Having a defined style all your own is an important aspect of being a working creative. Your personal style is what makes you unique and sets you apart from others in your field. However, actually figuring out what your style is can be challenging.
Having a distinguishing look to your work is important because people will follow along with you on social media and hire you for projects because they appreciate your unique aesthetic. When you don't have any underlying features that flow through your work, then you may find yourself getting hired by people who don't share your vision to do projects that don't suit your strengths. For example, Lauren from Elle & Co. has an fun, feminine style that shines through in all her projects, and the clients she works with suit that style perfectly. Eva Black has a textural, painterly style that pops up again and again in her work. If you’re looking through these designers’ portfolios and wondering how you can get there, don’t fret and don’t fall into the comparison trap. Finding your style takes time, patience and a large body of work that includes plenty of trial and error. So how to do you develop your style so that you can get the kind of clients who will allow you to pursue projects you'll be passionate about? Here are a few tips to help you along your journey to finding your defining style.
1 | Take a step back.
Social media is a great tool to use for getting inspiration when you’ve run into a creative block. However, there are a lot of times when the volume of work that is available for viewing can be overwhelming, distracting and lead to unhealthy comparison. I recently realized how much my creative head space got clouded by funneling in countless mental images of other peoples’ projects. Don’t get me wrong, I love looking to Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration and the chance to see what other people in my field are doing. It’s just that sometimes I need to take a step back and clear my head so I can focus on things that suit my style and create things that come most naturally. If your creative mind is feeling clouded, then maybe it's a good idea to take a step back from your newsfeed.
2 | Look in unexpected places.
If you're taking a step back from social media, but you still want a source for inspiration, there are so many places to look! I think a lot of times designers look to other design work for inspiration, but how about looking somewhere unexpected? For example, a designer can look to fabrics for patterns, building signs (especially vintage ones!) for interesting typography, vintage fashion books for color palettes and prints, postcards for illustration style, etc. Inspiration can be found in anything, it's just a matter of keeping your eyes and mind open to the possibilities.
3 | Know what you like.
Beginning to define your style starts off with simply knowing what you like and don’t like, what things you enjoy creating and what things make you frustrated. Be true to yourself and embrace your unique flair. If you’re really into fresh colors and pretty script fonts rather than minimalist design and blocky lettering, then embrace it! The key to finding your style is to find what work you’re most passionate about producing. If you try to emulate work of others in your field, your work will the lacking the specialness of your creative thumbprint.
4 | Produce, produce, produce.
Honing in on your personal style can take a lot of trial and error and experimentation. Think of how you can take the things you like and some different, interesting ways you can apply it. It's fun and energizing to your creativity to try different avenues and see where they lead. The more you produce, the more you can recognize certain patterns you fall into, and that will also help you determine your style. If you find yourself trending toward a hand-crafted, illustrative style, then take it and run with it!
5 | Have fun with it.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, don't forget to loosen up and have fun creating. Don't worry about producing a beautiful, polished end product to use for your portfolio. Sometimes I just like to break out my watercolors and paint nothing in particular and just use it as a creative outlet and a way to further hone my skills and my personal style. When you create something for the pure joy of it, that joy shines through your work, so go ahead and pursue your passion projects!
As you're on the journey of defining your style, keep in mind that it's okay for your style to evolve over time. In different phases of your life and career, you're going to be inspired by different things. Feel free to pursue them, even if it's just a personal project on the side. As creatives, our ideas and inspirations are often sparked by our surroundings. So feel free for your work to be influenced by a new city you travel to or a beautiful painting you see in a museum. If you already have a defined personal style that's starting to feel stale then look for things to inspire you and breathe new life into your work. Never be afraid to try something new! When we push ourselves out of our comfort zone, that's when we discover something unique and exciting. I hope you find that your journey to discovering your style is a fun creative one to be on!