Finding your creative voice: An essential guide for building your personal brand
Every designer needs a great portfolio. But that’s not just about presenting great work. However accomplished your projects are, people will be unwilling to hire or commission you if you don’t know how to write an About page or confidently pitch yourself.
In a nutshell, you need to become your own brand. And that means finding your unique creative voice: the way you present that brand to the world.
In this article, we’ll explore ways of discovering what makes you unique as a creative and finding your own creative voice. I’ll share how I’ve done this myself for Creative Boom, the platform I founded 13 years ago, and where you’re reading this article now.
First, though, we’ll look at some examples of creatives who found their voice to show you what the result looks like in practice.
The four creatives we feature below are all graduates of the Wix Playground Academy, a free, five-week online programme that supports and encourages emerging designers by helping them build a personal portfolio.
Ben Eli is a London-based multidisciplinary designer currently designing for the independent streetwear brand, Lazy Oaf. The text of his homepage and bio convey what he’s about clearly and effectively and is infused with brightness and humour. That sense of personality is mirrored perfectly by his offbeat mix of typographic styles, to the extent that you don’t even have to read the words to get the idea.
Noa Beyo is a third-year undergraduate student based in Israel. Still, from the confidence and in-your-face effectiveness of her portfolio site, you’d assume she was an experienced creative director. Her ‘About me’ information is beautifully brief and to the point. And in presenting it, she gives some tried-and-tested design devices, such as a rolling ticker, a fresh and startlingly inventive lease of life.
Hailing from the Netherlands, Gang Buron-Yi is a branding designer currently working with Google Brand Studio in London. His bio tells you everything you need with alacrity and quiet conviction, and we love the clever insertion of colourful icons to evoke a playful and fun mood to proceedings.
Many talented designers fail to showcase their full personalities through their portfolios. If you need inspiration in this area, then just turn to website and visual designer Asreen Zangana. Rather than hide behind bland jargon and buzzwords, he’s refreshingly honest and direct about what he has to offer and all the more convincing for it. Plus, this conventional-smashing approach is nicely matched by an out-there design that shouldn’t work but somehow does.
How the four found their voice
It’s no coincidence that all of the four creatives we featured above have benefited from the Wix Playground Academy, an initiative by Wix Design to promote excellence in web design and contribute to the creative growth of emerging designers everywhere.
Its five-week programme puts a strong emphasis on finding your creative voice, as design lead and mentor Yotam Kellner explains: “We help people who haven’t had any experience in designing and building a portfolio through workshops, mentorship and training. It’s a structured, intensive course, and quite stressful to finish a website in just five weeks. But one of our graduates, Sofia Noronha, is now at &Walsh, Jessica Walsh’s agency, in NYC.”
Building a portfolio isn’t just a technical challenge, stresses Dafna Sharabi, academic consultant and content curation at Wix Playground Academy. “You need to be bold from the start – search for your inner designer,” she explains. “You need to try different things, experience new things. That’s why the Playground offers the chance to play, to experiment. We want our designers on the course to pay attention to those moments when they’re passionate about what they’re creating. And then it’s a case of: How do they translate this into words via their website? And their brand?”
At this point, you’re probably wondering what kind of things the students learn at Wix Playground Academy. Well, I was asked to host a session on finding your creative voice as part of the course. And so here, I’ll share some of the main tips I included in my talk.
Read on to discover how to find your creative voice in practice and the methods you can use to share it effectively online.
Write a value proposition
Writing a value proposition is a good starting point to find your creative voice. Get this right, and it can act as a guiding star or anchor as you navigate choppy seas throughout your career.
To be frank, a value proposition is a positioning statement that explains where you’re coming from and what you offer. It can be as long or as short as you like, but three paragraphs are usually about right.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. This thing is going to change many times over your career. So don’t overthink it: just get thinking about:
how you help others or improve their situation
the benefits you bring
how you’re special and differ from your competition.
Once you’ve finalised your value proposition, you can use it to improve your brand, your about page, your social media bios, and how you pitch yourself to potential clients or employers, or even journalists.
Why would someone hire or work with you? What benefits do you bring? How are you different from the rest? Your value proposition will reveal all.
So how did I write my own value proposition? Read on, and I’ll explain.
How I wrote my value proposition
Creative Boom originally began as a side project and a hobby, but it eventually reached a point where it had taken off and started to provide an income. It was time for me to write a value proposition. But I found it really difficult to define who we were or what our platform stood for.
This is when I went back to basics and thought, okay – what value does Creative Boom bring? How does it solve our audience’s problems? What benefits does it offer? How does it differ from the competition?
From here, I created our value proposition: the main reason anyone would want to click on Creative Boom. It’s a simple positioning statement that explains why we’re relevant, what value we might bring, and why anyone should follow us rather than our competition. Here it is in full:
Celebrating, inspiring & supporting
Creative Boom is one of the UK’s leading platforms dedicated to the creative industries. Founded in 2009, we deliver inspiration, insight and advice to seven million creative professionals each year.
From artists, graphic designers and illustrators to photographers, filmmakers and animators – we help creatives at every stage of their careers, that’s whether they’re graduates, working at an agency or in-house, freelancing or leading a team.
