Industry News

5 Ways to Build Your Personal Brand

Things were looking great for Stephen Gates—he was riding high and driving innovation at a major company. His work was appearing globally in an Apple ad on TV. And then, as he revealed on stage at HOW Design Live… he got laid off.  

“If you think that you are safe in your job right now and that a business cannot come in and change that, you are kidding yourself,” he told the crowd in Chicago. 

But Gates’ message wasn’t one of fear—it was one of empowerment. Because every designer can take control of their future by building their own authentic brand today.  

Here are a few strategic highlights from Gates’ session at HOW Design Live. Check them out—and then learn how to further develop your personal brand with some of the amazing sessions we’re putting together for HOW Design Live 2020 in Boston. We promise: Big things are in store, and they can have a big impact on your career. 


Treat Your Brand Seriously 

“Your brand is not where you have worked and it is not where you went to school,” Gates said. “You need to work on your brand like it is another job.” Invest in your network. Cultivate a brand that authentically represents who you are and what your talents are. Be credible. Be authentic. Be yourself.

Learn to Tell Your Own Story

“History doesn’t remember well-behaved people. The brands that you love don’t do the same thing as everybody else. If you thought of yourself as a product, you wouldn’t market yourself the way that you do. …It’s amazing to me how everyone tries to be different by acting the same.” By refining your personal brand and your true narrative—and putting that out into the world—it’ll help you in your current job, not to mention the job that you land tomorrow.

Embrace Your Background

Your past is your strength—not your weakness, Gates said. It doesn’t matter where you went to school, where you have worked. “The moment I started to make peace with myself is the moment my work got better,” he continued. “You, from now on, have the answers.” Stop looking to others for validation. You’re already smart enough. “This is why stupid people are successful: Because they’re unencumbered by fear. Stop making stupid people famous.”

Embrace the Haters

This year, Gates said, he started getting his own trolls online. But he wasn’t bothered—he was excited. “Build a brand that someone will hate. It sounds strange, but at the point that you have built something that is that clear, that is so strong, that people will stand up and say “I’m all about that,” you’re on the right track. Yes, some people will hate it. And that’s OK."

Be Brave

Have courage. Step up and say and do what you’re afraid of. “There is a fine line between crazy and stupid, but crazy people do change the world because we’re willing to risk something,” Gates said. “Here’s my only ask: Exist loudly. We all have voices that the world needs to hear.”

Gates closed his session by reflecting on the HOW Design Live conference and audience: “There are opportunities that surround you in this place to be able to start to take risks and put yourself out there.” So many attendees did just that at the event, and took concrete steps toward embracing their own narrative.

Begin to take your own steps. Registration for HOW Design Live 2020 opens in September - get on the list and be the first to know when registration is live.


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