I’ve had the same portfolio site for a year or so–and you know how it goes. The baker’s children are the last to eat, or something like that. I was helping other clients with their sites and had no time to focus on mine. The old site was fine and serviceable, but last month, I decided it needed a big refresh, and just dove straight in.
I knew I wanted an online identity that was a little more playful, a little more inviting. I found some amazing retro imagery and used it in a new context, adding big washes of color and cropping tightly. That merging of the old and new helped define my direction, and I cleaned up the overall look, converting to bigger images, more readable blocks of type, and even a bit of updated copy.
I learned so much in developing and programming it myself, and think that the result expresses my point of view pretty well! Here are a few things I learned in trying to define my own identity:
- Ask for help. My good friend and former colleague brainstormed with me (over text message!) about what my style says to her. She used words like “instinctively creative” and “passionate,” which helped a lot. Then, I joked that I wanted my site to look like what Peggy Olson’s (from Mad Men) might, if she were designing a website. It ended up describing the look to a tee!
- Step away. This one was hard. I tend to get focused on a project to the point of obsession (Dan can attest to a few missed dinners), but the moment I got up, even for a cup of tea, I felt so much clearer about the problem and solution at hand.
- Explore the options. I was torn between a few different directions. A lot of my work has an illustrative feel, but lately, I’ve been more drawn to simpler solutions. So I did a bit of both, sketching and hand-lettering for one option, then paring everything down to the nuts-and-bolts for another. Of course, I landed somewhere in the middle.
- Be brave about what you want to say. As a writer, I’m always conscious of audience, and a strange thing happened while working on my own site. I started wondering if my message was too splashy. Was I sounding too-big-for-my-britches? Well, if I am, my britches are at least authentically oversized. Voice can’t be faked and eventually, I had to tone out the hypothetical voices and go with what I thought was best. My About page says it all!
See the site in action at thaothaidesign.com! I have a few more features I want to add eventually, so it keeps being a (very fun) work in progress.