Rebuilding a Brand. Avand.
Once again, it’s been months since my last post. I’ve been taking some good and some bad classes at DePaul for the last 10 weeks and as a result haven’t really had much time to invest in myself. Even Piggy Back has taken the back burner. The one personal priority I did get around to was my new website avandamiri.com. I thought I would take a moment and reflect on the motivations, goals, and end results of the process.
I’ve always wanted a web presence for myself. Unfortunately, I suffered from the same shortsightedness that many of the clients I’ve worked for have had in the past: simply wanting a website isn’t enough. From day one I broke my own rule to start with content first.
Back in the day, I had a Blogger account, “Simple Things.” The process of posting was frustrating and I never liked the look of the template I had. It worked for my posts but it said absolutely nothing about me. It also annoyed me that all my posts were out in some database somewhere. I didn’t feel like I had control of my content. So, I migrated to my own hosted Wordpress account. The writing process improved tremendously, but I hit another self-expression road block, biting my tongue for several months with a pretty cool, simple, clean template.
Then I finally caught myself. This entire time I was just shifting sand around. I was spending less time writing and more time reconfiguring the site and throughout the entire process had said absolutely nothing about myself. I made a promise to myself to build a site that accomplished exactly what I wanted.
Describing one’s self is possibly one of the most difficult challenges. I decided to approach the problem systematically:
- Who am I?
- What do I do the majority of my time?
- What do I do with the rest?
- What things I like most?
- What values do I espouse?
It became instantly apparent that I wasn’t building a blog at all. I was building a brand: my brand. So I started answering some of those questions for myself.
My birth name is “Avand Amiri,” although I have gone all my life by “Andy.” I decided that I wanted to stay true to my heritage and make the switch. It’s been hard to get my friends to call me “Avand,” change my old accounts, and track down all the old references, but I think I’m mostly there. Because “Avand” is so unique, I decided to build my entire “brand name” off of it. It became the cornerstone of this site.
I’m fortunate to say that I love what I do. I spend my days building websites and I have for some time. Sometimes the line between “work and play” is a little ambiguous for me, but that’s OK. I decided that my work was a major focal point who I am and that my site had to reflect that.
With every iteration of the old site, I was frustrated that I never expressed myself. I didn’t want an “About Me” page. In fact, I didn’t want any text at all. I had to find something important about myself that could become part of the “Avand” brand. I finally realized that cycling was a huge part of my life and I felt comfortable sharing that part of me with the world.
Finally, I needed the site to subtly explain myself through the atheistic. This was the most fun part because the only question I had to answer is “what do I like?” Red, black and white are my favorite colors because they’re so pure. I embrace simplicity and minimalism in my life, and I integrated those concepts right into the design.
I decided to completely ignore the implementation details at first. I forced myself to focus on content. I knew that I wanted my best work to be featured as well as explained through my resume. The site also had to host my blog, featuring my latest blog post on the first page. There had to be a way to get in touch with me as well as find me through the various social networks I’m a part of. Finally, it needed tell a little bit more about me: my love of bikes, design, fashion, and cars.
I had spent so much time self reflecting that the site actually came together quickly. I did all my drafting in Photoshop, with the exception of exploring some designs with pencil and paper.
Although I had no preference of where the site was hosted, I did know that I wanted full control of the content. Chris Vanpelt had once mentioned Jekyll to me and I decided it was perfect me. Instead of coming to the table with bulky features than simply distract (searching, comments, drafts, etc.) it gave me the perfect blank slate to build just what I wanted.
I migrated each post to a markdown based text file and wrote a basic script to copy the files up to a cheap HTML hosting account with GoDaddy. Wufoo allowed me to fulfill the “Talk to Me” component without the need for any server side scripting, although getting it to look just right has been a bit time consuming.
Finally, I embraced iterative development. I published the PSD for friends to explore so I could get feedback instantly. I deployed early, while major functionality was still pending, and often, to make sure I was always moving forward. Today, I migrated the remaining posts from my old Wordpress account and added syndication, celebrating this major milestone with a fresh post about the process.
Ultimately, I’m really satisfied with the end result. I feel like I actually accomplished what I set out to do a long time ago, and that’s really gratifying. At the same time, I’m prepared for the changes to come. I know that what I do, and who I am will develop over time. I look forward to reflecting on those developments here at avandamiri.com.