Every designer faces the same struggle at some point--we are experts when it comes to thinking of clever names and motifs for other businesses, but when it comes to creating our own identity we draw a blank. It's not like we suddenly run out of ideas, or that we don't feel qualified. It's more like facing infinite possibilities and trying to contemplate the outcomes of each one simultaneously.
The first time I crossed this threshold I made the decision NOT to name my studio after myself. The world actually has enough Ryan Carters already. A couple of them were famous before I made my first website. One of them is even a designer, so that complicates things a little bit further...
They say you need to do the kind of work you want to be hired to do. To me, that goes all the way to the title of my business. I will not be designing the homepage of a Fortune 500 company. I will not be laying out brochures for a funeral home. My work is funny and often spontaneous. I'm not afraid to try something I've never done before, or make something that doesn't fit my…"style." I'm not afraid to publish work that the hipsters won't like. (They don't like much of anything anyway, and they need to shower more.)
"The words had meaning; a kind of meaningless meaning."
Whaleskin was a joke.
In college I used to joke about the wealthy. I still do. I would joke that fat-cat Americans like to eat endangered species and wear Albino Blue Whale-skin gloves. Whale skin. Whaleskin. WHALESKIN!
I started shouting it at my friends in sort of a heavy breathing Mickey Mouse voice. Before long they started shouting it back. The words had meaning; a kind of meaningless meaning. Plus, they sounded better than Ryan Carter Illustration and Design. A few weeks later we had a project at MIAD to create our own identity before our big Senior show. I sat down and drew a cartoon whale based on the shape of a clamp. There were a couple versions, but eventually a vector logo emerged that would be my look for those first crucial years. I was proud...
But there was a problem.
It's hard to get serious clients when your logo is a cartoon whale. Yes, I know I said I want fun and spontaneous clients, but they don't always have the income to put meat on my table. If you want to make actual money with your design business you need to fish where the fish are. That meant growing up my look quite a bit so I could start looking good to the people that are very serious about what they do, are heavily invested in what they do, and understand that they need great design to accomplish what they do.
She said "your opponent is practicing right now."
So here we are. I've come a long way since my first hellish freelance projects. I've lost a lot of sleep, worsened my posture, spent countless hours sketching and scanning, vectorizing, watching tutorials, and reaching out for new business. Whaleskin is ready to roll into the next phase of this crazy competitive industry.
My grandma taught me something when I was very young. She said "your opponent is practicing right now." It was as hard to hear that back then as it is now, but it has kept me going all these years.
Here's to the future of Whaleskin. One thing you can always count on is that this guy *points to self with both thumbs* will never give up.