Before going forward, I think it’s wise to look back and analyse what successes and failures I’ve had with my past brands and websites so I can avoid but also improve upon these.
Interestingly, whilst organising the visuals for this blog post I struggled to find many Photoshop files; there was the odd Illustrator document so I must have designed most of these sites in the browser, which again goes against my normal design process.
My first professional website was created just before my degree show in 2008 and was the first of many completed in a rush. I’ll openly admit I was being far too clever and gave no thought to agencies hiring me. The brand was inspired by giving each letter in the alphabet a number but was far too conceptual because at this point I didn’t have much experience “in the industry” and was still in student / play mode. The brand colours were red, grey and white and were colours I’d been using for personal work since I first had a copy of Photoshop 5.5, when I was around 15. These are my go-to colours and have always felt like “brand KC.”
Summer 2008 to Autumn 2009
My second website was built when I was made redundant, a year after being in the industry. I surprisingly gave no thought to people using the website, let alone trying to target potential clients or agencies who would hire me; I made the mistake of wanting to show off and use the latest jQuery techniques regardless of whether it was usable or not.
However, I think this website had a certain charm that I’ve failed to reach since and it still feels special, five years on. I didn’t think too much about anything other than playing with typography and letting the work drive the design. There’s a sense of freedom I found by not overthinking and concerning myself with selling my services or showing off my work and I think this website shows I didn’t feel any pressure about getting it “right,” I simply wanted to have fun.
With my third website, I wanted to address my dire usability issues but looking back now it feels I went from one extreme to the other. The fun of the previous website shifted for seriousness and dare I say almost darkness. The curves of the curly brackets were replaced with angles and the soft greys and white were updated to vivid colours and patterns. Although, this bold, colourful, patterned style is what I personally like, I didn’t think whether it was relevant to my target audience. Interestingly, this was my first website specifically made as a freelancer and I wonder if by using a clear grid and boxes, whether I felt this was more professional.
I can see where I was coming from though, again I was trying to be too clever and form a K mark logo from the brackets (< />) of HTML. I remember around this time, I was heavily into networking events and had amassed around 200+ business cards but found it difficult relating cards to the individuals I’d met. However, one card stood out because the businesswoman had included her photo on her card and I felt because I was my brand and people were buying me, it was a good idea to use photographs too.
Winter 2011 to January 2012
One of the issues with the dark website was that it wasn’t responsive and my fourth website was one of my first attempts at responsive web design. Again, I feel this went from extremes; the darkness was replaced with white and the little personality I had previously, was lost to clean, white space as I was trying to be even more “professional”, which is what I felt clients would respond to. I’d go as far as saying this version, was bland and soulless but intriguingly possibly my most successful in terms of what’s expected for a portfolio website. However, one of the main issues was with the fixed header; it took up so much space on the screen and looking back seems such a waste now.
January 2012 to September 2013
The less said about the next version the better; I know I can have a heavy hand in terms of bold typography, colours etc and normally I reign myself in but there was no editing when it came to this version. I built this website on a bus down to Brighton and in a hotel room and put it live without any testing (again forgetting all the best practices I usually follow.) I was speaking at Reasons to and felt the pressure of having a newer website that showed off my personality. The large photo was received well by my peers but at this point, I didn’t realise that wasn’t important. Within a few weeks I was thoroughly embarrassed by my website and a client who I knew personally said he wouldn’t hire me if he’d only seen the website. I lost another large job because of my lack of portfolio and it seems this website did more harm to my business than help!
September 2013 to November 2014
Shamefully, the Reasons monstrosity was online far longer than it should have been and was replaced with something more thought out late last year and is the current iteration of my website. I hope this website is clearer that it’s a holding page and should be temporary; the reason I’m writing this is I’m still striving for a “proper” website with case studies, a blog, a contact form etc.
In terms of my brand, I removed the patterns and logo and tried to let the work speak for itself. It’s probably the best design that shows the work off but it’s seriously lacking personality and a million miles away from where I hope the next iteration will take me.