August 12th, 2008

Self-branding: Your personal favicon

in: Communicate, Standing out

User interfaces are busy things. They’re cluttered with information, and designers have to reduce it down to its minimum to make things work properly. If I’m using chat, or Twitter, I have icons for everyone I interact with. And they’re the closest we get to a personal logo.

Consider Twitter:


I have only a few pixels to identify people. Many of these are surprisingly memorable: GigaOm, Laughingsquid, and others stand out nicely. The personal icon shows up elsewhere, too. Here’s the icon strip from my chat (names removed to protect the innocent.)


And there are “visitor log” tools like Mybloglog.


Unfortunately, I’m breaking my own rule: I have different photos for Mybloglog. It’s time for some brand cleanup. Here’s what I’m going to do:

  • Decide if I want a photo or a logo.
    • Folks like Om Malik, or Redmonk, or Laughingsquid are so closely associated with their brands that their logoes stand out well.
    • The other option is a photo. Given that I wind up having headshots in conference programmes (a constant reminder nobody’s paying me for my looks) and several loose associations (Rednod, Bitcurrent, Interop, Unconference, Bitnorth, whatever) rather than one allegiance, it probably makes sense to use a photo.
  • Use a close shot that’s visible, rather than a full portrait. Mitch Joel does this very well; it’s just forehead and glasses, but you know it’s Mitch in a second.
  • Pick a color scheme. Something that’s consistent with colors of Bitcurrent, Rednod, or whatever I’m most associated with. Hopefully this is also something that’s not taken (a red/green/blue/yellow square might look a little too much like Windows, for example.)
  • Reduce the number of colors in the image. This makes it easier to follow a color scheme, and has the added beneft of making resizing clearer.
  • Invest some time in sizing the image to target resolutions. Several of the sites out there auto-crop or resize the image you submit, so sending it in the right size results in much better image quality.
  • Claim the name. Figure out all of the sites that have an avatar/portrait, and make sure I’ve got the image.

Sean called this a Personal Favicon, and I think he’s right. The little 16×16 icon that appears in the address bar is a brand, reduced to its barest of bones.

I’m betting that a branded personal icon, particularly in microblogging circles, will become something trademarked and defensible that graphic designers add to their list of design deliverables for a startup. There will be a land grab, too: I’m not going to choose black and green, or blue and white, because those are pretty well known.

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