Like it or not, existing as a designer in the digital age means you have a personal brand. Prominent, subdued, carefully groomed, delightfully unkempt—your brand is out there.
People often pay more attention to their profile when they’re looking for new opportunities, growing their network, or attracting new clients. But, like so many things, it’s beneficial to build your brand before you need it.
What can you do with a personal brand?
Not just helpful for finding your next gig, giving your brand a little attention can help grow your career in other directions. You might want to publish a book, speak at a conference, move into management, become a leader, a mentor, or that beautiful thing, a non-controversial podcast guest.
So how do you build your brand?
We spoke with UXers, including research and content designers, across Indeed on how they built their brands, and how you can get started. They revealed a range of platform preferences and approaches. We boiled these insights down into six principles you can adapt to develop your brand.
Build on an existing audience
Don’t start from scratch, look for an existing audience you can build on. When you’re searching for a job, there can be benefits to using a professional social media platform to intentionally grow your network. Senior Content Designer Melanie Seibert suggests monitoring your professional platform of choice and listening before you add to the conversation: “Some people post a lot, some a little. Some talk about personal things, some don’t. Think about the types of things you want to discuss in this forum.”
Don’t be afraid to try something new
As a UX designer, Simon Lin doesn’t spend a lot of time writing long-form content, but out of work hours he’s found that publishing pieces on Medium has been a powerful way to build his brand. In addition to attracting a following of over 6,000 people, he started his own Medium publication, As a Product Designer, that has grown into an active community of Taiwanese product designers on Medium and Facebook.
In addition to creating a strong network, Simon found writing to be a powerful mechanism for personal reflection that pushes him to explore how he feels about the design developments he’s highlighting. Think Medium might be a good option for you? Simon advises: “Try to find a unique point about yourself and share whatever you think that helped you grow the most as a designer.”
Experiment and iterate to find your niche
When you’re thinking about which platforms to use, consider who your intended audience is and what kind of content you want to post. Some design disciplines are better suited to specific platforms. For instance, visual design translates easily to Instagram. Likewise, some people are going to enjoy some platforms more than others.
Carol Huang’s Instagram account @iconicdiary was initially a place to share her illustrations. As she spent more time on the platform, she began combining her drawings with insights from her work as a Tokyo-based UX designer. She developed a signature 10-slide series that she uses to share her musings on UX. She found this format less overwhelming than writing an article and her audience appreciates these bite-sized insights. Her account has grown to over 12,000 followers.
Read more from Carol: 5 Design Lessons from Japan’s Konbini by Carol Huang
Understand your goals and your audience
This might sound obvious, but it’s important you see an impact from your work. If you’re using a platform for fun, enjoyment might be your key outcome. But if you’re thinking about advancing your career, you’ll likely want to see tangible results. These can come from surprising places. Through mentoring on ADPList, Tomas Zeman, a UX design lead, found that giving portfolio feedback has strengthened his critique skills and made him a stronger interviewer.
Along with thinking about your goals, consider the best way to reach your desired audience. Senior UX Designer Frantisek Kusovsky has built an impressive Dribbble profile, but he advises that to maximize your impact “you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Industry-specific platforms are great for networking with people who do what you do, but to be effective your network needs to be diverse. Posting on Instagram and Twitter has helped Frantisek make valuable connections outside of the immediate visual-design community.
Team up when it makes sense
UX Design Manager Laura Klein started the podcast What is Wrong with UX in 2015 with Kate Rutter. Klein explains: “Kate and I had been teaching UX together, and many of our students said the part they liked most was when we got together after class and started arguing with each other.” Over time, they built an audience a lot larger than their class had been—the most popular episodes got 8 to 10 thousand downloads each. Working together didn’t just mean fun discussion during the episodes. The pair spoke at conferences and shared the admin load that comes with a successful podcast. In March, 2022, they decided to end the series, but all 135 episodes are still online. Note: each one comes with a drink pairing, further evidence that your personal brand can be fun.
It’s tempting to advise that you create a strategy and follow it to the letter, but talking to our team of experts, it’s clear that iterating and exploring is an effective way to build your brand. One thing that’s clear is that consistency is important. Klein says: “Once we started putting out episodes every other week, our listenership got much bigger. We now sometimes go weeks or months without an episode because we’re both very busy, but you need to build up that base of listeners.” Huang adds, “don’t wait for a perfect moment.” Get going—after all, you’re playing the long game!