We’ve mentioned the importance of building a personal brand on the blog before. From keeping your social media up-to-date to sharing your expertise as a thought leader, your personal brand is the best way to show off your professional chops to the world.
But what does it look like? Aside from high-definition headshots and maybe a signature color, does your personal brand have an identifiable visual blueprint?
Building a brand is just as much about showing as it is about telling. Humans use visual cues to come to all sorts of conclusions—so building a personal brand with a memorable aesthetic is a great way to show others what you’re made of before you’ve even uttered (or typed) a word.
If you’re wondering what makes up a personal brand, some key elements to consider are:
- The name (yours and/or your business)
- The logo
- The color palette
- Iconography and/or illustration style
These elements are the most visible aspects of your brand, can be used and repurposed in a number of ways (both online and offline), and as mentioned above, serve as visual cues about who you are and what you offer.
Why Subscribe to Canva Pro?
At this point, you may be wondering, “How am I supposed to build all of that? I’m no designer. I don’t have a big budget.”
Great news: with Canva Pro, you are a designer and at less than $20 USD per month — you probably already have the budget!
For the uninitiated, Canva is an online graphic design platform that can be used to create anything from social media graphics, presentations, and posters, to documents, swag, and other visual content.
The app has an almost endless supply of easy-to-use templates, loads of editing functionality, illustrations, and royalty-free photos, and is fun to boot!
Of course, Canva can be used for free, but if you’re a professional who creates a ton of content, I highly recommend investing in a Pro subscription.
Building Your Personal Brand
So, how does one use this magical tool to build their personal brand? Using my own brand as an example, I’ll walk you through how I created each element of my visual brand, step-by-step. Let’s begin!
Name and Logo
I’ve lumped these two together because they can sometimes be one and the same (i.e. wordmark logos). I’ll also be working under the assumption that, at this point in your brand-building journey, you have a pretty clear idea of what name you operate under as a professional and/or thought leader (whether it’s your given name or your company name).
I came up with the name “I See You, Sis” for my coaching practice because a) I wanted to center my business around these (sadly underutilized) words of affirmation, and b) it’s a common phrase of encouragement in AAVE (African American Vernacular English).
With that in mind, I decided I wanted my logo to incorporate an eye in some way.
That’s when I got to work sifting through every iteration of an eye illustration I could find. I did this by searching “eye” in the Elements tab of Canva’s sidebar.
Once I settled on a shape I enjoyed, I started playing around with it. One of my favorite aspects of Canva is that it caters to novices, pros, and everyone in between. As someone who considers themselves a “professional in-betweener”, I rarely settle for any element or template as is.
I tend to “Frankenstein” several different pieces together to get the desired effect. This is what I did here:
Because the three main pillars of my business are 1) emotional intelligence, 2) mental clarity, and 3) community, I wanted to incorporate a heart, a brain, and touching hands into my eye-inspired logo.
I did this by looking for the aforementioned elements and zeroing in on ones that matched the original logo’s illustration style. One shortcut to this is by clicking into an element’s information, then filtering by that specific artist or collection.
In an effort to further personalize the original element, I added extra lash lines and did some basic copy/pasting of varying shapes, using color-blocking to hide certain aspects, as shown here:
Believe it or not, color plays a huge role in your personal brand. Color evokes emotion. Some colors have been cemented in our minds as being related to certain concepts. Get the right mix and you have instant recognition, get it wrong and you get confusion.
For my brand, I went with a set of colors that I felt elicited feelings of warmth and compassion. I wanted them to be trendy but stand out from what my peers were doing. And, of course, they needed to mix well together in a coherent way.
To help with this, I used a platform called Coolors.io. I started with a color I loved (millennial pink, natch) and kept “spinning the wheel” so to speak until I came out with a palette that I found visually and emotionally pleasing.
Then, I noted each color’s hex code and hopped back on Canva.
It’s important to note that each color should have a purpose. Not only does it ensure a good mix but it also makes it much easier to create content without having to think about it too much.
For I See You, Sis (ISYS), for example, the pink, blue, and yellow colors are core to my brand’s identity while the beige is more of a background color and the black and browns are for text.
By that logic, your personal brand should include a minimum of three colors (but probably not more than six).
Notice in the screenshot above, Canva has my colors neatly placed side-by-side? That’s because Canva Pro allows you to set up a Brand Kit.
Your Canva Brand Kit will include your logo(s), preferred font(s), and color palette(s). By setting this up, you ensure that these elements are easily accessible no matter what content you’re trying to create.
This part should be relatively easy but if you’re short on inspiration check out Canva’s large roster of available fonts. You can even filter by style, such as “Handwritten,” “Modern,” or “Bold.”
If you already have a font in mind but don’t see it on Canva, head back over to your Brand Kit and upload your font so that it shows up when you need to add text.
You should notice at this point that anything you save to your Brand Kit shows up under the “Your Brand” section when selecting a color or font. Your logo will show up under “Logos” on the sidebar (or in your uploads).
Illustrations (and other arty tips)
By this point in my branding journey, it was clear that whatever art made its way into my content would have to work with my logo. That’s not to say you can’t play around with other styles.
While my iconography doesn’t really err from my logo, making social media posts has opened up my brand to a variety of elements.
For example, fearing my brand was looking a little too two-dimensional, I started to incorporate texture by adding pictures of walls into the background of my content as much as I could.
I do this by sifting through Canva’s many stock images (ex. search “Blue Wall” in the elements tab and filter by Photos).
Then, I adjust the color of said image to more closely match my brand identity.
Of course, a huge part of your personal brand is, well, you. So for a post like this, I’d typically take a headshot, refine it, and remove the original background before layering it onto the wall image I just sourced.
And voila! The final product is fun, easy, and most importantly, on-brand:
Build a More Powerful Personal Brand
Canva is a super accessible tool that you can (and should!) leverage for all things branding. Not only does it offer a wide range of easy-to-use functions but it goes a step further by helping you bring the finished product out into the world.
Making a social media post:
Thought leadership content (like webinar presentations!):
Or just something for your followers to remember you by:
Either way, Canva’s got you covered!
Of course, the visuals are just the starting point for building your personal brand. If you are struggling to identify the right value prop and supporting activities to put your personal brand into action, get in touch!