It’s been a bumpy ride through the wonders of Microsoft FrontPage, overusing tables, and the tale of one man marketing himself as a large corporation.
Phase 1: April 2005 – May 2006
Phase 1 (view the full website here ) involved rolling out my first ever company name, New Dawn Graphics. This was an exciting time, my first foray into the world of self-employment, and for some reason I had the idea that branding myself with a generic company title would serve me better than using my personal name. Looking back, the logo was awful, and actually included a photograph of the sun rising within the mark (note to self, never use photographs in logos).
New Dawn Graphics was chosen because right before becoming self-employed I was traveling the world and witnessing many amazing sunrises. I thought my amateur travel photography could help add a personal feel to my portfolio.
This was my first ever attempt at web design, hence why I chose to use Microsoft’s FrontPage for the task, “teaching” myself from scratch. FrontPage is a poor piece of software that adds unnecessary code to your design. I’ll not be touching it again.
Every page included the clichéd CMYK band at the foot (a must for every designer). On the right of the site header, I included the half-naked photo used to perfection by Vivien in her article The Naked Truth About David Airey.
Now there’s a year of well spent brand opportunities.
Even though I look back and cringe, at the time I was quite proud of my efforts. Think of what it takes to have a site up and running:
- choosing a business name
- creating an identity
- choosing a web host (I got completely ripped-off)
- choosing the software to design the site (if you didn’t know about hand-coding)
- learning to code
- designing the layout
- sourcing images
It was a new experience, and after which I was sure I could conquer the world.
Phase 2: May 2006 – September 2006
Phase 2 (view the full website) revolved around the need to present myself in a more professional manner. My logo underwent a radical redesign, and brought the very much under-used and not at all trendy ‘reflection’ into the mix. I was still happy to call myself New Dawn Graphics, but, reluctantly, did away with my vast network of design employees, favouring to operate as a sole proprietor.
Even though the new website was much smaller in size, I felt it was a step up, and was hugely overjoyed at my ability to create a navigation ‘mouse-over’ effect.
After a few months running the new design, I began to dislike my company name, and started thinking of my personal brand. How were people perceiving me? And in fact, was anyone actually visiting my website (I didn’t know how to track web stats)?
I wanted to attract more people to my online portfolio, and knew that I needed to add content. The current layout, combined with my minimal knowledge of web design, pushed me in the direction of blogs, and I set about creating my own.
Phase 3: September 2006 – October 2006
On the face of it, phase 3 failed miserably, lasting less than a month, but it was an important step towards Phase 4.
Phase 4: October 2006 – June 2007
My new brand, new logo, and no more New Dawn Graphics. From here, I began marketing myself as myself. It was, after all, just me. No employees, no network of designers. Just David Airey.
The logo design took a lot longer than I thought it might, and involved a lot of sketches, but I’m relatively pleased with what I have.
Discovering WordPress was like opening the Christmas present I really wanted but didn’t know. Now, I was able to choose a pre-made theme design that suited my preferences, yet without the need to delve into the coding that I was all too unfamiliar with.
Initially, I began experimenting with the default WordPress theme, but after trying a number of others, and toying with the WordPress theme generator, I soon converted to Brian Gardner’s Vertigo theme (no longer available) which I used and customised for around six months. By customising Brian’s pre-made theme, I became more familiar with the intricacies of the WordPress code, and thought to myself how important it was to launch my own custom design, rather than using that of a fellow designer.
Phase 5: June 2007 – October 2007
So here we are now in October ’07.
To launch my first custom theme, I made use of Small Potato’s excellent lessons for WordPress theme creation. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Some people have told me that I’m marketing myself the wrong way, that I should showcase myself online with a more standard graphic design portfolio, and that what I have is catering more to social marketers than the average Joe who’s looking for a graphic designer.
Do I really want to work with the average Joe?
So it depends on who you want as a potential client. I’ve dealt with a number of clients who hired me after reading some of my blog posts, and it was a joy to work with them. I also have a number of fellow ‘bloggers’ who I’ll be working with as soon as I complete some current design projects.
Also, and perhaps more importantly, my online portfolio wouldn’t be anywhere near as visible if it weren’t for the content published through my blog. More and more people are arriving through specific blog posts, and not my homepage. This wouldn’t be happening if I didn’t publish updates.
All in all, I’m happy with the progress made during the past 30 months. At the beginning I had no idea how to develop a website, and today, here’s where I am:
- I’ve attracted more than 2,000 subscribers
- Yesterday I had 2,500+ visits to my website, and that’s been an average figure lately
- I’ve found a fantastic network of design pros who I can bounce ideas off
- The standard of my portfolio has increased immensely (you didn’t look at my phase 1 portfolio, did you?)
It’s been a bumpy ride, but I’m not getting off anytime soon.