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About Face: Some Thoughts On Redesigning My About Page

February 21, 2012

I’ve been meaning to do a couple of things for a long time now: rewrite my resumé, and redesign my About Page. Here I am brooding about it:Illustrator Mark Armstrong in role of Inky Draws, The World's Oldest Living Cartoonist, About Page graphic

Ever heard that wonderful Buddhist proverb, When the student is ready, the teacher will appear? I thought of it last week when I chanced across an article by Michael Margolis called The Resume Is Dead, The Bio Is King.

It begins with this premise: Gone are the days of “Just the facts, M’am.” Instead, a potential client wants to know if you’re relevant to his or her work. Further: Trust comes from personal disclosure– something a traditional resume isn’t suited for. Instead, you need a bio that tells the bigger story– especially if you’re in business for yourself.

The author suggests that you share more of what you really care about. “Tell a story that people can identify with as their own, and the need to persuade, convince, or sell them
on anything disappears.”

This doesn’t mean you can ignore the ol’ skill set, of course: if you haven’t got skills that somebody wants, the best storytelling in the world isn’t going to get you hired.

But assuming you’ve got the necessary skills, the premise makes sense to me. And it really came to together when I read the following line in 6 Steps To Creating A Knockout Online Portfolio by Mell Ravenel:

Personalize your About page to tell your story, not just list your past jobs.

That was what I needed to hear. I have a job history, a paper trail, but my early jobs weren’t art-related. What art director is going to care that I was once a bank teller or a methods analyst? My story’s no thrills-and-chills spellbinding adventure, but it’s a lot more interesting than my job history.

At this point, you may be wondering: What did your old About Page look like?– was it really that bad? Yes, it was– here’s a screen shot of the entire page:old and original About Page for Mark Armstrong Illustration blog showing photos of illustrator Mark Armstrong

Oh, it tells you a little, and it had links to my work and some client testimonials. But does
it make you say: Hmm! I need an illustrator, and this is my kinda guy! I got a good feeling here– I’m gonna call him and take a chance!!

Uh… not really. There’s just not enough to go on, not enough to prompt that leap of faith.

So I needed to tell my story and give people a chance to identify with it– where to start?

Fortunately, Mr. Margolis had some suggestions. Boiled down as low as they will go, I’d summarize them as follows:

1. Share a point of view: How do you see the world? What matters most?

2. Tell your backstory: How did you get where you are? What riddles are you still trying to solve?

3. Include “external validators”: Client testimonials, awards, etc– just a few to show your story is real.

4. Make yourself approachable: Share an interest or guilty pleasure. “Vulnerability is the new black.” (use good sense)

Being an illustrator, I’d add one more:

5. Get yourself some visuals: Stories with pictures get a lot more interest than stories with just text.

So I wrote My Story, keeping it as short and simple as possible. I also created visuals to serve as “chapter headings”– like this one for sharing my point of view as an illustrator:painter color palettes used as background for Mark Armstrong Blog About Page mission statement

And this rather, uh, infantile piece for my “backstory”:Illustrator Mark Armstrong face in mouth of sleeping baby used as Looking Back graphic on blog About Page

Before I forget: the About image (of me brooding) at the top of this post is a doctored still from a video clip. I was playing the character of Inky Draws, The World’s Oldest Cartoonist. You can see a short clip of the production here.

So how’d my New About Page turn out? See for yourself: you can either click About
in the menu bar under my blog header, or just click here: Gosh whiz! I’m just dying
to see Mark Armstrong’s exciting new About Page.
(And I’d appreciate your feedback, thanks.)blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

What do you think? Is a person’s About Page as important as they say? Have you incorporated any special features on your own About Page that you’d care to share? Hope you’ll leave a comment.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to subscribe. You can either leave a comment and click the box that says Notify me of new posts via email, or click on the Subscribe button below the Portfolio Thumbnails in the sidebar at the top right of this page.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

Silly Me: The Beguiling Power Of Self-Mockery (on a design agency’s About Page)

Header Look Better When Color Picks Click (importance of color in blog design)

Oops! I Just Took A Header– SPLAT! (why I decided to change my blog header)

footer for all future blog posts showing picture of blog author Mark Armstrong, along with short bio and contact information

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 40 pixels high

  1. Margie permalink
    February 21, 2012 11:07 AM

    Much food for thought here, even though I’m not trying to sell a product!
    If I was planning to hire you, I would want to see a photo (or a very lifelike illustration) of you – the face behind the product. Perhaps you would be sitting at your computer, working on a project – so I could understand the process.


