Who Are You?As an artist I always find it difficult describing to people what it is I do. Do I tell them I’m a graphic artist or a graphic designer? An illustrator perhaps? I do create things that go on web pages, so does that make me a web designer, too?

In my time online I’ve noticed there is an almost obsessive need to find the right word to describe who you are and what you do. In the design community I’ve seen the term “creative” thrown around a lot. This doesn’t tell me anything. Creative…what? What do you create? Shoes? Handbags?

I’m not the only one who thinks this term is somewhat lacking. In his article Death to Creatives! Adam Law of GoMedia said, “I am not a creative. You are not a creative. No one could ever or will ever be a creative. The word creative is not a noun. It is an adjective used to describe a noun. i.e. That is a very creative story you have there, Jimmy.”

Again, I think this is ridiculous, but like social media and networking it seems to be a growing trend. I’m old school so I’m not too hip on new trends and terminology. The first time I saw someone type ‘ROFL’ I thought they’d had a heart attack and flopped over on their keyboard. I regard ‘titles’ to be equally silly, like saying to someone “Hi, my name is TTFN!” It doesn’t really tell you anything.

So then who am I? I mean, really? When I started my web site people were telling me, “Now, Doug, what are you going to call yourself?” I thought they meant my name so naturally I just replied, “Doug.”

A more appropriate question would have been, “What title are you going to choose for yourself?”

Personally, I don’t think it matters all that much what you call yourself. What I believe matters more is how you represent yourself. How do you get the message across to people about who you are? What you do? What are your particular talents and abilities? These are the real questions. People will relate more to you than to some creative label.

Upon sitting down one night to contemplate a name for my web site I grabbed a pad of paper and pencil and just started doodling. I began by writing my own name on the paper and then looking at that for a while. When nothing came to me I started drawing again. That’s when it hit me…I’m Doug, and I draw. I wrote that on the page—Doug Draws. I sat and looked at it for a while. I thought it was too silly at first, but the more I stared at it the more it made perfect sense. I checked GoDaddy to see if “dougdraws.com” was available, and it was. I purchased it immediately.

Now that I had a title for my site I needed a title for myself.

Upon sitting down one night to contemplate a name for my website I grabbed a pad of paper and pencil and just started doodling. I began by writing my own name on the paper and then looking at that for a while. When nothing came to me I started drawing again. That’s when it hit me…I’m Doug, and I draw. I wrote that on the page—Doug Draws. I looked at it and frowned. I thought it was too silly at first, but the more I stared at it the more I realized it made perfect sense. I checked GoDaddy to see if “dougdraws.com” was available, and it was. I purchased it immediately. Now that I had a title for my site I needed a title for myself.

These days with the social media craze and all the sites that offer interaction (both business and personal) it is vital to have your own unique brand. People are visually-driven creatures. The success of Apple is mainly due to all the fluid eye-pleasing images they use on all their products. People eat this stuff up. So it only figured that I should use the same methodology when it came to branding myself.

I sketched out a bunch of ideas, focusing on the title of my site, Doug Draws. Finally I came up with the concept of the letter “D” with a pencil point at one end. I thought this was pretty good, but it still needed something. After sketching some more it came to me to turn the pencil point into a hand and viola!

See? Simple. Neat. Effective. It describes who I am and what I do. If you are wondering who you are in the world wide web or just in your own particular niche then just remember to keep the focus on you—the person. Not some blank face with a fancy moniker.

So who are you? Do you know? The easiest way to find out is to get out that sketchpad and pencil and start writing down some ideas. Yeah, I know, paper and pencil is so old fashioned, but the greatest works of our time began as a few scribbles on a page.

header image by Horia Varlan

Doug is a professional illustrator from Michigan. <a href="http://dougdraws.com">Doug Draws</a> is a showcase of his talent, work and other design-related shenanigans.
  • Interesting article.

    I also find myself in the midst of trying to recognize what I really do. I go to college and learn and practice almost all kinds of design, advertising, branding, web, and other design related media. So, sometimes, I ask myself, who am I? What do I call myself? But I figured, as a young designer I have a long way to go.

  • Ah.. You opened my eyes on the “creative” thing, I knew it was unnaturally used as a stand-alone word, but since English is not my native language, I didn’t hesitate to use “creative” as a noun, because some big persons on the web used it that way and it made me think that’s a new unwritten law of some kind. err..

