apparent at first glance, but it’s important none the less.
Here the Moth represents the ethical and sustainable businesses that Helena works with; they are drawn towards the light in the sense that they are conscious of the how they impact the world.
If possible, we’re looking for something that works on more than one level, but you can always combine symbols together or weave meanings into other parts of your brand identity.
If you’d like to explore weaving symbolism into your brand identity with me you can can apply to work together in my Signature Branding Package called ?The Unfurling.
May will soon become June and this year (2020-2021) has certainly been one I will never forget. I’ve had some amazing opportunities to work with some incredible businesses and had my largest earning month to date in March, but there’s also been a couple of things that really didn’t go to plan.
I had to terminate the contract for one project I was really excited about working on. It’s the first time this has ever happened to me and I’ll be honest and say it really knocked my confidence. The client paid a deposit, we had our kick-off call to make a start which went really well, but there was information I was waiting on.
I asked multiple times for the information I needed and in the end really couldn’t wait any longer. After not hearing anything for over a month I offered to restart the project at a later date (with no restart fee) but have had to shelve it for now with the earnings from it I was expecting to make crossed out of my books. I still haven’t heard anything!
That, coupled with the easing of lockdown in Britain where everyone is happy to be able to see friends and family again (and rightly so) has made for a slower couple of months in terms of earnings compared to my mega month in March. I’m STILL learning, after 4-5 years in business that this is just the way it works.
It’s an ebb and flow, a seasonal rhythm, yet it still catches me off guard. You have times where your business makes you feel like you’re on the top of the world, and then something shifts, and you’re second guessing whether you’re doing the right thing, whether you’re really cut out for running a business.
I’m learning that everything moves with the seasons – my business tends to be busy for bookings from late Summer through to Spring, it’s that ‘back to school’ energy where everyone is hyper focused on starting new things, and it’s the same with the new year too.
That energy runs all the way until about now, where everyone seems to just slow down. It makes sense now I’m thinking about it, Summer is to be enjoyed, it’s for relaxing and going on holidays (staycations this year maybe!). And I think I need to let myself ease into that too. Soon enough the energy will shift again, and if I don’t let myself rest and be at peace with the season I’m in, I won’t be ready to be swept up in all that energy again.
Sometimes though, it gets to the point where you just need a little sign from the universe that you’re in the right place and it’s ok to rest for a little while.
My sign came in the form of a message through my website:
“I came across your website last year & was COMPLETELY wowed by your work & your warm approach, WHICH SHINES THROUGH ON YOUR CORNER OF THE INTERNET. I wasn’t ready to “take the leap” in my own business then…but I am now. So where did I head to once I made this decision? Straight to you!”
A few days later, this lady has booked into my calendar and we’re looking forward to working together soon. It flowed with ease, no back and forth about scope and pricing, just warmth and excitement and it’s been an exchange that will stick in my mind for a long time.
It reminded me that the seeds you plant now might not bloom straight away. But some time in the not too distant future those flowers will spring up and you’ll realise the things you put in motion in the past made this happen TODAY ?
A potential client and customer that finds you will likely not book or buy straight away. They need to see you and hear from you multiple times until they’re at the point in their life when they ARE ready. Then you’re the obvious choice if what you’re sharing resonates with them and they’ve been reminded about you enough times.
Keep showing up, keep shining. You are seen even when no one ‘says’ they see you in this moment.
To me, being visible in your business of course means being ‘seen’, but it also means being heard and understood. I’ll be honest, I’m not the most confident person, but I have found comfort in sharing who I really am through social media and my website because it has connected me to people that ‘get me’.
When you find those people that understand, those people that are on the same wavelength as you…that’s where the magic is.
Those are the work relationships that are going to make being self-employed both enjoyable AND profitable. Those are the people that are going to be loyal followers and buyers. Those are the people that are going to champion your business whenever they can – you make sense to them.
The only way you’re going to find these people is to BE VISIBLE in all your perfect imperfectness.
I know that how we are perceived by other people is something we all worry about. It’s natural, even the most confident people can’t help that. What I think is important though is to show up anyway, as our most authentic selves.
I grew up, as I think you reading this will have too, before social media was a thing. The people I saw on TV and in films were heavily stereotyped – one thing or the other, no in-betweens. What we learn as we get older is that people aren’t really ever one thing or the other. We’re all multi-faceted, ever-evolving, and endlessly interesting!
What I love about the internet and social media, is that it allows us to be seen just as we are. There’s no casting director, no one to tell you what to wear, what to say, or how to show up. Real people telling real stories. You write the script, you set the scene, you can be inspirational just by being your very own self.
On social media I’ve found people that look like me. People that don’t look like me. People that have a similar story to me, and people that grew up in a different country and culture. I’m friends with people that have disabilities, both visible and invisible. I’m friends with people who are on the same journey as me and I’ve been allowed an insight into journeys I might never have known about if those people had not been visible.
I learn every day about things from different perspectives to my own. Social media gets a bad rep, but I believe when it’s used wisely it helps us all to realise we’re more similar to each other than we think.
People buy from people, and when you are visible and you share yourself and your story, people get to know you. They root for you, they want you to succeed.
We really are in the ‘age of the small business’. People like you and me are choosing to spend their hard earned cash with other people just like you and me.
Be visible so that people can find your amazing business and connect with you on a deeper level.
Be visible so that the person who feels alone in their journey realises they aren’t as alone as they thought.
Be visible so that people understand why you do what you do and understand where your passion comes from.
Be visible so that someone who doesn’t feel pretty enough, or clever enough, or skinny enough realises that none of that really matters.
After having a brand photoshoot this time last year and starting to show my face more on my website and especially on social media, my engagement levels and the sense of community around my brand increased really quickly.
I also started sharing longer captions on Instagram just over a year ago alongside my images, sharing snippets of my business journey, snippets about my personal life, and just my general musings on business and my lifestyle.
Being visible can be as simple as sharing a picture of your workspace, or the beautiful view on your weekend walk. I truly believe that social media can help you grow your business when you use it as it was originally intended to be used and don’t just try to sell all the time.
However you currently feel about being more visible, I promise that it’s not as scary as it might seem. Start small if you need to, all those small steps add up. Most people are actually lovely and you’re very unlikely to get anything but love and support when you share more of yourself.