I’m not going to lie. When it comes to designing anything for myself, I am ridiculously indecisive.
It’s not that I cannot make a final decision. It starts long before the finalization stage. It’s that I have too many ideas that I want to incorporate. I put everything out on the table and fall in love with every idea. I become overwhelmed with possibilities and I can’t see my way through to a final design. I feel like a squirrel in the middle of the road staring down the grille of an SUV.
When I’m working on a project for someone else, I don’t have this problem at all. I can clearly see boundaries and limitations, whether it’s time or budget or specific use cases. But me? I am my own worst client. I needed to set some boundaries for myself.
When I decided to officially relaunch my website and personal brand, I headed over to Pinterest and started collecting ideas from fonts to colors to shapes to techniques. My Pinterest board(s) quickly became a steaming pile of contradicting ideas. I actually got to a point where I considered hiring someone else to design my personal brand for me. When I had that conversation with myself (yes, I talk to myself), I realized that if I cannot work my way through this problem, then I am of no use to anyone else as a designer. I could do this. I needed to set parameters and limits and define some use cases. Will I have a blog or just a portfolio? Will I use social media? How often will I be posting — will I need social media campaigns and templates? How will my logo be used? Etc., so on and so forth.
This was not an easy process by any means. I needed to test out each of my ideas before I felt ready to move onto the next. This lead to an absurd number of draft logos and names for my personal brand. Maybe this is a normal number for other designers, but I am used to being more concise in my initial ideas and refining from there. I actually went through three other names before settling on my current — and original — brand name: schteff.design. Schteff (SH-TEF) is my nickname from way back, and amusingly enough is how all of my German co-workers pronounce my name.
Some of the elements I experimented with were circles, Celtic-inspired design, interwoven lines, the number 8, and various typographic treatments. I finally gave myself some limits when it came to the logo: Pick a maximum of three ideas to convey and that’s it. So I chose “S”, “8”, and geometric. I needed to stop complicating the design with hidden meanings only I will understand.
I wanted to be able to use the logo mark as a standalone element, kind of like a badge or a shield. Using my first initial of “S” and my numerology number of “8”, I developed an octagonal badge with softened corners and a linear S/8 symbol in the center. All measurements throughout the logo are based on the number 8: 8pt, 1/8th, .125, 22.5°. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s simple, clean, and very me. I always knew my color scheme would be black, white, and orange, but it took several iterations to find the right black (more of a warm charcoal gray), a classic off-white (light stone gray), and the perfect orange (the color of orange juice).
When it came to typography, I made myself a bit crazy with selecting the perfect sans serif that not only had multiple weights but still had some character (no pun intended) when used in uppercase. That part was tricky — there are so many beautiful typefaces that look fantastic in lowercase and sentence case, but uppercase is just dull. The typeface I selected also needed to be available as a web font so that I could use it in my website. Finally, I came across the Informative typeface by Latinotype and the rest is history.
When it came to designing my website, I decided to keep it as simple as possible and only incorporate design elements that I really like, such as large and chunky typography, full-screen images, and subtle animations. Web design has gotten to be very cookie-cutter in the past few years, especially WordPress design. While using basic grid structures is always a smart idea, I couldn’t see myself just plugging my information into a template. I decided to customize my site a bit, even though I knew it would be more work. I researched many portfolio websites and made note of things I wanted to include. In the end, I decided to let the focus really be on my work and other images. So I purposely chose to keep the colors muted and dark and let the images stand out.
So even though it took me a few years to get (back) to this point, I’m pretty happy with the result knowing that I put in the research and work to make it my own. If I hadn’t gone through the painful trial-and-error and self-exploration process, I wouldn’t have learned new techniques in web design and gained a better appreciation for the excellent work of other designers out there.