  • SBA

    I​ ​d​i​d​n​’​t​ ​a​l​w​a​y​s​ ​a​g​r​e​e​ ​w​i​t​h​ ​m​a​k​i​n​g​ website names so personal, ​b​u​t​ ​c​a​m​e​ ​a​r​o​u​n​d​ ​t​o​ ​y​o​u​r​ ​c​o​n​c​l​u​s​i​o​n​ ​w​h​e​n​ ​I​ ​s​t​a​r​t​e​d​ ​t​o​ ​b​l​o​g​!​
    ​I​ ​c​a​n​ ​e​a​s​i​l​y​ ​c​a​l​l​ ​m​y​s​e​l​f​ ​a​ ​’​w​e​b​ ​d​e​s​i​g​n​e​r​’​ ​a​n​d​ ​h​a​v​e​ ​a​ ​t​r​a​d​i​t​i​o​n​a​l​ ​c​o​r​p​o​r​a​t​e​ ​s​t​y​l​e​ ​w​e​b​s​i​t​e​ ​t​o​ ​b​a​c​k​ ​i​t​ ​u​p​.​ ​T​h​a​t​ ​s​i​t​e​ ​w​a​s​ ​n​o​t​ ​m​e​a​n​t​ ​t​o​ ​d​e​c​e​i​v​e​ ​b​u​t​ ​i​t​ ​d​i​s​g​u​i​s​e​s​ ​q​u​i​t​e​ ​w​e​l​l​ ​t​h​e​ ​f​a​c​t​ ​t​h​a​t​ ​i​t​’​s​ ​a​ ​s​m​a​l​l​,​ ​s​m​a​l​l​ ​c​o​m​p​a​n​y​.​ ​L​o​t​s​ ​o​f​ ​’​w​e​’​ ​i​n​s​t​e​a​d​ ​o​f​ ​”​I​.​”​ ​ ​ ​

    ​M​y​ ​B​l​o​g​s​p​o​t​ ​b​l​o​g​ ​s​t​a​r​t​e​d​ ​t​h​a​t​ ​w​a​y​,​ ​b​u​t​ ​s​o​o​n​ ​t​u​r​n​e​d​ ​i​n​t​o​ ​’​y​o​u​’​ ​a​n​d​ ​’​I​.​’​ ​U​n​l​e​s​s​ ​y​o​u​’​r​e​ ​a​ ​m​e​g​a​ ​b​u​s​i​n​e​s​s​,​ ​p​e​o​p​l​e​ ​h​i​r​e​ ​y​o​u​ ​b​a​s​e​d​ ​o​n​ ​h​o​w​ ​y​o​u​ ​c​o​m​m​u​n​i​c​a​t​e​ ​w​h​o​ ​y​o​u​ ​a​r​e​ ​a​n​d​ ​h​o​w​ ​y​o​u​r​ ​u​n​i​q​u​e​ ​t​a​l​e​n​t​ ​c​a​n​ ​h​e​l​p​ ​t​h​e​m​.​ ​I​t​’s ​h​o​w​ ​t​h​e​y​ ​f​i​n​d​ ​t​h​e​ ​r​i​g​h​t​ ​f​i​t​ ​a​n​d​ ​c​o​m​f​o​r​t​ ​l​e​v​e​l​ ​t​o​ ​t​r​u​s​t​ ​y​o​u​.​ ​
    ​A​t​ ​t​h​i​s​ ​p​o​i​n​t​,​ ​l​i​k​e​ ​y​o​u​,​ ​I​ ​w​a​n​t​ ​t​o​ ​g​e​t​ ​a​c​r​o​s​s​ ​w​h​o​ ​I​ ​r​e​a​l​l​y​ ​a​m​ ​a​s​ ​a​ ​d​e​s​i​g​n​e​r​ ​a​n​d​ ​i​t​’​s​ ​n​o​t​ ​’​c​o​r​p​o​r​a​t​e​.​’​ ​I​’​m​ ​m​o​v​i​n​g​ ​t​h​e​ ​c​o​r​p​o​r​a​t​e​ ​s​i​t​e​ ​t​o​ ​W​o​r​d​P​r​e​s​s​ ​(​w​i​t​h​ ​a​ ​s​m​a​l​l​ ​b​l​o​g​ ​a​r​e​a​)​;​ ​y​o​u​r​ ​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​ ​i​n​s​p​i​r​e​s​ ​m​e​ ​t​o​ ​c​o​n​j​u​r​e​ ​u​p​ ​a​ ​n​e​w​ ​l​o​g​o​ ​a​n​d​ ​w​e​b​s​i​t​e​ ​n​a​m​e​ ​f​o​r​ ​m​y​ ​b​u​s​i​n​e​s​s​!​

  • Who you are and what you do for money don’t have to be one and the same thing. Of course they can but, they don’t necessarily have to go hand in hand.

