“The world will ask you who you are,
and if you don’t know, the world will tell you.” – Carl Jung
Let’s assume you’re well-trained. You’ve invested in proper coaching and created competitive voiceover demos with credible producers. And now you’re attempting to complete your branding with an appealing, memorable logo to present yourself as the professional you truly are, because let’s face it, presentation matters, especially in the entertainment fields.
You might be relieved to discover the best advertising… isn’t advertising at all. By that I mean the adage, “less is more” applies when it comes to art directing your graphics that will allow you to make your name known and associated with being a professional voice talent with taste and an elevated aesthetic.
Less Is More
If you are a voice actor with more than four voiceover demos, it’s likely you’re relying almost solely on Pay-to-Play (P2P) sites, what we refer to here at Actors’ SOUND ADVICE as the DIY Approach to voiceover, rather than aiming to secure work primarily through talent agents, what we refer to as the Actor’s Approach.
The multiple-demo promotional model was adopted chiefly by online sources to benefit their platforms by encouraging individual voice talent to “feed the algorithm” by continually adding new content to their sites, which theoretically benefits voice talent by default. After all, that’s how Facebook and YouTube became household names and how SEO (Search Engine Optimization) drives traffic on the internet. However, when it comes to voiceover, much of what’s encouraged by these platforms might inevitably prove to be overkill.
For instance, when casting you for a voiceover, we generally don’t want to see what you look like, we want to IMAGINE what you look like. Granted, a handful of sources suggest you may need a headshot to secure voiceover work — we’re simply not one of them. In fact, investing in headshots to include on these sites generally isn’t necessary at all. And aesthetically, it tends to come across as if you’re selling real estate, or worse, should you include a random selfie, you may not evoke the professional response you initially wanted. Quite the opposite.
Your job as a voice actor is literally to engage the listeners’ imagination. That’s a powerful position that shouldn’t be undermined with a potentially misleading photo, sloppy graphics or obviously make-shift graphics that inevitably undermines their goal.
Can we Google you if we intend to see what you look like? Of course. However, many voiceovers may look far younger, older, or even nothing like their voice acting might suggest. It’s not uncommon for your physical appearance to be the complete antithesis of your vocal performance. By not including an image of yourself you control the narrative when it comes to your vocal branding.
Offering a seamless, professional experience with your promotional elements: an appealing logo and a voiceover-only webpage where your professionally produced demos can easily be accessed is the intention behind feeding the listener’s imagination as to who you are and what you do best as a voiceover.
The objective of your voiceover web page, as with your overall graphics, is to make your name known. Your brand logo should legitimize your professional identity by featuring your name in the form of a distinct logo that looks as good as you sound. That’s effective advertising.
Keep in mind that you’re promoting yourself to commercial producers, first and foremost. Consider that more than 80% of all producers spend between six to eight years in advertising before specializing in other related aspects of the industry, such as documentary, film, TV, games, industrial, or animation.
Unfortunately, most voiceover brand identities are overwhelmed with the same tired graphic images of mouths, sound waves, outdated or awkward headshots, and, of course, the ever popular, overused ribbon microphone. All of which tells us absolutely nothing about you, except the fact that you apparently do voiceover. That’s it.
Considering the importance of social media and establishing a digital presence has for your professional reputation in this industry, mastering proper branding has never been as crucial as it is today.
So, how DO you successfully art direct your graphics and create a pleasing, memorable brand identity for yourself?
Here’s what we suggest:
#1. What’s in a name?
Please AVOID changing your name. I don’t want you to add any additional obstacles to getting paid. And JoeDoesVOX.com or JaneTheVoice.com will only add to sealing your destiny with obscurity and anonymity.
We want you to make your name KNOWN and professionally associated with voiceover… not singing… that’s an entirely different field. Stay in your lane if you intend to accomplish positive results.
The only time you need to change your name is if your name is already taken by someone in the union (SAG-AFTRA). Joining the union SHOULD BE your goal, and in the union, there can only be ONE Jane Doe or John Q Public. Besides, the union offers far greater pay, better work conditions, and agents to offer you elevated opportunities, income, and career accomplishments.
