Eightyone Design Logo

How easy is it for a graphic designer to brand themselves?

I don’t know about you, but it took us what seemed like decades to decide upon our name, logo and branding. We went through rigorous brain storming and research trying to iron out what we liked, what our market would like and what would stand out against the crowd.

Our main problem was that we wanted something that was a little crazy and ‘off the wall’ that would make us stand out from the crowd. We thought that having no client restraints would be great as we could do all the crazy design things we had always wanted to. However, we knew that this wouldn’t quite work with our potential clients due to our location as quirky branding may put off our target market (which consisted of mainly small to medium sized local businesses). Once we thought this through we had a much better idea of our market place (our potential clients and competitors) and how we could slot into that, so we started at the beginning (as it’s a very good place to start) with our name.

Step 1 – Our Name

We had several ideas for our name, but the first one that really stood out for us was (drum roll please…) Remote Media. We liked the idea that we were living in a remote part of England (sort of…) and also offered quite a range of services (video and dvd creation) so we felt media left it quite open to our expertise. Our style has always been really simple and we knew our logo had to reflect this. We created a simple type based logo with a simple colour scheme. To be honest, I don’t know where the grey and lime colour combination came from but I think it was something we had both probably thought of previously.

Remote Media - the original name for eightyone design

Step 2 – Our Website

The next stage was to build a site using our new name and develop our branding. We had several branding ideas and we felt the strongest of which was that we stood out against the crowd (well, we thought we did anyway!) so we adjusted photos to illustrate this. However, after hours of creating one green pebble in a group of grey ones, or one green phone box in a group of red ones, we felt that this was too cliched and overused so decided against it. We also liked the idea of using photo’s merged with vector art but felt it didn’t reflect what we wanted to say about ourselves. By now we were getting a few jobs and realised that very few of them were related to video or dvd, and the fact we were finding it so difficult to decide on branding made us nervous about our name. So we decided that before we went too far down this route we would stop and start right from the very beginning.

Remote Media business card front
Original Remote Media Business Card Design – Side 1

Remote Media business card back
Original Remote Media Business Card Design – Side 2

Step 3 – Our Name… again

So we began brainstorming again and the same names cropped up, however this time a new one came into play… eightyone design… and we both loved it! Why eightyone design? Well, that was the year we were both born. We were sure we were onto a winner with this one and after several sketches we came up with a logo and applied our beloved lime green and grey colouring. Using the lines we created for the logo we started to develop simple branding. Our business cards came from the logo, and our website came from our business cards. The whole process seemed to be a lot more seamless than the first time round (Well, with a slight detour to a more distressed style – see the initial ideas for the website below). Company stationary and letterheads flowed easily and before we knew it eightyone had a style we were pleased with. Don’t get me wrong there are times we look at other peoples sites and branding and think “why didn’t I think of that?”. We also sometimes cringe at our company name as once people know that eightyone represents 1981 and that was the year we were both born it usually sparks looks of concern for our age and experience. This then leads to people talking about what they were doing in 1981 – very cringy indeed, but a good talking point.

First draft of the eightyone design logo
First draft of the eightyone design logo

First draft of the eightyone design website
initial ideas for the eightyone design website


So to my question ‘How easy is it for a graphic designer to brand themselves?’ the answer from our point of view is no, it is not very easy! I am sure that in a couple of years we will have to review our branding and style to ensure that it is forever evolving and fresh. However, I do feel so much more prepared for it. I am prepared for us to critique it from every angle and spend a ridiculous amount of time on ideas you know are wrong. I could quite confidently say to a client that we put 110% effort into making their branding right for them and their market place. However creating our own branding seemed so personal and there is the possibility that we thought about it too much and tried to go against what we felt was right.

Final eightyone design business card
Final eightyone design business card – Front

Final eightyone design business card
Final eightyone design business card – Back

What about you? We would love to know how other people went about branding themselves and what they think of ours?

Posted by Lu

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Posted on Monday, June 2nd, 2008 at 8:06 pm
Posted In Branding, Featured Articles, Graphic Design, Logo Design | Tags: ,

14 Responses to “How easy is it for a graphic designer to brand themselves?”

  • I absolutely love your business cards, very swank!

    Your logo is lovely of course, as is this website. I like green and grey a lot … so much so I have to restrain myself lately from using it when designing, I have a tad too many clients with green and grey colour schemes for my liking!

    Saying that, inevitably as the years tick by, and there are only so many colour combinations possible…one will have to repeat them to some degree. Anyway I digress.

    I don’t think I would have called myself Truly Ace if I had actually given it a bit more than about 10 seconds worth of thought 7 years ago.

    What happened was I used the name based on an old domain I had (I know, dreadful and shocking)and that was because I didn’t exactly ‘launch’ as a design business so much as drifting into it by incidence over the course of a few months.

    I started designing a few logos for some money and to gain PR for another business, and next thing I knew people started really liking them and the rest is history.

    Then as the years ticked by and I became well known and recommended by clients, I found myself well and ‘truly’ stuck with the name – excuse the pun!

    I guess I could re-brand with a new name, but I have a feeling that would be a very bad idea.

    As for how hard is it for a designer to brand themselves? Very hard I think. It took me 6 years to add a graphic icon to my text only logo.

    For many years I was too scared to add any imagery to the text for fear of being trapped once more into something I might regret one day.

