i am my own worst client

by | January 1, 2018

The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn't make a decision.

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 (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.

Portfolio and blog of Stephanie Tortomasi,
Graphic Designer in Metro Detroit, USA

Portfolio and blog of Stephanie Tortomasi, Graphic Designer in Metro Detroit, USA

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