  • Junkie, glad you liked the article. Since you’re a youngster now would be the time to start exploring who you are. Don’t wait until you’re mumble-mumble-years-old, like me.

    Sergei, good the hear the article opened your eyes. Don’t listen to the big wigs, just be yourself.

    SBA, thank you for your comment. It’s exciting to hear when someone is inspired by what I write, especially when it can benefit them and their business endeavors.

    Joe, the article wasn’t about making money. It was about defining who you are and what you do.

  • I couldn’t agree more, Doug.

    It really doesn’t matter what company someone works for, or what brand name they represent, it’s ultimately who they are on a personal level that counts.

    It’s so common for people to change jobs regularly now-a-days so building up your own personal profile is becoming much more important.

    Great article.

  • Matt, thank you for commenting. I’m glad you liked the article and found it relevant. So many things these days are all about flash and glitter, while the human element seems to be going the way of the dinosaur. That is why it is important to try an keep the focus personal.

  • good article Doug. catchy website name too! I did go on your blog – and i might need your services one day.

  • truly nice and lovely blog. its informative.

  • shoot nice stuff bro.

  • love this post and your logo!

  • Nice article Doug. I’m like Junkie, a young designer thats been taught to do all these different things in the field of design. When i tell people im a graphic designer they look at me funny and ask what exactly that entails. Its kind of frustrating. Also, a good amount of times when i tell people im a graphic designer they say “oh wonderful, i need a website…..” and i have to stop them because, i don’t entirely know website design like i do print design & telling that to people who are not designers they think you don’t know what your doing! But what do you do, right? So again, great article!!!

  • Very nice article… and rant! It might be helpful if we step away from our own creativity and try to see ourselves as others might.

    How would Picasso described himself? “Radical painter”? Matisse – artist who cuts paper? Warhol and others? Think about the numerous writers… nonfiction, romance, self help, etc. Musicians — how would Madonna describe herself? Legend?

    We are more than just a designers or graphic designers. Maybe we should consider our style(s), niche market served, or specialty.

  • I just recently had that problem at work which forces me to have a title. So I couldn’t use “Nicole creates pretty things” or something like that. :)

    I have a lot of different responsibilities, I create print ads, I work on websites, I design User Interfaces, logos, icons,……….

    So what title to chose? We ended up with “Visual Designer”, I was told that’s the “new” name for graphic designer and includes stuff like web design, user interface design etc.

    I have no idea and I don’t really care. The alternative would have been to make up a title which is pretty common in the companies I’ve worked for. For example “Solution Demonstration Developer”, sounds great, but have you ever heard of that before? :)

  • Ben

    Do you not realise that creative is actually a job title in the advertising world?

  • Gina: Just focus on what it is you love to do (and do best) and then make that message clear to your potential clients (or anyone else for that matter). That’s what I had to do. People thought of me as that “guy who draws cartoons” so I had to change that impression by focusing on all the other abilities I have besides character illustration (like Branding, print design, etc.).

    Joann: Great comment, and you are right. We should focus on our styles, for each person has a different one and it defines “who we are”.

    Nicole: Saying “I’m Nicole, and I make pretty things” is probably a more accurate description than any out there. Of course this may not sound too professional, but then it’s better than ‘Solution Demonstration Developer’.

    I think the biggest problem we face as designers is the market itself. We’re not like a grocery store where people can actually buy items they can hold in their hands. We make things that are for the most part intagible. People can see them on a web page, but it’s not like buying an HDTV that you can stick in your home and interact with. So when people look at us designers they don’t really have a true physical impression of what it is we do. This translates into the common misconceptions that “design is easy” and “anyone can do it”.

    Nine out of ten potential clients haven’t a clue what designers actually do (or what constitutes a true professional design), which is why they end up hiring some kid with a copy of Photoshop who lives at home with mommy and daddy.

    So when faced with this type of mindset it becomes impartitive that we as designers make it clear “who we are” and what we do. Plus it also helps to educate people on the design process. We should take the opportunity to do this whenever we can, because the more people know about what it is we do then the less likely they are to hire the neighbor kid.

  • Nice post. I can definitely relate.