Design Hack: Signature Image Style

I have to say, this idea certainly isn’t mine to claim. But I’m including it in my 300 days of ideas because I put my own spin on it, and anyways it could be useful to you.

I’m a writer, and I often need a designer. If you’re a writer or a musician or a brand, it can be really cool to have your own visual style. Think of Daytrotter, for example: they quickly stood apart from other websites doing live sessions because of Sean Moeller’s heartfelt and descriptive prose, yes, but also the characteristic portraits they do for every band that comes through. The featured image in this post, for example, is a Daytrotter portrait of Wilco.

215470_5576364764_9515_nBack when I was Headmistress of the Donnybrook Writing Academy, a society blog, I worked with the geniuses behind From the Hip Photo in Denver (before they were FTH). Danny and Nina came up with their own signature portraits for our site that they drew of all of our contributors. They would work from a headshot (photograph) of the contributor and draw their portrait with marker, I think. Here’s the one they did of my husband. Pretty dreamy.

I tend to like the hand-drawn feel. This is convenient for me – like someone who is just learning to play guitar who likes punk rock. It can look pretty crappy, and I’m personally still happy with it. The-hand drawn feel can mean that there are imperfections.


For my email newsletter Cold Coffee, which I never update, I decided that I needed a signature style. So I took old beloved pictures of my children and family, imported them into GIMP (which is a free and ghetto-er version of Photoshop), added a transparent layer, and used the basic paintbrush tool to trace the images. Then, I would select, copy and paste the traced layer into a new image. Voila! I now had totally original images with a heartfelt feel (they are ACTUALLY my real family!), without actually plastering their real images across the internet. I mean, I do that anyway, but it’s always good to moderate yourself.

I could have made the tracings more smooth, but as I said, I kind of like the punk rock feel of messiness. But maybe that’s just me. At the very least, take this idea and know that you can do better.

Here are some of my signature images for my newsletter, and I also drew some as Thank You Cards (see the bottom one). It took pretty much zero talent and very little time.

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