What's an Oh, Karina?

This is a long over due post, but, with a new brand, a new year and a new(old) resolution, why not start 2015 with a bang and a blog? Today let's talk about branding - how Oh, Karina has come to look as she does. Branding to me has always been like cooking – it just didn’t taste as good when I made it myself.

When you’re a person in a creative field, running your own business, you start deluding yourself into thinking you can do ALL artistic aspects of your business – photography, photoshop, design, layout, copy, the whole shebang. The unstoppable artistic entrepreneur.  You are a creative, after all – all this stuff is the same. Right?

I learned a long time ago that being creative in one way doesn’t mean you’re creative in all ways. I can draw and paint and take a damn nice photograph, but when it comes to decorating a space or dressing myself, I’m a complete mess.

Yet, I spend the first two or three years of my business muddling through with good-enough-design-stuff (dammit, Photoshop has the word PHOTO in it, I MUST be able to figure it out!), and hoping and praying that what I presented visually lined up with my dream clients.

There are a couple different schools of thought on branding in the photo world. One popular one is that, you don’t need a design aspect to your brand – rather, your name is your brand and the photography you put forth enforces the style and message.  As someone with an unspellable, unpronounceable last name, that was out for me. As much as I’d love to think I have the force of personality to drive a one name brand like Cher or Ferragamo – really, I don’t.

Plus – I knew right away that I wanted to work with a very specific type of client.

There are starting-out photographers who will take just about whatever wedding comes at them. And that’s totally fine and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when I decided to break out into my own business, I had already been second shooting weddings for 3 years, for all types of wedding photographers. I’d seen all types of client-owner relationships and stresses and dealings with the unexpected, people who loved their job, and people who hated it.

And, so, I knew a couple of things right away:

-       If I was going to work for myself, I was going to love my job and love my couples

-       I wanted to work with people who loved my work as much as I loved my job

-       I never wanted to be bored

So. I wanted to attract a specific type of couple. Nerds. Hipsters. Creatives. People unafraid to be themselves. People breaking out of the wedding box. People who liked art and funk and played board games. People covered with tattoos, people with brightly colored hair, people who wore short consignment dresses and weren’t afraid to wear their glasses on their wedding day. Creative people, or at least, people who really, truly appreciated creativity.

Enter the magical, mystical Elle from POSTFILM. I knew I wanted to work with Elle the minute I read her blog post “Why I Swear at Client Meetings.” As someone with minimal brain-mouth filter, who is physically incapable of holding in a “that’s what she said!” I loved her philosophy right away. Added to the fact that her work spoke volumes to me – boom. Magic ensues.

Elle took the time to research the market I’m fighting to carve a niche out of, checking out the demographic I want to reach, and – most importantly for me – pin point it the clientele type and explain it to me. As someone who tends to get sidetracked and lost in her own scattered brain, it was very helpful to have a third party – who’s a professional in the field – nail down all the floaty bits into something concrete and whole. She explained to me how she wanted to create for me a visual identity that would cater more specifically to my artsy, nerdy, counter culture, non-conformists; but that would also be a brand that would grow with me over time as I (and presumably, my client base) grew up.

I also knew that, while the hipster logo thing (for more info, check out: http://hipsterlogo.com/) is super trendy right now, I wanted something that didn’t look like that. Not that I have anything against the hipster culture and look – it’s quite pretty actually – but I wanted some a little more mold-breaking. Something slightly more urban, harkening towards street art and architecture, and less flora and fauna.


The idea was to pull from my painting roots and incorporate a lot of bold, geometric elements and bright, energetic watercolor splatters.  To create a logo that stood alone as a piece of ink spattered, Gonzo type hand lettering, and pair it with a playful, geometric icon to add some quirk. Because my biz name didn’t evoke any immediate images, we were free to play with whatever iconography we wanted to.

So why the girl in the bunny ears? Great. Question. As Elle pointed out to me, some of the freedom is tricky in and of itself because it’s SO open – world, oyster, etc. And the truth is, the girl in the bunny ears has been sitting in my head for as long as I can remember – I’ve been drawing her since I was young, I have a whole pin-board dedicated to bunny ear topped girls – so why not? She was quirky, she was fun.


 As an aside, she was also a great segue, something that would be relevant going forward as I started to build my boudoir business. Coy, playful.


 As Elle wrote to me in my final brand package:

“The Oh, Karina brand deeply reflects the interior of Karina’s current business structure. It’s a fun, in your face brand that teeters between outrageous and incredibly artistic. It pulls from Karina’s roots in painting, and pushes the boundaries of what a brand is. By mixing sophisticated and angular pieces with messy triangles, chaotic hand lettering and mad splashes of color, we’re pairing two opposing worlds together to create and environment that presses hard against conformity… Overall, the brand is reaching towards a more artistic crowd that wants to work with a vendor that will understand them instantly, without question.”

So, my shout out to Elle, for working through this process with me, putting up with my incredible fickle flightiness, and all around grabbing all my floaty bits  and pieces of disconnected desires, and pulling them together into a kick-ass brand that is more than I could have imagined.