However, if you share the same name as a notorious serial killer — that would certainly warrant a name change. (Talk about death by association.)
And, for what it’s worth, there’s only one Cher, Madonna, Prince, and Gaga. Please USE YOUR WHOLE NAME, first and last. This way, while establishing yourself or forwarding your career like never before, you’ll make sure your brand identity features your name and connects you with being a professional voiceover.
It’s also worth mentioning that, as a voiceover, the abbreviation in America is VO, not VA. VA implies the Veterans Administration or the state of Virginia, not voiceovers or even voice actors for that matter, professionally speaking. (Voiceovers who specialize in anime in Australia and the UK may, on occasion, call themselves VAs, but no professionals in the States.)
Do a little search of your name online in advance of creating your logo. Google your name to determine what may initially surface even if you have nothing to do with that individual or what they are associated with.
#2. Leave it to the professionals!
If you’re not already a successful, professional graphic artist, please step away from Adobe Illustrator. To choose a graphic artist, begin by viewing some of their past work. Make note of fonts and color combinations (color stories), shapes, and images that you identify with and respond to most for inspiration.
#3. Resist the urge to give your graphic artist “specific directions.”
It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s not your job to come up with what to create as a brand identity, even if you have a very specific idea in mind. (Perhaps especially if you have a very specific idea in mind.) That would be equivalent to micromanaging the creative you’ve hired to design your logo.
If you’ve hired a professional, trust them to do the work! Prior to them creating anything, you chose them because you liked logos they’ve created in the past: the fonts, shapes, color combinations and such must have spoken to you. Great. Let them do their job and create, then offer modifications if the designs require them after you’re presented three to four initial options.
#4. The goal is: Your logo should look like how you sound.
Easier said than done, but it can be done.
Ask yourself whether what you’re thinking will ultimately suggest who you are vocally.
If nothing comes to mind, tell your graphic artist just that and rest easy. Again, it’s not your job! Turn that responsibility over to your graphic artist and see what they come up with. Weigh in only once they’ve created something for you to respond to as to what you like and what you don’t.
#5. The best art direction you can offer is conceptual rather than literal.
For example, mid-century modern meets a touch of Hollywood glam, or Crate & Barrel meets a beachy, coastal feeling — rather than giving them literal direction, such as, “I always imagined my graphics would be an illustration of a woman in a long evening gown, leaning against a lamp post, smoking a cigarette, and my name would be spelled out in smoke.”
First of all, that would require an illustration rather than a graphic logo that forwards your name. Second, believe it or not, I’ve had no less than four people come up with that specific idea over the years. I’ve yet to see this art direction meet the voice talent’s expectations as they had hoped because it was so specific — and frankly, it didn’t communicate who the talent was style or type-wise either. Each time, even when the illustration was well crafted. It typically looked like a hooker on a corner on a cold night. Not quite the branding result any of the talent had initially intended when they offered this art direction.
The takeaway from all this is: How you hope to be seen and ‘who you are’ are often two very different things. Creating your graphics prior to developing your product (namely developing your strengths as a voiceover and producing your voiceover demos) will result in promoting a look that’s likely to be missing key ingredients that had yet to be determined. So, avoid creating your graphics PRIOR to training and producing your demo tracks.
In short, “branding” is what your marketing says about you, including your voiceover demos. It’s quite literally the act of establishing your identity and ultimately what you’re professionally known for. Marketing is the promotion of your branding through your brand identity. Until your voiceover immediately comes to mind for your target audience, your logo is your brand identity, and your voiceover-only webpage featuring your logo advances your brand in a visually memorable way.
Like most things in life, if you want something done right, leave it to the professionals. Hire a proper graphic artist who knows the drill. Better yet, if you produced your demos with us here at Actors’ SOUND ADVICE, we recommend experienced professionals we can confidently endorse who will (frugally) allow you to look as great as you sound.
Copyright © 2023 by Kate McClanaghan. All Rights Reserved.