My definition of branding, plus the story of how I got here
I fell in love with branding when I was just out of high school, but it took me years to realize it.
The initial spark came in the form of Style Statements. This was one of Danielle Laporte's early projects - she and her business partner were "Style Psychotherapists." They took clients through in-depth interviews and emerged with two defining words that were meant to serve as a touchstone; a personal tagline to guide the client's decisions, in style and beyond.
Among the questions they asked: What do you like to be noticed for? What would you like to revolutionize?
I was immediately captivated by the idea. I'm innately curious, and fascinated by how people experience the world. The idea of taking someone's answers and ideas, sorting through everything, and finding something essential and individual to them was completely inspiring.
Of course I wanted to do a consultation of my own, but my student budget meant I had to follow my own process instead. I came up with organic modern. To me the phrase suggested something open, light and relaxed, but with enough definition and structure that it felt smart and cool, too. Design-oriented but never fussy, neither too soft nor too hard. Natural and bold, all at once.
It still fits.
This is branding.
Getting really clear about who you (and/or your business or organization) are, what matters to you, and how you bring yourself into the world. How you want to be in the world. What lights you up. Who you connect with, and who connects with you. Asking: What's important? What do you want to be known for? How do you want people to feel when they walk in your door, or even when they see an email from you in their inbox?
It's taking all of that, and finding the spark — the soul — at the centre of it. Finding a way to bring that energy into everything that you do, from the name you choose to the paint on the walls. Living and working and creating from that place.
But I didn't realize that then. That took a while.
Without knowing it, I started collecting the experiences that would eventually form the perfect background for a career as a brand strategist.
I've always been a writer. Even when I didn't realize it was a possible career, it was how I made sense of the world. I started blogging in 2003. Among my favourite online homes was Cahiers du Cinémode, a project exploring film fashion. Sometimes it feels like I don't know what I think until I've written it down.
I always loved making art, but when I took my first design class and experienced art paired with problem solving, I fell hard. I had the same experience with photography. When I'm editing images in the darkroom (or photoshop), time stops.
I've owned more black and white striped tops than I can count, because I'm always searching for the perfect one. Going way back I've been obsessed with defining and refining my own style. The idea of a style uniform feels more liberating than stifling. (Mine would include that perfect striped shirt, black jeans, and black ballet flats.)
ORGANIZATION AND ANALYSIS
I have a master's degree in Information Management, so my creative side is balanced by very finely tuned analytical abilities. I was a librarian for almost five years. I love research, information architecture, and metadata.
When I became a librarian, I made sure to make it the least traditional position I could find. My role was in marketing and community development, with a focus on creativity and the arts. I wrote countless media releases, created branding and marketing campaigns, launched an event series that now sells out in 24 hours, and got to share it all online as part of the social media team.
Thanks to a totally random craigslist job posting, my first real office job was working as a project coordinator for one of Canada's premiere brand consultancies, Joseph Mimran & Associates. I learned so much, working with a team of amazingly talented product developers, designers and copywriters to create compelling brand stories.
DEPTH PSYCHOLOGY AND THERAPY
My curiosity applies to our inner worlds as much as the outer one. I went into Jungian analysis, read a lot of books, and eventually trained as a depth psychotherapist. I learned to ask questions, see patterns, hear what's really being said, and follow my intuition. This has been incredibly deep and inspiring work, and has formed the base for how I live and work, 100%.
When I realized that I could pair psychology and therapy skills with my background in writing and creative strategy, it made for the most fascinating and engaging work I've ever done: exploring what lights people up, the ideas that guide them, and then finding a way to express it in the world.
CREATIVITY AS WORK
I started freelancing as a copywriter and designer in 2010. Even when I was working day jobs that had little to do with either, I found ways to fit creative work into my days. It's the kind of work that comes so easily that it took me a long time to realize, Not everyone can do this.
I knew right away that this is work that lights me up. It took a little while (and a lot of deep breaths), but I knew that I had to go out on my own and do this for real. So I did. Ask me about the dream that inspired me to finally make the move, if you're a dream person. (Which I totally am.)
WHEN I WAS FIGURING OUT EXACTLY WHAT I SHOULD DO WITH MY LIFE, SOMEONE GAVE ME A KEY PIECE OF ADVICE.
THEY SAID TO ME, "FOLLOW THE ENERGY."
I DID, AND THIS IS WHERE IT LED ME.
It’s fascinating to look back and see that everything really does connect. And now on to everything that comes next.