Some pretty cool folks. Photography by Anne Almasy

As many of you know, I spent the last five months working with the awesome people at Braizen, a boutique graphic design firm in Woodstock. I was initially drawn to their work because I knew they did a lot of work with photographers, which of course struck my fancy! But above all else, their work was super high quality and innovative without being overly trendy. For some reason, they looked at my half-baked portfolio and suffered through my surely awkward interview, and on top of that they asked me to be a part of their team. Then, they watched me suffer through design projects with my elementary software skills and they still didn’t kick me to the curb! Much the opposite, these people took a chance on a recent college grad with design skills that were lackluster at best, and mentored me, and for that I am forever grateful.

While I did pick up a great deal of design knowledge and a lot of technical skills, I also learned a lot about branding itself, and that’s why I wanted to take the time to write about Braizen today.

As a designer, I’ve always known branding was an important part of any company’s success, but I could only provide you with textbook definitions of this ambiguous term. I’ve never really thought about it firsthand and what it means to me. After watching Ashley and Walt work on countless concepts for their small business branding clients, it hit me, “Oh yeah, I’m a small business owner. Coincidentally I’m also a graphic designer. I should probably get this whole branding thing together.” But what is branding? Most people think it’s a logo. If they delve deep into the crevices of their minds, they might decide it also includes a business card and a letterhead. But oh no no, branding is so much more! If there was one part of my experience with Braizen that I would claim to be the most valuable part, it would be this: if you own a business, your branding is you. It’s not about a business card or a logo or a color scheme or some flash slideshow with music that should be played in a creepy lounge setting where some old guy is hitting on you (no seriously though). It’s you, it’s all of you. It is the visual stuff, but it’s also the style of your work itself, the overall tone of your blog posts, it’s what you like to wear, it’s what type of music you listen to, it’s how you interact with your clients, it’s the type of client you choose to work with. All this time I had been trying to force logos in typefaces that I liked with colors that “looked neat” just for the sake of looking cool, when I really needed to take a look within first. Asking who am I and what do I represent?  and thereby concluding what will best represent me? is a much more effective thought process than the other way around.

So, it’s the start of the new year and many of us are thinking about diets and makeovers and life makeovers and reinventing ourselves. Branding is not just a concept for the business owner. In my journey I found that everyone brands themselves, and you get to choose what message you convey. Who will you be in 2012? I know I don’t have it all figured out quite yet, but that’s the beauty of branding, it changes as you grow and change. Whatever path you choose, don’t forget to be braizen : )

PS: If you need design help, or just like looking at super awesome stuff, check Braizen out, then hire them. Seriously. DO IT!