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  • Writer's pictureAmy Burvall

Tag! You’re It! : The Twists and Turns of Taglines

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I often talk about, as an intro to my Creativity presentations, the fact that a lot of people who meet me for the first time ask,

“Are you an artist?”

At first I apologetically replied “no”, despite the fact they probably caught me in the act of sketching in public. (my new response is “aren’t we all?”). Another common one I get is, “you must be in the fashion industry”, perhaps because I am usually a tad overdressed or whimsically dressed and always in black.

Identity in the social age is difficult. We are volleying between the IRL and the virtual, the carefully cultivated and the casual.

Social Schizophrenia?


One of my favourite reads on this is by someone I admire very much – Laura Hilliger (@epilepticrabbit)

In this fascinating post, Laura makes a distinction between the following online identity types:

“The Real Virtual: an anonymous online identity that you try on.

The Real IN Virtual: an online identity that is affiliated with an offline identity.

The Virtual IN Real: a kind of hybrid identity that you adopt when you interact first in an online environment and then in the physical world.

The Virtual Real: an offline identity from a compilation of data about a particular individual. Shortly: Identity theft.”


These are, of course, in addition to the nuances of our offline identities– the fact we have our professional versus our non-professional or familial self, for example.

One of the first things we are asked to do, when setting up our social media profiles on any platform, is to provide an avatar (a photo that represents your persona). Sometimes we must also provide a “header” image, and most people seem to choose a pretty landscape they admire or that represents their interests in some way. We might even be asked to consider choosing customized colours. Colour is very important in establishing a consistent and recognizable digital presence, and I’ve touched upon both that and avatars in this post. 

One thing that has always proved to be a challenge for me – and something I’m quite mercurial about – is a personal tagline. If you think of yourself as a brand, what would be the catchy short phrase that epitomizes what you are about? Some people are very literal with their taglines, others are cheeky and still others are poetic.

The Tell-Tale Tagline


What is the best approach? I’m not sure, but I suppose it is based on your goals for the profile – many famous people, for example, choose esoteric, humourous taglines because people already know what they do and have a sense of their personality.

If you are relatively unknown and need this profile to advertise your wares, then you might opt for being clear and concise about your career and goals. But what if that comes off as being too “beige” and not creative enough?

Other questions arise as to the nature of the tagline itself:

Should a tagline be about what you do or what you believe?


If you look at marketing trends, many companies are gravitating more to social movement marketing – identification with an idea or ethos rather than a product.

For my Twitter tagline (which now also appears on my business cards), I’ve chosen “The Cloud is Our Campfire“, which is a little phrase (more of an observation, really) I came up with a few years ago while keynoting. I really love alliterated anything as well as metaphors, so it works for me. Of course, I am referring to “THE” Cloud, as in the connections we have that are facilitated by our technology. “Campfire” is my go-to metaphor for storytelling and story sharing, and if we get down to it everything we are posting is really a “story” in some way.


Because that is more of a belief or a provocation, I figured I needed to at least hint at what I do. For a while I referred to my teaching position or to my new job title. I’ve since dropped those for something I feel describes more of what I do – in every aspect of my professional and personal creative life:

“I Make Whimsy Happen”

It’s simple, and I truly believe in the power of whimsy for both creativity and learning. Almost all my personal projects involve a degree of fanciful humour, so there’s that. Those two were going well (or not – it’s really hard to assess), and then recently in a conversation I had with  Alejandro Piscitelli , I’ve decided to adopt another.

From “Edupunk” to “Professional Recombinant”


I met Alejandro via the Internet (we still have not yet met in person but hope to do so this year). He was using my Gutenberg parody music video in some of his many presentations in Spain and Latin America and referring to me as “Edupunk”. I chanced upon his work, and then the work of Jim Groom (father of Edupunk though he has now divorced himself from the term), as well as the Gutenberg Parenthesis Theory – all subsequently influential in my thinking about teaching and learning.

