What being ‘trans’ taught me about branding
If celebrating my own identity were a pitch it would have gone to another agency by now, so long has it taken me to get to grips with things. Nevertheless here are a few personal perspectives and experiences, which I think have some general relevance to anyone in the business of turning thinking into expression.
Vessels and contents – A question of identity
My lift pitch on how I approach design for brands goes along the lines of this; like people all brands have an ‘inner life’ – it can be made up of their history, ethos, product truths – whatever. I see this as the inside of a vase. Design is the exterior tangible shape of that vessel. My job is to figure out the shape and properties of the brand’s spirit (the dimensions of the space inside the vase) and then translate this to the vase we can all see. One vase might be simple and elegant, another robust and utilitarian, a third detailed and richly patterned. You get the picture…
Time and again my pitch to a wavering client is a line stolen from Oscar Wilde: “be yourself, everybody else is taken.” Because of course what makes us different is what makes us special.
I feel blessed to have a feminine side – I never feel stronger than when I embrace it. But I was too timid to follow the advice I liberally handed out to clients. I was hiding my own light under a bushel for fear of how others might view me. My mistake (in common with many timid brands) was in underestimating my audience. My own prejudices were holding me back.
Taking a leap of faith
Keeping ‘Victoria’ a professional secret for so long was pretty unfair on her, as she was the girl doing much of the creative thinking, the one with the ability to make intuitive conceptual jumps. And while I’m not so deluded as to claim an understanding of women, walking a few unsteady miles in their heels has at least given me some useful empathy that I apply to my work. Seeing the world from different perspectives is always enlightening.
Having taken the plunge on LinkedIn the generous reactions I received brought home this: everybody loves the fact you have a difference. They don’t have to share it to find it interesting. People don’t confuse outer appearances for inner values, they appreciate honesty, and are curious and intrigued by difference.
The irony is that I have known and sold these self-evident truths for years. I just wasn’t living them. Now that I do I feel fantastically liberated, creatively unharnessed, fearless and far bolder.[clickToTweet tweet=”Everybody loves the fact you have a difference” quote=”Everybody loves the fact you have a difference” theme=”style6″]
So now what?
I’ve learned at first hand that you get to meet more incredible people, and have more amazing opportunities simply by putting yourself out there.
I’m also quite proud, a few hundred words into this piece, to have not yet resorted to the hackneyed topic of ‘authenticity’. I’m still finding my feet. Day to day work life is far simpler in jeans and a t-shirt – just ask Grayson Perry. People, unlike brands, don’t need to be quite so single-minded, and there’s time yet for a meeting in heels.
It boils down to this – be it for a brand or oneself, the truth really does set you free. It’s great to find out that the line one has been selling really does work all along. To return to Oscar, he also observed that ‘the truth is never pure, and rarely simple’. But it is inarguable, and if embraced can be the most charismatic thing you can have in your possession.
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