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This is the final excerpt from a free chapter from Smashing Logo Design. You can also read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.


With the numbers of professional designers increasing every day, it’s more important than ever to promote yourself in order to remain competitive. Luckily, an abundance of methods and mediums are available to allow you to communicate with potential clients—locally or around the world—to let them know what you offer.

Putting Together A Portfolio

Ultimately, the portfolio is the most important tool in promoting the skill set and experience of any designer, regardless of the field in which they operate.

How much work should you show in your portfolio? Should you show everything that you’ve ever done? The simple answer is that you should show only the work that you feel will help you to land future projects and impress potential new employers. If you’re constantly putting thorough effort and thought into each project that you undertake, you’ll be able to show everything you’ve ever designed.

Covering All The Bases

The Internet has opened up avenues for designers to be able to upload work to various portfolio portals, which increases the chances of individual recognition from both peers and potential clients.
Leighton Hubbell, who has been working in the industry for over 20 years, has had to adapt his promotional tactics in order to keep up with the influx of competition:

For years, the guide to self-promotion was fairly traditional. You made contacts through getting work in front of key individuals, whether it was sending out promotional pieces through the mail, dropping samples off at a local agency or business, or just making cold calls. You did just about anything you could to get your portfolio in front of someone. Every once in a while, you made a contact through somebody you knew. Slowly, you built yourself a reputation—first locally, then regionally, and so on. I managed to make a pretty good living getting business that way, until a few years ago when everything changed.

The single most important change is visibility and making the most of it. It used to be enough to just have a Web site. Now, you need a Web presence. There is so much competition out there (some good and not so good) that designers really need to show what they can do and set themselves apart from everyone else. In this business, you need to adapt or you can get left behind very quickly.
My own promotional tactics have led me to understand that this is a predominantly digital world. Just having a portfolio that you can touch by hand no longer cuts it, even though (if it’s designed well, in a unique way) I still think is far more impressive than a fancy Web site. I have a Web site, but there is nothing on it other than a message that explains why I have no time to design it (because I would prefer to spend all my time and energy on designing for real projects for real people). That’s what works for me, at the moment, but I know that as more designers enter the industry, it’s only going to become more challenging to think of something unique that can get you noticed.

Using Social Media

Social media, which involves interaction with users worldwide through the power of the Internet, has really blown the design industry apart.

Kevin Burr feels that social media has both positive and negative effects, which require that, as a promotional medium, it be treated with great care and caution:

The Internet and social media can be your best friend or your worst enemy. It’s all about what you make of it. When you use the Internet and social media as a means to promote your business, you have to be very careful in what you say and how people perceive you. One wrong step, and the entire community knows about it. But if you remain approachable, offer good insight, and help others, your reputation can help generate more work.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, has something to say. Whether it’s important or interesting is another matter, but they’ll do a good job of trying to get you to hear it. And that is perfectly fair. I’m not exactly sure whether social media has directly increased the number of designers in the world, but one thing is for certain: It makes you aware of just how many there are.
One interesting trend that I’ve noticed: The big agencies don’t tweet or blog that much, mainly because they don’t have to—they have their reputation to rely on. For smaller, independent companies and freelancers, the situation is different: Social media becomes an avenue for exposure—after all that’s exactly what the vehicle of social media is: a cry for attention. Is this an advantage? Absolutely. Anything that creates connections among people can only be a good thing.

Stephanie Reeves understands that social media isn’t the only route to securing a professional position but believes that it can only help:

Social media won’t get anyone a job but I certainly don’t think I could get the job I want without it. Again, it’s about involvement; I think that employers want their new blood to be aware of how social media can work. Being aware of recent advancements is one of the things that make young graduates so attractive to companies.

Sending your CV and printed portfolio with “I love your company” written on the back of your business card isn’t enough anymore. Employers want to see that you have a genuine interest in your chosen field and the confidence to talk about it before they even get near to interviewing you. They do their homework and they want to see that you do yours. I can’t see how blogs, social networks, and online portfolios could be a disadvantage unless you haven’t got one.

Blogging For Leads

The Internet grows every second of every day. It never sleeps. Since the mainstream became wise to search-engine optimization, and the practice of sharing design-related links through social media became a common practice, we’ve been inundated with often-pointless logo-design-related blog posts every day.

Steve Douglas coined the interesting term logo-raiding, which relates to this increasingly common tactic. I was lucky enough to ask him to share his thoughts on the subject:

Social media allows designers to get “out there.” The problem is, there’s an awful lot of designers trying to get “out there.” And that’s what leads to noise. As designers compete for clicks and traffic, they sometimes resort to pinching other designer’s work—often without credit—and publishing posts that are little less than collections of other peoples’ designs and labeling it “50 logos of cats.” The noise can be very difficult to rise above, and quality material is often drowned out. When I first started on the Internet in the mid 90s, it was relatively easy to get decent search-engine placement for almost any designer willing to put in the time. It’s not so easy any more. And getting less so every day.

Think of this situation as fishing. The post or Web site is the net. They hook you in with the promise of showing you a bunch of logos, supposedly to inspire you for your own future works. Yet underneath there is a shark at work that is only interested in Internet traffic. The more fish they get, the more successful that particular blog or Web site becomes.

Unfortunately, the practice of logo raiding is not just carried out by logo design inspiration websites or blogs, but by some designers themselves. This is perfectly fine providing that they are crediting the work and providing links to the designer of the logos that they choose to showcase. By not providing credit can make it look like the posted logos are the work of the author of the blog post and could trick potential clients from thinking that that designer is of a higher experience or skill level than they actual are. The ideal way to get traffic to your work is to do it the honest way, by creating outstanding solutions that you designed yourself rather than the talent of others.

Staying Grounded

The best form of promotion is to consistently create brilliant work. Even if you spend hours and a lot of money on getting your name out there, it won’t be worthwhile unless it impresses potential clients.

Once you begin to build a good reputation, it can be easy to let your ego take over and start thinking you’re the best designer that has ever graced the earth. I believe that the great achievers in the world—and this is applicable to every type of profession—are those who have an extremely well-honed work ethic and don’t rest on past achievements. The drive and focus to continually beat your previous achievements and conquer new goals is what keeps such people motivated. The beauty of designing logos is that each task poses a new problem to solve, so keeping the passion alive shouldn’t be a problem.

The Future of Logo Design

So, where does this leave us? We could make a wild assumption that computers will take over our minds completely and design logos for us, in effect replacing the role of the designer completely. But that’s unlikely to happen. I can only imagine that like disciplines or industries, it will continue to evolve, with designers having to make even greater changes to keep up with the pace. With the recent crisis in the economic climate, it has already been proved that more and more designers are now making the jump from working for design firms into self-employment. That is obviously due to the decreasing number of design jobs available, but I can’t help but think that the Internet has also played a big role.

With social media becoming more and more prevalent in people’s everyday personal and working lives, it would be closed-minded to predict that it isn’t going to play an even bigger role not just in logo design but in the whole industry in the future. Even today, it’s possible for teams to be put together without even having to meet face to face. That’s very exciting from a collaboration standpoint, though I hope that the beauty of working within a team through immediate firsthand interaction doesn’t disappear completely.

What about the distribution of clients? Will the massive firms continue to dominate and monopolize the jobs for the world’s most popular brands? Probably, but maybe not. One thing is for certain: There will always be logos and the people who design them.

You can purchase Smashing Logo Design from Amazon, Barnes & Noble & Waterstones.



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