(check out Jim’s interview with my friend Steve Wheeler)

In our chat the other day about my personal creative approach and career pursuits, Alejandro deemed me a “professional recombinant“.  I rather liked it – it seemed to fit perfectly with who I am. So now my tagline has a trifecta:

  1. what I believe

  2. what I do

  3. who I am 

The only thing missing – and many suggest doing this – is HOW I do what I do. In my case perhaps not necessary but maybe that is important for your personal tagline.

On a side note, one of the best taglines anyone gave my History for Music Lovers project was from Brainpickings, one of my favourite websites. Curator Maria Popova called us a

“wonderful intersection of geekery, creativity and quirk”

You can read it HERE



Below are some of the Twitter taglines I have found intriguing for whatever reason:

Umberto Eco : I’m no Renaissance Man!  (RIP Eco, the great medievalist)

Austin Kleon : A Writer Who Draws

Henry Tudor parody acct: Looks amazing in a cape. Gout, Glory, Epic Dance Moves. All my opinions are facts. Retweets = I just made you pregnant.

@vickidroberts :“works hard to make her classroom feel like a hug” via Heidi James (@h_james18)

The Dead Author : man without qualities

Brad Ovenell-Carter: “Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere” (Gilbert K. Chesterton quote)

Cindy Gallop: I like to blow shit up. I am the Michael Bay of business.

Richard Branson : Tie-loathing adventurer, philanthropist & troublemaker, who believes in turning ideas into reality. Otherwise known as Dr Yes at Virgin

Tiny Nietzsche (parody acct) : tilted earth spins

Caitlin Krause : We write who we are…Mindfulness

Tom Barrett: Helping people re-discover the curiosity they had when they were 6 years old; designing learning that uses that curiosity to change the world around us.

Alan Levine: Barks about and plays with web tech at Digs photography, guitars, #ds106, mocking MOOCs, biking, coding, the Who. Has shots.

Howard Rheingold: Independent thinker, online instigator, novice educator, expert learner, offline gardener.

Gardner Campbell: Professor, bootstrap carny, bassist. I speak for myself, not my employer. Retweets and favorites mean many things.

Alejandro Piscitelli: Post-gutenberguiano. Internetómano. Amante de los felinos. Bibliómano. Appleomano.Y siguen los ismos, los filia y los gustos y regustos. 

David Culberhouse: Educator, Social Architect, Ideapreneurial

Guy Kawasaki: Mantra: I empower people.

Play With Taglines


In researching for this post I found the most humourous thing – a tagline generator. Simply put in a noun (like your name) and hit the button. These could be used for historical figures or literary characters, for example. You might even ask students to justify the tagline (this idea from my genius lit teacher friend in Maine- Dan Ryder)

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Students can design their own taglines for the people (or even events) they are studying…why not a tagline for a chemical element? an organ in the body? a geometric shape?

If your students have blogs (I hope so!), ask them to think of a catchy tagline. I like this one by my student Stephanie, done as a recipe.

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If you would like to explore the topic of taglines further, I’ve curated some resources:

Blog tags:

Amusing Twitter bio:

Chime In!


I’d love to hear from you about:

1. Your tag line and how you came up with it 2. Tag lines of others you love or ones that annoy you 3. Great potential tag lines for well known people

Jennifer Gross, a teacher I know in Edmonton, sent this to me on Facebook:

“A tag line I’ve had in the past (though not currently in use anywhere in social media) was ‘recovering goth’. I got it at a makeover at a Channel counter. I was 22 and about to start teaching. When the fabulous man doing my makeover asked how much makeup I was comfortable wearing, I laughed and told him f my goth/punk look, but that I was going to be teaching and needed something less harsh. He got excited and announced he was going to call my makeover “recovering goth.” I found it amusing. That said, I don’t think I will ever fully recover, nor would I want to”

#BradOvenellCarter #austinkleon #brainpickings #personalbranding #taglines #mariapopova #davidculberhouse #umbertoeco #blogs #gardnercampbell #socialmedia #cloudisourcampfire #edupunk #alanlevine #whimsy #gutenbergparenthesis #twitter #identity #historyformusiclovers #caitlinkrause #alejandropiscitelli #digital #amyburvall #jimgroom #danryder #howardrheingold #tombarrett

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