Challenging as it may be to define yourself through your work, your life as a designer will force you to address it. People are going to ask you to introduce yourself, talk about your projects, your experience, and way of working. Talking about those things in conversation is one thing; a little smile goes a long way to cover up a little unease. But what about when you need to present yourself in writing: your CV, cover letters, website and social network profiles? That can prove to be much trickier, and the uneasiness can turn into actual dread. Here are some helpful tips to get you through the task of writing your personal profile - and who knows, you might even learn something new about yourself.
Writing is just another form of creativity
To help diffuse the fear of writing, the first thing to remember is that it's just another form of creativity. Treat it like any other creative project you would tackle: do you start by online research? Grabbing your sketchbook and scribbling down ideas? Talking to friends? Whatever it is that usually works for you, apply it here as well.
Can’t write? Talk!
What if writing really scares the hell out of you? If the thought of opening a blank document has you hyperventilating out of stress, we have a fun and easy trick for you to try. Get a good friend to sit with you, buy them a coffee, and ask them to interview you. Make it into a conversation, record it, or even have that friend write your words for you as you speak. Think of it as if it were a TV interview. How would you like to present yourself? What would you want to say, and for people to remember? Here are some helpful interview topics to get you started: Skills, creative passions, career and school highlights, interests and hobbies beyond work, and personal influences.
You’re already a writer
If you keep saying to yourself, “I don’t know how to put words and sentences together,” understand that writing is part of your everyday life, from when you send an email, to when you text someone on your phone. That’s writing! Maybe your personal tone of voice is hiding there. Have a look at the way you write and take inspiration and guidance from there.
Research and inspiration
As in any project, research is key. Try looking at artists and designers you love and look up to. How do they present themselves? What does their ‘about me’ page say and look like? As in any other project, inspiration is irreplaceable—it will be your starting point, your anchor.
Keeping it real
It’s always better to have your text simplified rather than overly-complex. Eye-level, conversational copy, is so much easier to read and digest, and makes you accessible.
Try to avoid using extremely professional jargon that other people outside your circle won’t understand. Same goes for buzzwords—just like trends, you shouldn't use them if they don’t work for you personally. For example, nowadays the word ‘multidisciplinary’ is excessively used in CVs and portfolios, so you might reconsider using it to describe yourself as well. Stop and think—is that really you? Does this word really describe you?
It’s also important to stay true to your own abilities. What makes you unique? Oftentimes it’s better to emphasize a specific skill you have that makes you stand out from the rest rather than including a long, overwhelming list.
The medium is the message
One of the first things to consider is what the text is for. Is it a short paragraph for your graduation exhibition? A full personal profile for your website? A few lines for your Instagram bio? This will not only determine the length of your text, but also its tone and format.
Look for writing conventions to guide you in your writing. Say it’s your Instagram bio line you’re after—if you see the majority of people include three lines of text in their profiles, aim for that as well. It might seem cool or original to deviate from these conventions, but ignoring them might turn people away from reading.
The golden ratio
One of the questions many struggle with is how much they should write about their personal biography versus their professional work. A good rule of thumb to follow is approximately one-third personal, two-thirds professional, which will always make sense and create a good balance.
Again, ask yourself where this text is going to appear and who will be reading it. If you’re writing for your personal website as a way of introducing yourself, perhaps the personal bits can take up half the copy. But if you’re writing a cover letter or looking to get commissioned, then the emphasis should be on your work, ideas and projects.
Format and structure
This is where your design and visual tools come in handy. Think about your writing as a layout, a grid. Consider using bullet points or headlines, and format it so that it won't be too short or too long.
Always make sure to have an opening and closing—you need to welcome people into your text and then wave them goodbye, leaving them with something as they finish. If you’re struggling with an ending, it’s very common to refer to the future, types of projects you’re looking for or new interests in your career.
Once you have a structure for your copy, make sure it’s clear by reading it aloud to yourself. As you listen to your own voice, imagine you’re a stranger from a completely different industry, and ask yourself, is it clear? Does it make sense for someone who’s not necessarily a designer?
Put yourself in the shoes of a client, a hiring art director, or even a random reader; they all need to be able to understand you and your approach, even when they are not part of your milieu.
As a creative, you obviously want to stand out and let your personality shine. On the other hand, if you’re insecure in your writing, you might prefer to stick to the rules. How do you bridge this gap?
A good way to go about this is to start with something personal and engaging, something that is totally yours. Think about the most interesting thing about yourself, and start with that.
Think about how you’d want to be remembered; when someone reads your cover letter or website, they must have read dozens by now. It could be as simple as talking about a passion or hobby or a recent amazing experience.
It’s a work in progress
Lastly, it’s important to remember this text is an ever-changing piece of yourself. Think of it the same way you’d think about your portfolio or website. These aren't static, final projects. The same way you’ll redesign your website as you develop in your career, so will your personal profile evolve, and you will adapt it as you grow. So try and have fun with it, to reflect who you are in this exact moment in time.