Branding: Too Match-y?

You’ve probably noticed  Ancient Children has a fresh look. The new banner comes from Kit Foster Design. I went to Kit after seeing the eye-catching book covers he designed for Robert Chazz Chute. Take a look at Kit’s portfolio. In addition to doing excellent graphic design, he completed my project quickly and charged a very reasonable fee. And he was delightful to work with.

I wanted a banner with a dark vibe, compatible with my author web site but not cloned from it. Ancient Children has a wider scope. As the tag line says, this blog journals my creative life, which encompasses my writing and much more.

My biggest quandary centered on the dominant color of the banner. Should I go with red to match the lettering on my web site? Or blue, the color I wanted? The principles of branding suggested I ought to stay with red, but my instinct kept saying blue, blue, blue.

I’ve read about branding, the marketing practice of presenting a singular and memorable image that readers recognize at once. The theory makes sense, yet I feel some ambivalence toward it. By its nature branding is reductive. Anything that blurs or contradicts the brand image has to be omitted. But human beings are complex and bound to grow. Unless the brand captures the essence of a writer’s work (not merely one aspect) it can become a trap that limits his or her growth as an artist.

Some of the rules of branding bother me too. Disseminate only one photograph of yourself. Use the same color scheme throughout your presentation. In their strictness, they remind me of rules that once governed fashion—rules about current hemlines and silhouettes, matching handbags to shoes, and never wearing silver and gold jewelry together. Those rules made it harder to stand out. They limited personal style.

I can see branding doing the same thing. Dozens of authors with their neat little brands, differing in detail but not in construction. From a distance they look pretty much the same, like shirts on a rack or soup cans lined up on supermarket shelves.

But who am I to question the orthodoxy? My marketing hasn’t been wildly successful. And readers do need a clear idea who an author is and know what to expect when they open one of his or her books.

Still, I went with blue. Kit made it the stark blue of a sky darkening to a storm.

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