How far is too far when it comes to self-promotion?

When it comes to securing work and progressing a career, getting your name out there is one of the first challenges most designers will encounter. Competition is fierce, so if you want to stand out from the crowd and impress a studio or creative director you're going to have to do something truly impressive. There are some pitfalls you need to avoid, however, but thankfully the experts are here to guide you through.

Stay professional

“I saw a spiritual video on someone’s portfolio website," says type and lettering designer, Rob Clarke. "I think we’re all a bit guilty of over-egging our self importance in business, especially when it comes to social media, but to consider yourself as someone with extra-special powers on some kind of spiritual journey is, in my opinion, going too far.

"To make your own self-absorbed video is cringe-worthy to say the least. Weaving your private life into business is a peculiar mix that I would avoid. Let your work do the talking, not the fact that you can strum a guitar and have managed to spawn a couple of cute kids. Keep your message (if you have one) simple and concise, cut down on the hyperbole. You’re a graphic designer… you are not, and never will be, that important.”

Do your research

“There is good and bad promo, but as a studio we like to see people making that extra bit of effort," reveals Ben Steers, the Creative Director at Fiasco Design. "Having something tangible that someone has made and invested time into lives longer in the memory. However, even if it’s just doing that extra bit of research before contacting us, it’s likely to have an impact.

"Over the years we’ve received some great examples of self-promotion, including a box of perfectly packaged tea (with a resume instead of an ingredients table on the outside of the box), and a wooden box entitled ‘Operation Intern’ with accompanying parachute, delivered straight to our office. It’s hard to get noticed, but do your research first and remember that as a designer, the message is also in the medium.”

Get creative

“I’ll give some advice instead. Think: what’s memorable? Anything that satirises office culture is a winner," reveals Bernstein & Andriulli executive agent, Louisa St. Pierre. "My fave promo of all time is Mr Bingo’s Hate Mail. And hey, if you can rap like Bingo to get yourself work, go for it. Promo could take the form of the medium of dance. Liturgical dance. Streamers. Morris dance.

My husband Stephen Rutterford is ECD at The Brooklyn Brothers. He wanted to work on a Coca-Cola campaign back in the day. He arranged a delivery of himself and a copywriter, nestling inside a huge Coca-Cola can, to the agency who had that account, complete with a sign saying: ‘Prepared to work in the smallest of spaces.’ It was delightfully silly and definitely memorable, and he got the job.”

Our followers on social media also had a few choice thoughts when it comes to over-stepping the mark regarding self-promotion.

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This article was originally published in Computer Arts magazine issue 260. Buy it here.

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Nick Carson

Nick is a content strategist and copywriter. He has worked with world-class agencies including Superunion, Wolff Olins and Vault49 on brand storytelling, tone of voice and verbal strategy for global brands such as Virgin, Pepsi and TikTok. Nick launched the Brand Impact Awards in 2013 while editor of Computer Arts, and remains chair of judges. He's written for Creative Bloq on design and branding matters since the site's launch.