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What Does "On-Brand" Really Mean?

Published on
Nov 30, 2019
Written by
Brooke English
Published by
Edited by
Discovering How to Express Your True Colours as an Artist/ Entrepreneur

Maintaining a strong social presence is vital as an artist or entrepreneur. How much do you really unpack this concept and apply it to your own self-brand? Your identity is communicated across media platforms, personal platforms and in person. Self branding techniques can be used to impact how others perceive you, in addition to how you portray yourself. Have your friends ever said “this is so you!” or “that’s very on-brand”? Make note of these small comments, as they give an indication of how others perceive you, and what they associate with you, in relation to your style of work. There is additionally a copious amount of stress placed on individualizing oneself as an artist, with the societal expectation and drive for an “aesthetically pleasing” social media presence. I especially wanted to unsettle this topic as I believe it will help many artists rethink the intentions they place on an instagram theme. Visual concepts should be intentional, and convey a coherent message. In addition, it’s crucial for artists to acknowledge that their current works are a progression of style, and that their previous or dated works play an imperative role in shaping their identity and individualizing themselves as an artist, despite style changing over time.

Self branding as an artist and entrepreneur largely relies on referencing other artists, for inspiration, and collaboration. It is important to see the strength in interdependence as an artist and entrepreneur. I think that interdependence is perceived as a form of vulnerability especially as an artist, as there is so much strain on individualizing and differentiating oneself into their own entity. However this can pertain through removing the vulnerability factor, through accepting that creativity is fostered through intentional or subconscious reference of other artist’s works. Creativity is when you amalgamate the works of those who inspire you, to collectively develop your own style, taste, and shape how your work is synthesized. When you stop emulating those who you look to for inspiration and diverge into your own style of work, is where creativity prospers.

I chose the following four artists to include in this graphic. These four artists have largely shaped myself as an artist, into how my style and taste has progressed to what it is today.

Frank Ocean is a world-renowned, California born, American singer. His work has always played an imperative role in my life, and he continues to inspire me everyday. I especially love his talent for song writing. Within the song “Pyramids” in his album Channel Orange, he uses pyramids as a euphemism for the strip club, and through this analogy he tells his story of Cleopatra. I love this song for its ambiguous interpretation, as I believe that Frank effectively executes placing intention behind his work. He motivates me to do the same, and changed how I perceive art and music, through understanding that while visual concepts are vital in communicating self brand, they can not be relied on too heavily - there needs to be intention behind one’s self-branding “aesthetic.” I’m sure you’re familiar with the R&B king of Toronto, Daniel Caesar. His music can contribute to any beautifully curated cafe playlist. Check out his music, if you haven’t already.


If you’re a fan of abstract art, I'd highly recommend checking out Heather Day’s work. I adore how she views art as a fluid concept, and refrains from limiting herself figuratively and literally. One of her installations for an exhibit she painted the entire room, including onto the floor. She uses abstract art and moves beyond the canvas: which I admire about her and her work specifically. I apply this concept to my life daily: why conform to expectations of how your work is expected to be presented? If you’re ‘classified’ as an abstract artist, why is art in direct association with a canvas? I see a lot of importance in unsettling these factors of life of which we find comfort in, and I especially appreciate how non-conforming Heather Day’s work is to the modern art world, and how it really makes one think about the messages an individual portrays through their medium of work.


My personal favourite photographer George Byrne depicts the beauty in everyday lifestyle through his work. His photography encompasses the “stop to smell the roses” affect, which I believe is an important concept to be reminded of, in relation to practicing and prioritizing self care. His work additionally inspires me through the colours I use in a lot of my personal works; as I’m a fan of pastel tones from their soothing effects, along with the use of white space.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Gordon Conrod: a designer, stylist and entrepreneur originally from Nova Scotia. “It’s really crucial to have consistency through forms of self branding as an artist or entrepreneur. Forming a cohesive, strong, personal brand, consistent across all creative outlets/mediums is definitely something to be prioritized when considering one’s self brand. This can include your website, instagram, point of contact, physical space, business card; all of which should communicate a cohesive message. In addition, your values, positioning and strategy all play a role in forming a coherent self brand” (Conrod, 2019).

Gordon Conrod (Stylist, Creative Entrepreneur, Student, Designer) in discussion with the author Brooke English, November 24th, 2019.

Graphics by Brooke English