Hurdles

Hurdles

23 September 2015

Estimated reading time: 7 ½ minutes

It’s so easy to say I’m going to rebrand my business and make myself a website but it’s not until you break the tasks down, that you realise the enormity of the job. Or that’s how I felt when I began to think about the many tasks ahead of me…

I’m two or three steps further along in this process than this blog is at the moment but I’m doing my best to catch up to present day!

Problems with new website

At the start of this project I wrote (on one of many scraps of paper that sit on my desk) the following…

Desk image My oh so tidy desk

  1. No brand, just a logo
  2. No research (in terms of visual for brand, visual for portfolio and case study layout and no inspiration for the copy)
  3. No portfolio organised, just hundreds of files (in numbered folders though)
  4. No photos of work (i.e. business cards, stationery, printed materials etc)
  5. Don’t know what I’m selling and who to
  6. No copy and no case studies
  7. Need new headshots
  8. No website design, build or theme

Of course, each of these tasks can be broken down even further so it seems I have many hurdles to jump over…

To Squarespace or not to Squarespace

Although creating the website is only one task on the list, for me it’s the most important. This is the goal of this project, all the steps get me one step closer to a new site. When I realised the scale of this job, I did have a conversation with my studio mates whether a Squarespace would be good enough. My logic was that creating the brand (visual and copy) and organising the work was paramount. I couldn’t launch without either but my work should speak for itself. Technically, my target audience wouldn’t know how the website was built, they’d merely be interested in the copy and images so I could save myself a chunk of time not building and theming a site from scratch. I considered that getting a Squarespace site online quickly was more important than getting a custom site online. I could make the Drupal site phase two’s aim.

However, I realise that my portfolio has three audiences; clients and potential clients, my peers and myself. A Squarespace site would only satisfy clients so I had to address how important impressing my peers and myself actually was. I must admit my studio mates were horrified at the thought of a web designer using Squarespace (like it was almost cheating) and I had to address whether I could live with the decision to take the easy way out and use Squarespace rather than Drupal?

Having said this, using Squarespace might not necessarily be easier. I have previous experience with Squarespace; there’s a Youtube video online where I utter the phrase “I hate Squarespace.” I’ve built one website with Squarespace and found it frustrating; I spent more time dragging and dropping than I would have done coding from scratch but so many people use it I feel maybe I should give it another try and maybe the problem was a PEBCAK one. The question was, is this the right time and project to try Squarespace again?

I weighed up my options and I felt if I’ve gone to the effort of what I’d call my first proper website (with more than one page) and considering I’ve spent time working on this blog that I ought to go the whole distance and use Drupal. After all if I’ve got as far as a new brand, work organised and copy then Drupal is the bit I can do in my sleep.

Starting from the top of the list, the first issue I had was with the logo. Even though I loved the logo, I felt disconnected to it. Every other piece of branding for my company I had designed. Whether it’s for myself or a client, I always have a vision in mind when I design a logo, of how I could use the typefaces throughout the branding or what colours I could use for primary and secondary colours or even patterns I could repeat. Sadly, I didn’t feel this way with my logo.

I always remember Reasons in 2013, not only was I fortunate enough to do the Elevator Pitch, it was a conference that made me realise how I’d lost the art of playfulness. At university, I thought nothing of making typefaces from cracks in the pavements or maps of the movement, sound and volume in the cafe whilst I ate a sausage bap but somewhere along the way, whether down to deadlines or working commercially, I forgot how to play just to see what happens. I hoped to address the disconnect of my logo through play (I’ll blog about it but I spent two days in Illustrator playing and I still love the results 6 weeks on.)

Research all the things

I love research, especially visual research, it’s one of my favourite stages of a project but I’m a bit of a magpie when it comes to my own research as I like everything. To focus myself I wrote a list of questions that I’ll talk about in the next blog post, which I’ll dedicate to all of my research.

Final_vs_final.psd

No matter how I look at this, this is a big task; I have everything in folders with a few final_v2_final.psd files here and there but it’s still going to take time to go through each project and gather together the research, the development and the final concepts. It’s not an easy feat to find the story in each piece of work and show each project off uniquely but at its best. This is something I do struggle with on Dribbble, I find it hard to show a project off in 400x300 pixels.

To make this task slightly easier, I went through every project I’ve done since I’ve been freelancing and ranked them on a scale of 1 to 5, on the following questions:

  1. How proud was I of this project?
  2. Would I do this project again?

I also looked to see what type of work I had to show; whether it was purely the final product or whether there was concept work, stationery or printed material. This helped me find what I’d class as my best projects.

Does my bum look big in this?

This leads me nicely onto photographing my work. I initially felt like I either needed to hire a photographer to photograph my work or I needed a new camera and lessons of how to photograph work. At the start, I thought this was quite an important issue but when I looked at my work, I realised I don’t actually have that much print work. There’s the odd business card but I never produce large amounts of printed material like brochures, magazines etc so I made the decision to cut this task off my list and buy some mock-up templates to use instead.

Maybe in another iteration I’ll address photographing my work again but for the moment it doesn’t feel like a priority.

Selling words

So far I’ve completed my visual research, I have a brand sorted and some poor attempts at some web concepts but sadly I’m still no further forward with what I’m selling. “I make good websites for people that need them” doesn’t seem to cut it anymore.

I’ve got two Skillshare classes I want to finish (Branding Your Creative Business and Beyond Your Logo) and two books on branding (How to Style Your Brand and Do Purpose) to read so I’m hoping these all lead me to the answers I need.

Without knowing what I’m selling and being able to clearly verbalise who to, words will continue to allude me so this might be the biggest issue I face.

Vogue!

It might seem trivial but I’ve had the same headshots for the last two years and they weren’t really planned. My studio mate at the time had bought a new lens so wanted to test it out; I nipped home, did my hair and hey presto, an hour later, I had new headshots. They were taken in a corridor of our building and along with my logo don’t say what I need them to say. They’re not as friendly or personable as I want and as much as it’s cheesy, I feel I need photos of me “working” at my desk.

Thankfully, this is one task almost sorted on my list (minus the editing…)

New headshot image New photo of me working at my desk

The Elusive Website

I remember talking to Sean Johnson about his rebrand and he was saying he’d spent ages on his copy and the website design was the easy bit, a weekend and he’d be done and at the time I was amazed but the more I think about it, the more I agree. I’m used to building and theming websites, I know how to plan a project, create the Jira tickets and work through them one by one. So although it feels like a big hurdle, it’s one I’m confident I can achieve, all it needs is some man hours and hard work, the issue is producing everything I need beforehand…