How to craft a brand: former madman edition

Fourteen months ago, author Jim Spina had zero online presence:

no logo, no website, not even a single tweet to his name.


At the time, Jim had barely emerged from a traumatic and life-altering medical event. His decades long battle alcoholism had caused a massive G.I. bleed he very nearly died from. After almost two weeks in the hospital, Jim survived and saddled with a new mission: to share his story in the hopes that others would never have to suffer as he did.  


With his harrowing story burning in his mind, Jim attended a writer’s weekend workshop to get it out of him. Just like that, a writer was born. Having just embarked on the long, arduous journey to published authorhood, Jim knew he needed an author identity to support his effects.


Jim approached us here at Choice and presented our favorite possible branding scenario: from the ground up.


How do you create a brand for someone with nothing to start with?


The most important part of branding Jim as an author was simply listening to him. His book was extremely personal;  his author identity needed to reflect him as an author as well as the journey to where he is today.


From the get go, we wanted his brand to capture Jim as a person, subject matter and author.


Jim has an extremely sharp wit to him, and because of this distinct voice so present in his writing, we didn’t want to distract from it. He’s not the type of person to dress things up with filler or fluff and so we wanted his voice to match who he was: a straightforward, hilarious, witty guy.

Js Facebook Profile


His brand voice was Jim. Because he has such a strong internal voice – especially present in his writing – it  just naturally flowed out into his brand identity and ultimately through the website content as well. 


Instead of taking away with distractions, we placed him center stage.


It’s not often that we get to work with a client that is as brimming with personality as Jim Spina. In a world full of competition, we strive to create brands that immediately stand out from the crowd. In Jim’s case, the way to stand out in his branding was to stand back.


Jim didn’t need a brand dressed up with complex imagery or an extensive palette; Jim needed to be placed on center stage. With how unique a voice Jim possesses, his visual identity needed to be just enough. Not too little, but not too much. Just enough to grab attention, and then turn the mic over to Jim. Essentially, it had to just be the opening act; Jim was the headliner.


A big part of Jim’s message is duality.


In his past life suffering through alcoholism, much of his depleted energy was spent masking his addiction. His alcoholism needed secrecy to survive, thus he hid much of his suffering. On the surface, he was your average overachiever, effortlessly handling highly coveted positions in a career with no ceiling. Behind the scenes though, Jim wrestled against himself and the powerful talons of addiction.


It’s this element of duality that guided his branding through his logo and limited palette (we wanted to show this stark black and white, two sides of the same coin.) The spirit of Jim’s brand can be summarized much in the same way; powerful, striking and slightly dark narrative grips you, but the message behind it is one of hope, humor, and heart (and apparently alliteration).


To get a full taste of what we crafted for Jim, be sure to check out his website at Don’t forget to check out Jim’s breakout novel on Amazon here. Every book purchased goes towards supporting Samaritan House, a nonprofit rehabilitation center based in Annapolis.