Building a Brand

March 21, 2015

TechnoSiren Logo by Penelope Dullaghan

Or, Why It’s Good to Hire Someone Else to Design Your Logo

I sold my share of Utopian.net to my partner at the end of 2011 and immediately started focusing on TechnoSiren. I already had a product (WordPress themes and plugins) AND a service (you know…CUSTOM themes and plugins).
I just needed to work on the brand.

I had a brand new baby and was quickly expecting another one. My free time went to sketching and brainstorming. I wanted something…vaguely nautical. I really wanted to play on the mythical aspects of the name. I felt a little bit hopeless, like I was hamstringing myself sticking with this name I’d chosen years before, for a totally different project – but I kept thinking of my first sole, all-my-own business as TechnoSiren. I knew it would work, I just didn’t yet know how.

I wasn’t having much luck making a mark that really fit.

I kept hammering at it, trying different styles, looking at ancient Greek art that represented sirens, looking at my sketchbooks from when I lived in Greece (that bit might explain why I was so fixated on keeping the name, actually). Nothing worked, and the work of raising two babies into toddlerhood while working full-time meant that I only got a few minutes a week to try something new.

I almost gave up. This is where I let the doubt creep in. It didn’t matter that I was still building successful sites with my own patterns, that I had proof that my dream product was useful and filled a need for people. I just kept focusing on my failure to brand my own company as evidence that my ideas weren’t very important and not really worth all the work I was putting into it.

That’s no way to talk – not to yourself or anyone else. It wasn’t true and deep down I knew it wasn’t true and that knowledge was the spark that kept the engines of my ambition running through lots of sleepless nights.

Finally, I took the branding off the table. I had been mired in the doldrums of trying to “tighten my vision” and “create my brand” for two years, and I had no more patience left. I was ready to live off my savings for a little while and really make a go of TechnoSiren, and I decided that I’d get the product up to par and then set aside some of my savings for someone else to design my logo.

I had my dream artist already picked out – Penelope Dullaghan is extremely gifted, works harder than a locomotive, and I’ve been lucky to call her my friend since we launched Illustration Friday back in 2004. I first considered asking her for branding help early on, but the timing didn’t seem right – I wanted to be ready to launch and know that I was doing justice to whatever amazing mark Penelope created. I really didn’t want to waste her time (like I’d been wasting my own!) with something that wasn’t ready to fly out into the Universe and be incredible.

You’d think that line of thought would have been a lot of pressure for Ms. Doubt and Low Self-Esteem but actually, it hit all my motivation buttons. I wanted to build a product I was proud of and that my friends could be proud of too. So I did.

And lucky for me, Penelope was ready when I was.

“I’d like something hand drawn, not vector-slick. I’m open to anything – it doesn’t have to be nautical or mythical or siren related. It could just be a monogram.”

When I got the email with Penelope’s sketches I was on a conference call. I’d been waiting for this email for…well, not very long, Penelope works fast, but when you’re excited about something time passes so slowly. I stayed on the call and closed my eyes and the email tab simultaneously so I wouldn’t see it before I was able to give it my full attention.

A half hour later, after rushing everyone off the phone and giving short answers to long questions, I finally got to look at my new logo.

TechnoSiren Logo by Penelope Dullaghan

I cried my eyes out. Then I laughed at myself for it, then I cried some more because I was so happy. “How did you KNOW?” I thought. Seriously Penelope, how did you know?

The swallow is a motif you see in old Greek frescoes. And the actual bird is all over the Mediterranean, flying in shimmering circles under house eaves, eating mosquitoes and making a whirring sound. I adored the swallows that nested near my rooms in Italy, I sketched every fresco I could find that had swallows and irises intermingled while people did something (I didn’t pay attention to the people on the frescoes, I was looking for flowers and birds).

You’re supposed to get a sketch and then make revisions if needed, and I loved this Penelopian bird-girl exactly as she was, face tilted up, looking serene and confident and mirthful. Maybe it was a little Stendahl syndrome, or just the feeling of something huge, that had taken up a lot of my thoughts over a long period of time finally clicking perfectly into place.

The surprising benefit of having a beautiful logo was that I immediately lost all doubt. My motivation skyrocketed. My vision was focused, my confidence restored. The logo had been a huge obstacle on my to-do list, and once Penelope struck it off my flow was restored.

It was the best thing that could have happened. If you’re stuck in the trenches, if you’re trying to make your own dream come true, find the obstacle keeping your creativity from flowing. If it means reaching out to your friends and building a team to make it happen, that’s okay. That’s even better, actually.

Thanks, Penelope, for being on my team. You nailed it.

The surprising benefit of having a beautiful logo was that I immediately lost all doubt. My motivation skyrocketed. My vision was focused, my confidence restored. The logo had been a huge obstacle on my to-do list, and once Penelope struck it off my flow was restored.