Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Personal Branding Part II: Leftium

"The Element of Creativity!"
Inspired by Adobe's CS3 icons, I designed my logo to resemble a cell from the periodic table of elements. The Leftium logo features an over-sized "Le" that pops out and forms a leftward arrow.

lef·ti·um n. Symbol Le
  1. The element of creativity!
  2. John-Kim Murphy's online identity/username.

Yes, in a moment of sheer brilliance I combined the word "left" with "-ium", a suffix commonly used to form the names of chemical elements (think "Titanium", "Einsteinium", or "Adamantium".) The result is a personal online ID that I am very proud of because "Leftium" is:
  • Short—only seven letters long. Yet the domain leftium.com was still available (obviously!)
  • Relatively easy to convey over the phone. Most people know how to spell "left" and can guess the rest from the sound. Much easier to explain than "wonsungi", anyways!
  • Unique. Before I started using "Leftium", there were only about 300 Google search results for "Leftium". Now there are about 62,600 results, and they are all related to me.
  • Memorable and has a significant personal connection to me (explained below after the "jump")

"Leftium" holds many levels of meaning. First, I am left-handed. Only about ten percent of the population is left-handed. Thus left-handedness is a trait that makes me extraordinary. I use the term "extraordinary" because despite its small size, the left-handers' club features disproportionately numerous elite members. Some famous lefties include Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon Bonaparte. In fact, every single one of the fourteen most recent US presidents was/is left-handed (*including two ambidextrous presidents). Not even one right-handed president. That's quite a statistical anomaly, considering the fact lefties only make up 10% of the population! Picaso, my favorite artist, was a fellow Southpaw. Perhaps the lefty I relate to most is Leonardo Da Vinci because he was an amazing artist and scientist at the same time.

Did you know that the two hemispheres of the brain specialize in different types of thinking? Now, left-handers tend to use the creative, right side of their brains more. In contrast, the left side (used more by right-handers) processes analytical thinking. Looking at this table which gives more detail, I definitely prefer the right hemisphere's creative style of thought:
  • Responds to demonstrated instructions
  • Problem solves with hunches, looking for patterns and configurations
  • Looks at similarities
  • Is fluid and spontaneous
  • Prefers elusive, uncertain information
  • Prefers drawing and manipulating objects
  • Free with feelings
  • Prefers collegial authority structures
  • Is a lumper: connectedness important
However, the struck-out items definitely don't describe me at all; they seem like they're completely from left-field! Oh well... I think handedness is not absolute—people fall within a certain range between complete left-handedness and complete right-handedness. (Interesting tidbit: according to my mom, I was not left-handed as a child.) Here's another table comparing right and left brain functions.

Let me explain how the inspiration for "Leftium" struck. I was researching a company called Sifteo because I thought it might be a cool place to work. By that time I had pretty much decided that my personal branding was going to use the concepts of "left" and/or "alternative"/"outside-the-box". I considered "Lefteo"; the domain was available, but I didn't like the -eo suffix because it seemed too easy to confuse with -io (Leftio). But that got me thinking about alternative pseudo-suffixes like -ino and -eron. Then BAM! I thought of "-ium".

The idea for my logo and tagline, "The Element of Creativity!", followed pretty quickly. It was a short step to go from the suffix -ium to playing with the word "element". The original logo was a near-imitation of Adobe CS3's iconography, which resembles cells from the periodic table of elements. Such blatant flattery didn't befit my tagline (The Element of *Creativity*), so I came up with ideas to improve my logo. I always thought the old Northwest Airlines logo was neat: it was the letter 'N', the letter 'W', and an arrow pointing northwest all at the same time. I also drew inspiration from FedEx's logo, which features an arrow-shaped negative space between the 'E' and 'x'. So I guess that's why I tilted the letters in my logo to form an arrow pointing left. This made my logo feel "bigger" and more dynamic. Additionally, over-sizing the "Le" and "popping" it out of the square magnified these effects even more.
 
My online identity, tagline, and logo demonstrate my attention to detail. I put a lot of thought into their synergy as a whole as well as the usability of each individual part. I already described the numerous factors that went into the "Leftium" brand name and tagline. They definitely work together to uniquely identify and describe me. I even changed the logo because although it had synergy with my ID, it lacked synergy with my tagline.

I considered countless other details for the logo: I added some shadows and back-lighting so the transparent logo would look good on any background, light or dark. Also the logo remains highly recognizable even if reduced to monochrome and cropped to the limits off the inner square. The resulting negative space between the abstract shapes still clearly forms the letters "Le".

The colors of the Leftium logo were actually already determined many (ten!) years ago. After seeing this Pocari Sweat commercial, I fell in love with the combination of deep blue on bright white. (Yet I can't get myself to drink the beverage due to it's unfortunate name.) At first I tried to extract just the blue color I really liked, but through experimentation I discovered the color I had fallen in love with needed to be complemented with a dash of dark indigo/black to make the blue even "brighter." It's like when the black colors on your TV/monitor appear darker when the device is on, although it can't logically be darker than when no light is being emitted at all. Pairing white with this blue creates a very crisp contrast.  

Finally, I'll end with a few finer details you probably didn't even (consciously) notice: I made sure the placement and sizing of the "Le" resulted in the simplest shapes with the fewest number of corners. And the linear gradient is centered at the tip of the arrow, with the same alignment as the letters.




Be sure to read part I, which describes my motivation and old online ID:

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