    • February 21, 2012 12:39 PM

      Thanks, Margie.

      So you think the photos I used were a bit too over the top? That I should have used a photo showing me as the (fairly) normal looking chap I am? Hm! You could be right…

      Your point about understanding the process is a very interesting one. I hesitated to try to squeeze in too much information, but perhaps I could include a link to a separate page with visuals showing how a particular project evolved: early sketches, client feedback, revisions, etc. A very valuable suggestion, thank you!


  2. February 22, 2012 2:08 PM

    Thanks for those links. It is indeed very important to stay current – and resumes are just not the thing anymore. It’s very cool that you’re keeping ahead of this stuff and kudos for the new About page.

    I admit I don’t know a thing about having a professional blog. I use an assumed name and the only time I had a business one was trying to sell my watercolors (which did not entail me trying to get hired). My portfolio with my real name and all is seperate.

    However, if you are using the blog as a portfolio, I’d keep experimenting and see how other illustrators (especially the top dogs) design theirs. Maybe yours is perfect as is! I find this an interesting topic so I’d love to hear an update. Good luck!


    • February 23, 2012 10:03 AM

      Many thanks. You may be skulking thru the barberry bushes under an assumed name, but you are still a mythic presence here in the blogsphere… : )

      Yes, I’m curious myself as to where this whole bio/resume/about business is going– will keep you posted.

      Hope you’ll share some of your watercolors sometime! : )


  3. February 23, 2012 11:53 AM

    What you have mentioned reminds me of a lecture from one of my tutors recently. It’s great to claim this and that etc but clients always want to know the major bits of your work and what you can do. If you haven’t got the skills for a task it’s best to avoid it rather than attempt it, fail it, and cause your reputation to go downhill.

    All designers, whether an architect, animator or illustrator etc, always have to portray themselves visually, and I can see the major difference between your previous About page and your new one. The new page reflects more of who you are (i.e. your great humour) and the style you work to. The old one I feel was more formal and just didn’t seem you (and with clients they always like to get to know you in some way or another).

    On a side note, don’t know if you did it on purpose or not, but I absolutely love your use of fonts on the images. Especially on the Footnote, where the two o’s next to each other look like footprints and the o’s in the Looking back look like cartoon eyes actually looking back. And the Distinguished Clients one reminds me of how universities sometimes use that font, but in this case it makes me think of passing the mark from your clients and achieving what you were set out to do, in a very bold statement. Absolutely, positively well done *rounds of applause*


    • February 24, 2012 7:44 AM

      My dear Sabine, thanks so much for your very kind, thoughtful, and supportive comment– most sincerely appreciated.

      I do feel the new About Page is more “me.” I think freelancers sometimes define themselves generically in the hope that being vague will somehow attract more clients. We can’t be all things to all people (in art or life), so better to simply say, This is who I am.

      You certainly have a keen eye, picking up on the fonts! Still, I can only take partial credit. I did choose that one particular font for Looking Back because the O’s looked so much like eyes. Must confess, I didn’t see footprints in the Footnotes O’s– I just liked the way that font seemed to go with the image. And I think I had some vague notion that the Distinguished Clients font seemed to mimic the medals the people were wearing– however, I prefer your explanation because it makes me seem smarter!! : )

      Many thanks for taking the time to be so supportive!


  4. February 23, 2012 2:14 PM

    Good one on your new ‘About’ page.
    Recently had the same sort of brooding you’re engaged in above when writing a bio for Miles’ Saatchi page. We eventually went with the ‘Vasari’ bio which does work better with a dead artist but after further discussion we decided not to go that far (and we also left out the gossip!).
    Fans of your vital and joyous work,
    Miles and Pippa


    • February 24, 2012 8:16 AM

      I’m glad to know I’m not the only one brooding about About’s and bios!

