Creating a new identity

It’s time update my Website, business cards, and all my identity documents. Trajan Pro has been on my letterhead WAYYY to long. It’s been a lot of fun to work on a new look. And it’s reminded me of some good lessons about the creative process.

McGill business card current

Samples of my current business card. It has to go.

With my assistant #Hannah Carroll, I started by pulling my old documents and identifying why I chose them in the first place. I wanted a solid look that wouldn’t overpower the content of my photos. I want clients to take me seriously as a journalist. I want a logo/name that transfers easily among print and Web media, color and black and white documents.

I pulled out several prototypes I had made a few years ago, with the help of designer friend #Tippi Thole. It was helpful to see the process that got me to my current state of creative expression. But the more I looked at the old designs, the more I was drawn to them. I wanted to get out of my rut, but I kept going back to the old look. I needed a jump start.

McGill's Old Logo ideas

Ideas from 2003. Great brainstorming session then, but dated for today.

So I followed the guidelines I give my students. When you want to try something new, don’t look at the old work as a reference. Sure, clarify your goals and where you’ve been. It’s OK as a starting point. But be sure to look forward. What creative influences do you LIKE, and how can you incorporate them into your own work? I needed some inspiration.

I ran to that little drawer in my office full of networking business cards. We all have that nook crammed with cards we’ve collected at conferences and lunch meetings. (If you’re not networking, you should be!) Hannah and I spread them out and started pulling the designs we liked. There were lots of corporate templates and frilly cards for women who photograph children. They serve their purposes, but I want to send a different message.

The impressive designs quickly rose to the top. Sans serif fonts. Negative space. Vertical orientation. Bright color, especially orange. I chose it over an over. Hannah laughed. It was immediately clear that I knew EXACTLY what I liked–I just hadn’t known it.

Business Card inspiration

Great business cards I've collected lately. Clockwise from top left Canon USA, Livetocreate, Stacy Pearsall photographer, International Mission Board (imb), Virginian Pilot, Chicago Sun Times, Deanne Fitzmaurice photographer, Mike Schmidt designer.

Now we really have something to run with. After brainstorming I have a better idea of the message I want to convey to clients, I’ve researched examples that work (and don’t work), and found new visual inspiration to break me out of my shell.

When working on any project, it’s tempting to take the easy route, starting with your previous work and asking, “Where can I go from HERE?” That often gets you a step or two down the road. Instead, look outward and something that really inspires you and ask, “How can I get THERE?” It may take more work, but you’ll likely be happier with where you end up.

(Note: I intentionally blurred the images to emphasize general design principles and protect other designers’ products.)

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About mcgillmedia

I take pictures and teach other people how to do it, too.
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