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Last week I launched my new blog, SockShine (because why should shoes get all the news?).
SockShine is a sort-of fashion and life blog dedicated to socks, driven by my own appreciation for this humble garment. It’s something I’ve been wanting to start for years, but have let the fear of “putting myself out there” hold me back – in this and in many other aspects of my life.
Since Monkeyshine is my window into my creative endeavours, my intention with this post is to describe briefly my thought processes as I designed the graphic elements (logotype, logo symbol/site icon and website) that form the visual identity of my SockShine baby. Maybe they’ll help you next time you need to put something together quickly.
But first, a note on procrastination, imposter syndrome, perfectionism and fear of failure
If you’d rather not read my psychobabble, you can skip to the design-related content of this post.
For years I have suffered from imposter syndrome. I don’t know if part of that is being an immigrant (I’m a South African living in Tasmania. While there are a lot of cultural similarities, there are also many differences). And I suspect some of it stems from setting up too-high exceptions of myself; a failing of which I am often accused. This isn’t surprising, since I gather that imposter syndrome often accompanies perfectionism.
If you don’t know me personally: Hello, I’m Brigitte and I’m a perfectionist.
Some people like to say that with some sort of pride. But really, in my own painful experience, it’s not a thing to take lightly or boast about.
Perfectionism is a paralysing, poisonous and destructive creature which can suck the joy out of living. It can translate into extreme self-criticism, over-analysis and/or procrastination, and consequently, lack of progress. Constant tweaking, polishing and adjusting before I can say something is done and ready to be released into the world.
For me, perfectionism is like the immortal head of the mythical Greek beast, Hydra. You can chop off all the other heads (such as imposter syndrome and procrastination) but if perfectionism is still alive, multiple new heads will just grow back to replace them.
And behind perfectionism lurks her lethal offspring: fear. Fear of failure, fear of criticism, fear of rejection, fear of being laughed at, fear of being called out as a fraud (there’s the old imposter syndrome sneaking in). The fear list goes on ad nauseum.
I recently came to the sad, mid-life realisation that both perfectionism and imposter syndrome have held me back from savouring so many experiences in life and I’m working extremely hard to liberate myself from the clutches of these many-faced demons.
If you’re a fellow sufferer of all or any of these torments, how do you deal with them?
As it happens, in the same week as launching SockShine, I also had a small win in the form of my first sale on Society6. (For this platypus pattern). I took that as a validation of my newfound resolve not to lurk in the shadows any more.
Back to SockShine
To actually “go live” with SockShine was an absolute thrill, even if there wasn’t a blast of trumpets sounding throughout the internet. If you did actually hear one, please let me know in the comments.
Despite the absence of fanfare, the thrill came from the sense of achievement not only in overcoming my many fears and breaking out of procrastination deadlock, but also in doing the work. And oh my! What a lot of work it was to go from “Um, I have this idea for a sock blog…” to a real, live site. Admittedly with only one post on it, but I have a long list of ideas for upcoming posts which just keeps growing.
While there are still a few aspects of the branding that need refining, I’m very happy with how it’s all come together.
What, no mood board? No brand board? No colour palette?
Nope. None of that. And no brand keywords either.
I know that’s where I should have started. I know that many branding and blogging experts say you need to hone in on your target audience first. But I was impatient to get going and I sensed that if I set about putting together mood boards and colour palettes, and then translating those into a brand board, I’d lose momentum entirely. For three reasons:
- I’d get stuck on narrowing in on my target audience, because everybody needs socks, right? So I’d decide to ditch the whole project.
- I’d end up spending hours trawling Pinterest and fiddling around in Illustrator to get my mood and brand boards looking “just so”. Then I’d lose faith in my ability to make good on these big visions and decide to ditch the whole project.
- I’d be consumed by the imposter syndrome demons again and… decide to ditch the whole project.
All because: perfectionism.
I also felt that I actually needed to first get my blog out and start posting in order to really understand who I’m writing for. So my back-to-front, seize the moment methodology was vital if I wanted to ever release my blog into the ether.
Quite coincidentally, as I was putting the finishing touches to this post, a newsletter landed in my inbox that made my heart leap with joy. It was from the course and community site, Fizzle, and the opening line was “Successful entrepreneurs don’t wait for clarity to take action, they use action to find clarity.”
Thank you, Fizzle. I feel much better now.
Don’t get me wrong. I may not have done the branding exercise or approached things in the right order, but SockShine does have a clear mission: to illuminate the simple pleasures in life and to cast more of the limelight on the humble but mighty sock.
And with that mission in mind, I threw myself into bringing my blog to life. Which brings me, rather circuitously, to the point of this post: my thought processes behind the graphic elements I created for SockShine.
1. Designing the wordmark (or logotype, if you prefer)
The typeface I’ve used for the word mark is Saveur Sans by Arkitype. I first saw it in a Design Cuts bundle and as soon as I did, I thought that’s just the font for SockShine. Why not take Saveur Sans for a test-drive yourself on myfonts.com?
In fact, it was seeing Saveur Sans that catapulted me out of I’ll-do-it-one-day-itis and into do-it-now action. For some strange reason it was the silver bullet I needed to get down to work. Design Cuts bundles do have a curious way of igniting the imagination.
So what was it about Saveur Sans that caused love at first sight? I want SockShine to be stylish and uncluttered, but oozing with personality. For me, those qualities come through beautifully in the elegant, art deco inspired lines of this typeface. It feels chic and sophisticated but at the same time warm and inviting. Don’t you agree?