      I have read Miles’ Saatchi Page bio, and must say it is an extraordinary epic– positive proof that bios are far more interesting than resumés!! I found it very inspiring, and I’m glad you decided that crafting the bio did not require Miles’ premature demise… : )

      Your describing my work as vital and joyous is one of the nicest compliments I have ever received. Thank you both from a mutual fan!


  5. February 24, 2012 8:25 PM

    This article is so inspiring and useful especially to those who need to advertise their works. I like your idea of ‘get yourself some visuals’.

    Thanks for sharing this, Mark. It really is interesting and useful! 🙂


    • February 24, 2012 9:01 PM

      Well, yes, visuals are very nice, but… I think I’d rather have some of your famous Chocolate Mousse Cake… : )

      Thank you, dear Inge, for cooking up such a lovely supportive comment!


  6. February 25, 2012 4:11 PM

    You’ve roused me into action! This is a great post, as are yours all 🙂 While I didn’t follow through (I should say haven’t yet…) with a full remodel and branding to the scale I’d like to, I did write a post. Ha! Baby steps. Thanks for the inspiration, resources, and example. Cheers!


    • February 26, 2012 8:57 PM

      What’s that?? Professor Newberry back in action?? That is exciting news!! Ye Olde Blogsphere has definitely been the poorer for your absence– welcome back!!

      Glad you found the post helpful, absolutely delighted by your dramatic reappearance, and thanks so much for your kind comment! : )


  7. February 29, 2012 12:15 PM

    Very helpful information here. I plan to put it to good use!


    • February 29, 2012 1:34 PM

      I’m delighted to hear that, Jan. I appreciate your kind comment, and thanks so much for stopping by! : )


  8. March 1, 2012 7:21 AM

    Rather funny that face in baby, for your memories.

    Anyway I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. (There is another cartoonist, but that’s a different award.)

    Happy tailwinds!


    • March 2, 2012 4:42 PM

      Yes, that’s an interesting “nook” I found there. Of course, if that baby decides to spit up, I could be in serious trouble!! : (

      Thank you very much indeed, Jean, for the Versatile Blogger Award. Coming from an ace blogger like yourself, it means a lot.

      May the wind be ever at your back– especially pedaling uphill!! : )


  9. March 1, 2012 10:45 PM

    I just read your post since I had no time this morning.

    Actually your 2nd attempt at bio is quite catchy. I love it, Mark! I know it’s marketing schtick but it is sharp enough without ingratiating yourself. It’s still “you”.


    • March 2, 2012 4:46 PM

      Yes, marketing schtick that’s not too schticky– it’s a delicate business… : )

      Hopefully, the new bio will inspire more confidence than the old for potential clients, anyway.

      Thanks a heap for the thumbs-up, Jean, I really appreciate it!


  10. March 9, 2012 11:48 AM

    Thanks for sharing your broodings on this so we might learn a thing or two along the way! As I said, the new version is great – it really captures your spirit and what is unique about you without compromising on all the necessary (and in your case comprehensive, impressive) previous experience info. Nice one Mark!


    • March 9, 2012 5:38 PM

      Gosh! More flower petals falling from the ceiling!! It used to smell pretty gamey in here, but not anymore!! I’m canceling that dozen cans of air freshener I ordered… : P

      Thank you, Tan, I’m blushing here. If it attracts visitors like yourself, I’m gonna make brooding a regular habit… : )

      Sincere thanks!


  11. robpixaday permalink
    March 28, 2012 5:45 PM

    Came back to read all of this. Wonderful, wonderful!
    Insightful, joyful, and FUN!

    Your bio/resume/CV is fascinating. I’m glad [selfishly!!] that you’re doing the art thing now and sharing it with us!

    Here’s to continued success…!


    • March 28, 2012 8:27 PM

      Too kind, too kind, and did I mention too kind?? Well, I meant to… : )

      My bio clearly shows that I’m a man who enjoys wandering in the wilderness without a map or a compass or clean socks. Fortunately, I stumbled across the right path by accident. I’m sure there’s a moral there somewhere, but I’m too lazy to look for it… : )

      I feel very successful just getting comments like this from good friends like you. ::snaps to attention, gives crisp salute, falls over::


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