    I have however stuck resolutely to the same brand colour scheme from day one and love my little diamond within the logo which is a fairly new addition…the name however; personally I think it’s a bit suspect still, lol!

  • Steve says:

    Hi Amanda – thanks for your comment and kind words regarding our business cards, website and logo (we too love the green and grey colour scheme and have to restrain ourselves from using it too often).

    I know what you mean about getting ‘stuck’ with something you do not like. It was only due to us having problems defining a clear brand and style to the original ‘Remote Media’ name that we had a rethink and came up with eightyone design (and whilst I think Remote Media is OK, I much prefer Eightyone Design). Had we not had these problems, we too would probably now be using a name we would not be completely happy with. That said, I can not say whether we will still like our company name in a few years (or even months!).

    I would think that if your company name and brand are quite recognisable that it would be a bad idea to re-brand. Whether you like it or not, your company name is very memorable and unique (and a little quirky which I like) so I would stick with it.

  • It literally took me ten years to create, design and finalize my business identity. For many design firms, the biggest issue is often an inability to step back from the branding process, treat the project just as any other design project, and make themselves the client. Once you require yourself to go through the procedures expected of your clients (on any project for your own business) the process usually becomes much easier.

  • lu says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I agree that once you start to treat the project as if it were for another client it becomes easier as you then detach yourself a little more rather than letting your own branding consume you. We went through this process second time round and the whole project flowed and was a lot less painful (and a lot more exciting!).

  • As a graphic designer branding yourself has got to be the hardest project you’ll ever take on. It appears as though you have done an outstanding job. Although I’m sure you will look back years from now, as we all do, and be disgusted with what you thought at the time was pretty darn cool.

    Anyway, I’m new to your site, and just want to say hi, and thanks for the content.

  • Steve says:

    Hi James,

    Thanks for your comment and for coming and having look around.

    Branding for ourselves was possibly one of the longest projects I have ever worked on which took us probably 2 years in total. I hope we have managed to learn to treat rebranding ourselves as a normal project and when a rebrand is due it hopefully will not take as long as it did the first time round.

    And yes, I am sure we will look back in years from now and say ‘Lime green and grey! What were we thinking?’


  • erik says:

    The design work behind your branding is very inspirational to me. Just starting out myself, the comments above provide a lot of insight that I can’t thank you guys enough for. I have to say, though, I really like your initial draft for your website posted above, but I do see how much more clear and conservative your current flash page is.

    on another note, if you have any flyer designs that I could post on my blog, Flyer Design Goodness [www.flyergoodness.blogspot.com], I’d really appreciate it. Thanks!

  • Steve says:

    Hi Erik,

    Thanks for your kind words regarding our branding and I agree, the comments people have left here are really helpful.

    I too liked the original web concept, but it just was not saying what we wanted to say about our graphic design company. I feel the final concept in much more concise and conveys the sort of company we hoped we would be.

    Thanks for coming and having a look around and I have had a look at your blog and some of the pieces you have on there are great. Keep up the good work.


  • This is my first time here, but I’m already impressed by the quality of your work and posts.
    I really enjoyed reading about your branding evolution. Your 81 logo is amazing. It has a retro look that’s very modern. Green&grey is the colour scheme of my blog, which I too like, but I’m in the process of re-designing it, and the new colour scheme would be a bit different.

    Things are a bit different for me, as I started my business many years ago, and didn’t get into blogging until last year. And I’ve got two different names for my business and my blog. Now, that I went freelancing full time, I have to think of ways to promote my business brand online. My blog became quite popular, so I don’t want to loose it, and want to keep it going.

    Most probably I’ll be re-designing my business site and brand once again, as well as my blog. Haven’t decided yet whether I should use the same colour scheme for both, or keep them completely separate. What do you think?

  • Lu says:

    Hi Vivien,

    Thanks for your comment and kind words regarding our branding and logo design.

    Regarding your business site and blog redesign, I personally would keep the colour scheme the same to add a bit of a link between the two (especially if they are going to continue on two separate domain names). Do you get a lot of work through your blog? If so, this would be even more of a reason to have some sort of synergy between the two.

    Thanks for taking the time to have a look around.


  • Great story! The new business card designs are amazing. Good work! The logo is really catchy too which really makes the designs stand out. I was also born in 81 and even thought about this same concept myself, incorporating “81” into a name. True, people may look at your like you’re fairly young and may not have as much experience as others, but just think, in 10 years, they’ll be looking at “81” and saying “wow! they’ve been in business for a long time, we’re going with them”. 😉

  • lu says:

    Hi Deron,

    Thanks for your comment. Glad that you like our work! I never thought of it like that – our name will get better with age! Coincidence you were born in the same year and considering a similar business name, 81 does have a ring to it or it might be because I’ve heard it so many times and is special to me (you too!) that I think it has a ring to it? Either way I am glad that we have chosen 81 as our company name.

    Nice site btw, will be stopping by regularly!


  • Danny Hinde says:

    Interesting article! Branding myself is something I have struggled along with over the past year, since I launched my blog last September.

    I think your latest branding is great, AND unique! Out of the hundreds of designers online, your brand is one of a few that sticks out in my mind.

    So well done! & great article!

  • Lu says:

    Hi Danny, It’s funny how we reflect on our own branding, we are soo critical! I am glad that you like our branding and you feel it stands out, that’s really great to know! The market place is becoming so crowded and it takes a lot to stand out.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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