By exploring creativity through our online magazine, podcast, and entire network, we honour our original ethos: to celebrate, inspire and support the creative community, particularly the underrepresented, offering an inclusive space where everyone feels welcome.
This text explains why we’re relevant. Fundamentally, we’re about solving creative professionals’ problems by being a friendly and inclusive community that helps them progress in their careers.
It explains the value we bring is by offering inspiration, insight and advice – plus the chance to be featured to enjoy some free exposure and benefit from SEO.
And our unique differentiation is that we’re not elitists. We’re cuddly, and we want people to feel included when they visit our site.
Alternatively, I can break this value proposition down to just this one sentence: “Creative Boom is a friendly and inclusive platform that delivers inspiration, insight and advice to seven million creative professionals each year.”
Creative Boom’s 10th birthday limited-edition prints by Anthony Burrill and Supermundane
Helping you evolve
A value proposition like this helps establish your brand voice and promote yourself to others. It keeps you focused, remembering who you are and what you stand for.
That means that however much your practice evolves and changes over time, you probably won’t need to rewrite your value proposition. Indeed, summarising the core principles that drive you can help when going through big changes.
Indeed, the 10th anniversary of Creative Boom in 2019 led us to embark on a major redesign, it also provided invaluable when, a year later, I launched a podcast, inviting both emerging and established creatives from all over the world – as it did in 2021 when we launched our online shop.
What really helped before I did all of this was knowing my voice and reading back aloud that value proposition.
Beyond the value proposition
Writing a value proposition is a great start in building your personal brand. But it will only go so far. For all your self-promotion, from designing your portfolio site to the way you post on social media, you have to add a dash of your unique personality, too.
If you’re struggling to find a consistent creative voice throughout all these activities, one strategy can be to create a mood board of all the things you loved as a kid – whether that’s watching Snoopy cartoons, listening to Queen or writing fan fiction. Because ultimately, business is about people. And people love people.
Here’s another tip: find a photograph of yourself that makes you smile and pin it to your wall by your desk. Look at it frequently. Remind yourself to be kind to that wonderful human. And remind you to check in with yourself once in a while. To remember who you are and what you stand for.
And one further tip: create a document today, right now, that is your Feelgood List. Whenever someone says something nice – via a tweet, an email, or in real life – write it down and add it to your Feelgood List. Because, trust me, you’re going to have days when you don’t believe in yourself. When you’re confused or lost, this list will help.
Do these three things, and no matter what the creative world or life throws at you, you will stay on track, keep improving, be a success, and most of all, thoroughly enjoy the adventure.
For more tips on finding your creative voice, listen to my podcast interview with Meg Lewis in which she shares her story on building a personal brand and finding her creative superpower.
Press page on Sagmeister & Walsh
Your About Me page
Now let’s get down to some specifics. Your About Me page is key to establishing and promoting your personal brand. For many people, it’ll be the first thing they ever read about you, so make it rich and full of life. It’s your first impression so tell people who you are, what you do, and your background. People want the juice.
Include your full name, too, because many don’t, which drives journalists insane. Another bane of our life is website contact forms, so if you have one, at least provide an email address.
And if you really want to impress the media, have a ‘Press Area’ on your website; here’s a great, if outdated example. Alternatively, just add a sub-headed title on your About page, reading ‘For Press Enquiries’, then underneath, say how you’re available for interviews.
A bonus is to add in a note that you’ve got a decent microphone, so you are available for podcast interviews. And also, mention you have press packs available, plus professional headshots. It all helps.
Check in with others
Do you know what’s funny, though? We still lose our way – quite frequently, which is why it’s good to check in with others now and again.
If you’re a freelancer, that might mean your regular clients and collaborators. If you’re a salaried designer, that might mean colleagues and managers. For us at Creative Boom, it means checking in with our audience, and we do that by carrying out an annual survey and asking people for their feedback.
Here’s what some people think of Creative Boom, and as you can see, it nicely matches our value proposition.
“Creative Boom is personal. It’s your friend. It’s a WALL-E Pixar character that’s not a big publishing corporation.”
“Everything Creative Boom does comes from a place of genuine passion and positivity.”
“Creative feels very inclusive and maybe not so London-centric compared to others in the field.”
I share these not to boast but to show you that positive feedback can reinforce your knowledge of where your distinctive creative voice lies. Conversely, if you’re getting mixed or negative feedback, it’s a sign that your creative voice is not coming through, or maybe you’re misidentified what your true voice is.
A print by Maaike Canne, available via The Creative Boom Shop
The work is worth it
It might sound like a lot of work and hassle. But believe me, it’s worth it. Case in point: at the beginning of 2021 – thanks to finding my creative voice – I finally let go of my PR business to work full-time on Creative Boom. My platform has grown so fast since then, that it’s become the success I always hoped for and dreamed of.
My experience shows that a strong creative voice – your own brand voice – will guide you and help you have a successful venture or career. The rewards will come your way.
Wix Playground: Get involved!
Wix Playground celebrates design culture and creative freedom online. Its Playground Academy is a five-week intensive online program for new designers looking for the perfect reason to focus on developing their creative identity and building a stand out personal brand. Wix Playground also organises monthly events for creatives and publishes a free design newsletter. To learn more and get involved, visit the website.