Henry Hyde: Designer, Writer, Podcaster

Self-branding: the biggest challenge?

Self-branding: the biggest challenge?

Henry HydeThe process of creating a new identity is always challenging – especially if the client is yourself! It would be so nice to have the time and resources to step off the treadmill and spend a couple of weeks, with no other distractions, just concentrating on creating a new face to show the world. But this is real life, and that’s just not possible.

For me, the start of the process was this blog. Using WordPress and a theme called Suffusion, I’m gradually moulding it into shape, like a sculptor adding a little extra clay here, or taking away a blob there, until eventually the end result will be a reasonably accurate self-portrait.

One of the features that Suffusion offers is to add your own ‘favicon’. If you’ve no idea what that is, it’s the tiny square logo that appears next to the website URL in the address bar at the top of your browser window and, more importantly, next to the name of the website in your bookmarks list. In essence, it gives your website a brand.

Now, making a favicon turns out to be something of a challenge, because their standard size is a mere 16 x 16 pixels! That’s less than a quarter of an inch — 6.25mm — square. Many designs that look great at a larger size simply disappear when shrunk to this size . As far as I was concerned, this led me to settle upon the simplest of logos for my own branding: the sans-serif HH on a plain black background that you should be able to see here.

If you fancy creating a favicon for your own website or blog, then you can use Photoshop as I did (here’s some good advice and a link to download the plugin) or one of the many online favicon creation pages, such as this one. [Sept 2020 update: my thanks to visitor Diana for also suggesting this site.]

So, having created this little square icon, I could immediately see where I wanted to take it for my full logo, because it already bears a strong resemblance to the branding for my previous graphic and web design business, Gladius (shown here on the left). The Gladius name was born in a brainstorm about ten years ago and has served me well enough, but I’m now gathering all my talents under one name and one brand — and that brand is Henry Hyde, pure and simple. But I loved the logo when I first designed it and I still love it now, so I’m going to stick with the visual elements that made it effective.

From a typographical perspective, Gladius was all curves. The “G” and “GLADIUS” were rendered using a wonderful typeface called Trajan, which features beautiful, classical forms that would suit being carved into marble as much as being printed on paper. Trajan also forms a nice counterpoint to the “CREATIVE COMMUNICATION” which is set in that most stylish of sans-serif faces, Gill Sans.

Developing the HH logo in PhotoshopIn order to achieve absolute clarity in the favicon I just created, however, the “HH” had to be rendered as a sans-serif duo and, in fact, as you can see from the next image, I simply created a couple of utterly simple characters using the pencil tool in Photoshop, with uprights and crossbars one pixel wide. I tried a number of other options using both serif and sans-serif fonts, but none of them did the job of conveying my initials with the directness of what you see here. I also tried different colours, including white and red, but the pale grey worked best, with none of the blurring that seemed to occur when using either the stark contrast of white on black or the strong red. It’s also slightly fortuitous because, for print purposes, my Gladius identity used a metallic gunmetal silver ink (Pantone 8201), so I’ll probably use it again.

My next task was to adapt this design for use in print and in forms larger than a favicon on the web. Whilst I kept the shapes and proportions essentially the same, I wanted to try out some subtle tweaks to ensure clarity at all the sizes the logo is likely to be used on paper, whether that be business cards, brochures, letterheads, ads or even larger.

While I was thinking about this, I happened to be tidying up my attic studio space and uncovered something that made me think hard about the next step: boxes of unused stationery from my previous businesses! As I dumped them in the recycling bin, this made me ask myself just how many letters – that is, real letters, either printed out or written by hand and placed in an envelope with a stamp, rather than emails – do I actually send nowadays? Sadly, the answer is “hardly any at all”.

Why “sadly”? Well, I actually like letters and have become conscious of how few one sends and receives nowadays. The only letters I seem to get are from those banks and institutions I’d rather not hear from at all; gone are the days of enthusiastic correspondence between lovers, friends, family and pen-pals, all of whom now communicate via email, Skype, Twitter, Facebook and the other social media that have taken over so rapidly in the last few years. Of course, being able to get in touch with a friend or business contact so easily, wherever they are in the world, is a wonderful thing, but I can’t help but feel a twang of nostalgia for the sweetly scented letter from a lover, or the enthusiastic scrawl of a hobby pal.

Be that as it may, the unfortunate reality is that the postal service has become expensive. Even the supposed savings offered by a franking machine are often outweighed by the rental costs. So, any small business has to look at digital communication as the best way forward. No longer do I get regular calls from prospective clients needing letterheads and compliment slips; nowadays, it’s for branding that can be applied primarily online and for digital communication. Gone are the days of lingering lovingly over paper samples from a range of suppliers; now, people need brands that can be incorporated into their Microsoft Word documents, PDFs, websites and social media pages.

And I’m no different. And so, rather than plunging ahead and placing an order for thousands of sheets of beautiful paper with my logo in the corner, I decided to work on the basis that if it is ever printed, I shall print it myself on an ordinary inkjet or laser printer, unless a special occasion demands that I turn to good, old-fashioned litho or letterpress. I don’t even need business cards. (More boxes gathering dust.) Nowadays, the mobile phone fulfils that function. I am, in short, being my own most ruthless and penny-pinching client!

Focusing on the ‘byline’ for a moment, whilst I rather liked the “Creative Communication” of my Gladius brand, I felt it was time for a change. I’m older now, perhaps a little less pretentious, and perhaps more keen to focus prospective clients on precisely who I am and what it is that I do.

Henry Hyde. Designer. Writer. Editor.

Henry Hyde Designer Writer Editor logotype

The little full stop is deliberate, providing a visual balance point, like a keystone in a bridge, so that the text doesn’t ‘topple over’. At least, that’s my theory – I hope you agree! The font, by the way, is Ubuntu Condensed, one of the family of free Google fonts. I like its clean lines and modernity; it’s functional, yet stylish too, and works as a body font as well.

The logo can also work in horizontal format, by moving the type, which is useful for banner-style headers and other placements where tall and thin is less useful than shallow and wide:

Henry Hyde Designer Writer Editor logotype wide version

That’s quite enough about me and my logo, though I hope you might find the process I’ve been through thought-provoking. I’m interested to hear what you think, and I’ll be posting more about logo design and identity in future.

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