Should Artists ‘Brand’ Themselves?

The term ‘branding’ is one which divides opinion in the creative arts.  For fine artists, it smacks of corporate business (which does not sit well with many in the field), for craft makers it might seem completely appropriate.  Whatever your view, and whichever medium or process you work with, if you sell work, you are (hopefully) generating an income and could probably be described as a business.  If you are a business, then ‘branding’ happens and it reflects back on you as the artist.

If we simply remove the emotive nature of the word ‘branding’ and consider what it does, there are aspects of the process, which can be relevant to artists across many disciplines.

As artists we like to consider ourselves to be creative, free spirits, developing our work and ideas, rather than marketing an exclusively commercial product, but - even if we do not actively market our output - we often do it subliminally or subconsciously.  If you have a website, for example, it is a marketing tool and, as such, gives an impression of you as an artist.  

You have probably visited art, craft and design sites and made an immediate decision about the competence of the artist being shown.  An unprofessional website suggests an unprofessional artist.  Life is too short, we have lots to do and that does not include wading through messy sites with badly presented work and awful navigation.  It is a small issue, but has an immediate impact.

This is not reserved to online presentation.  Print suffers from the same issue, meaning that if you photocopy your information badly (and your work is not about the ‘instant’ or issues of duplication) then you appear slightly ‘cheap’, disorganised or unprofessional.  Sometimes this impression is so slight it is almost not something that we might not even be aware of it, but cumulatively it can make an impact.

Even very simple actions can help you with your own promotion and present a coherent view of who you are and what you do.  We know several graduating art students who have taken some time just to coordinate their ‘visibility’.  They use the same typeface across all their information, they use the same colours in headings and layout for their public profiles, so their website, twitter and facebook pages have a similar (professional) look.

Now - we are not suggesting that all artists conform to a corporate mantra and present themselves in a coherently bland fashion!  That professional ‘look’ might be chaotic, spectacularly strange or cleverly ‘messy’, but what it needs to be is in your control.  We do not all have to be as commercially and financially driven as contestants on 'The Apprentice', but artists are smart and clever at taking things, which are out there, in other industries and disciplines, and then adapting them to their own needs.

The simple fact is that YOU are your ‘Brand’ - it hurts to say it, but it is true, and often people are engaging with your work because it is independent, innovative and made by a person, not a corporation.  There is flexibility in how you present that to the outside world.

If you would like to dip your toe into the slightly unnerving field of branding, Enterprise Nation has a clear and free e-book explaining some of the aspects you might like to consider - they do this through a number of small business examples.  Some will not be immediately relevant to artists, but the issues they deal with can be simply translated into our own field.

5 Steps to Building a Business Brand

More details here: 









  • Published in Advice

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