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September 21, 2014

BRAND THYSELF

When I started out on my own I was no longer defined by the company I worked for. For three years I was Art Director for Canongate Books, a quarter Scottish and proud. Before that I was a Londoner working for Orion just off Covent Garden, the list goes on.

But on 12th July 2010, it was just me and my new Mac in my spare room. I would have loved to sit down and work with a design agency to brand my business and launch in a big way, but I didn’t have the time or the money. The wife was heavily pregnant at the time, so I had to get cracking. Mouths to feed and all that. I already had a basic website using free portfolio software, with a logo I’d designed in Uni.

Four crazy years, two children and a house move later, I had the time to sit down and do what I wanted to do in the first place. Brand myself.

Soooo. brand myself, yep – no problem. Easy.

Or so I thought.

I got designer’s block in a big way, kept putting it off, doing bad logos, thinking I had it and then I didn’t. It was frankly the hardest brief I’d ever had.

So I got down to listing what it is that made me/Mecob unique, and it boiled down to two essential things:

  • Working with the client in mind. I’ve worked in big and small houses, and faced the same budget issues, resource constraint and egos, so at the start of a brief I have a frank chat with the client about their desired endpoint and what it’s going to take to get there. I find just asking ‘what’s in your mind?’ or ‘how much do you want to spend?’ is a great place to start.
  • Adaptability, and a varied portfolio. I can design pretty much anything, and being able to offer that support to a client with a changing brief, who doesn’t know the answers to those initial questions, is valuable. I can also direct them to where to get anything I can’t offer, and manage that process for them, having commissioned a fair amount of design, illustration and photography in my time.

As for the design itself, I realised that it’s very much in the eye of the beholder. I ask Art Directors what they like about my work, but it’s different every time. So I try to show what I think is strong work across a range of markets, and keep a varied client base.

Armed with knowing roughly what it was that made me/Mecob tick, I needed to get a new logo, website and a strategy to promote it.

I asked Brett Woods, of Parallel Studios, Sydney to help. He’s an old friend and knows the book world well. He, and his Creative Director Paul, asked me all the right questions about my brand, and got me thinking about how I wanted to come across, the services I could offer and how best to visualise them.

We chose a WordPress template, customised and populated it with content. Alongside Brett and Paul I asked another former colleague, David Brimble, a gifted Production Manager in Publishing now getting into web work, to help organise my text and image content, get it into the site and handle checking as things came together.

It took absolutely ages to bring together my work. If you’re looking to do it, I’d advise setting aside a week, put your other work on hold and get to it. I had to keep putting it off because of things like moving house. Little and often just doesn’t work. Remember to leave it and go back to it though; fresh eyes on a project are invaluable.

I started with my knackered old logo from university, with the inverted ‘m’ spelling out Mecob. The trouble is it read as ‘Ecob’, which was a problem. With Brett and Paul’s help I looked at logo after logo and finally settled on a logotype that would read as one and also act as a Twitter widget. The M naturally resembles an open book, so I went with that. The stark black I used before was kept, and I’ve always been a huge fan of the way the D&AD use an awkward colour so inventively, so I shamelessly stole that. We’ll see how it works on stationery and business cards. You can see some of the rejected logo options in the image below.

The tone is very much of a studio, as my partner Rosey is now on board as Operations Manager and David offers freelance Production expertise. Mecob has become a proper design studio and, who knows, one day we might even take on another designer!

I’d love any comments you might have on it, or typos I’ve missed!

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