2. Making the logo symbol (which I’m also calling my site icon)
Why a separate symbol? Even as I was designing my word mark, I knew it wasn’t going to be very effective at tiny sizes, such as the favicon in a web browser or my profile image on Pinterest, Facebook etc. So next I embarked on designing a scaleable icon that would more effectively say “this is about socks”.
Once more, I really had to resist getting sucked down a rabbit hole of exploring a million concepts. So I drew a sock, and placed a starburst behind it, and hey presto … SockShine.
Even so, I went through many iterations with just this single concept, the first of which were dreadful. I toyed with lots of different angles for the sock placement and eventually settled on “upright on toes” as this feels energetic and, to me at least, conveys a sense of taking a positive step forward.
I also experimented with different types of starburst. Some were more sketchy and textured, some had much broader rays. Eventually I opted for thin lines as it allowed the sock to take more of the attention. It also enabled me to have the centre of the starburst (the shine) form the heel padding of the sock.
One of the frustrating things about a starburst drawn from thin lines is the moiré effect that occurs at the centre of the burst. In the course of creating this icon, I devised a little technique to ameliorate this visual interference. I’m saving that for a future post, so you’ll have to stay tuned.
In terms of the icon’s colours, I want SockShine to appeal to men and women equally, so I went for a deep midnight blue and a sunny red-orange. Actually, I’ve ended up with two. One in which the sock is the sunny red-orange and another in which it’s turquoise, as I found that the orange wasn’t standing out enough at the tiny size of the favicon. I quite like the idea of a changing sock colour. Seems quite appropriate, really.
I then carried the starburst over to the word mark to create a sense of cohesion between the two.
I’m quite proud of the end result. I think the icon scales down reasonably well. (The favicon could do with some refining, but not now). When I look at it, I see the midnight blue background as the business suit and the bright sock as the personal statement, the splash of colour in a sometimes dull day.
What do you see? Although I’d prefer not to hear that the padding on the heel looks like a big, fat blister.
3. Setting up my blog on hosted WordPress
Now to the website. This was a time sink.
I work with WordPress and once more, designing my own theme presented another minefield of procrastination that could keep me from ever launching SockShine. So I embarked upon an optimistic treasure hunt for a ready-made theme, trawling swathes of results for search terms like best minimalist fashion blog WordPress theme 2017. And I discovered some real beauties.
But as you may already know, the danger with “off the shelf” WordPress themes is that sometimes that beauty is only skin deep. Under the surface, it’s Frankenstein, and a nightmare to customise and maintain. And in many cases, you don’t really know what you’ve got until you’ve handed over your unrefundable hard-earned.
Over the years I’ve compiled a list of theme developers whose work I trust and greatly respect. But sometimes they just don’t have anything that gives me that “aha” moment. In cases where I need to venture out of my safety zone, I have a few ways of sniffing out whether I’m going to get Beauty or The Beast when I click “Buy Now”.
That selection process is a topic for an entire post in its own right, so I’ll cut to the chase and just tell you which theme I went for. It’s called Mallow by The Basic, and I found it on ThemeForest.
I’m pleased to say my hound dog’s nose didn’t let me down. I’ve made a few modifications (beyond simple style changes) and it’s been an extremely easy theme to customise and hook into. I really think it deserves many more sales than it’s had.
4. Have website, will socialise
Ok. I’ve got my website. Check. Got my logo. Check. Got my site icon. Check.
Next, I needed to get me some social media profiles so that at the very least I could upload my shiny new icon and admire it in deafening solitude. (I gather that’s the wrong way round of doing things too if you’re planning on a launch of any sort. Apparently it should be build social media momentum first and then launch website. Oh well.)
The whole social thing is not an easy arena for me as I am not a natural social networker. Why on earth are you blogging then?, I hear you ask. Good question. Because, quite simply, I wanted to write about socks.
Actually, as I’ve said on my About page, I’m not much of a writer either. I get a tummy ache at the thought of penning a simple thank you note. And now I’m trying to make a go of two blogs. Well, three, if you count weaving wild.
I’m pretty pleased with how the icon came out as my profile image on Pinterest and Facebook. And Instagram, although not the desktop version. There’s some horrible blurring happening there that I have no control over, but I figured it doesn’t matter since it’s meant to be used as a mobile app anyway.
I was initially stumped with what I would do for my Facebook cover image. My inner critic kicked in for the gazillionth time, with jabs and jibes that I should be designing my own pattern of quirky socks for any decorative needs. But I sternly told Inner Critic to shut up (although in less lady-like terms).
Instead, I created my Facebook cover out of my wordmark and tagline, with the starburst behind it. The fancy sock pattern can come later.
The Facebook cover is what I’m also using for my Mailchimp sign-up and newsletter headers (although at different dimensions, of course).
And so, oh patient one, I give you SockShine. The point of my story. If you too suffer from perfectionism, just for once, try running with something that captures the basic essence of what you’re after, and go live! You can then refine and iterate, tweak and polish — maybe even have a complete revamp — once you get to know your audience and your new business, blog or venture a little better.
Had I let my perfectionism have its say, I wouldn’t have my shiny new SockShine creation. And I wouldn’t have this post either.
I recently read a quote from Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn (amongst many other achievements). He said:
If you aren’t embarrassed by the first version of your product, you shipped too late.
I’m going to try to adopt that philosophy more widely from now on. It’s both liberating and exhilarating.