Finding Your Style & Noticing Trends
With so many beautiful styles of design out there, how do you find your own? How do you form your own style without looking like everyone else? What are trends, and should I be following them? What’s the difference between a trend and a movement?
These are great questions to think about as you’re getting started. Forming your own personal style can seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually a natural process that happens as you learn and grow. I didn’t realize what my style really was until I finished my website and saw all my work together in one place.
How do you find your style?
Your style isn’t something you necessarily find by going out to look for it, it’s more like a realization of what’s already there. You don’t have to try to have a style, you just have it. My style, for example, is fairly minimalistic and predominantly type-based. I prefer fewer colors that aren’t very bright and lots of white space.
I wasn’t trying to look that way though. As I worked, I just leaned more toward that style and really liked how it looked, so I continued to come back to it. You can tell by looking through some of my work that there are projects that I was given free reign on, and there are projects that the client had a very distinct vision in mind and it wasn’t my style at all. I don’t always put those pieces on my website, but I do put some to show that I’m versatile. You don’t want to put yourself in a box. If I told people I only did minimalist type design, I wouldn’t get a lot of clients.
How do you stand out?
You may have already noticed, but there are a LOT of designers out there. And a lot of good ones at that. The idea of jumping into such a saturated market may be a turn off for some, but it shouldn’t be! There’s such a high demand right now that there’s plenty of work to go around. And there are plenty of resources (like this blog!) to help you out.
So when it comes to standing out in a crowd, I would say don’t worry so much about that. Sure, it’d be great to be Jessica Walsh, but is your goal to be famous or to create great work? With each new project, you should strive to create your best piece yet. You should strive to be a great person to work with and to meet deadlines. If you consistently produce great work, you will consistently have clients.
It’s all about putting in the work.
In college, I wasn’t the top designer in my class, not even close. I would look at other peoples’ work and start to hate my own, even if I had liked it when I walked into class. If you get stuck in the comparison game you’ll never move forward. If you like how someone did something, learn how to do it yourself. Don’t copy, but learn from their technique. Let them drive you to have better craft, better concepts.
Go onto Instagram or Pinterest for five minutes and you’ll start noticing trend after trend. Maybe it’s super dramatic type, or very modular layouts. Right now there are a lot of trends going in and out of style, and it’s important to be aware of them.
The thing about trends is that they’ll going to blow over. If all you know how to do is dramatic type design, then when that trend blows over you’re screwed. You want your work to be timeless, not just for the sake of making money, but for your clients. If they have to update their branding every six months because it’s too “trendy,” they’re going to stop hiring you to do it because they’ll think you’re doing something wrong.
So if a client comes to you and what they want is something really hip and cool, it’s your job as the designer to give them that, but make it something that will still be cool in five or ten years. A great example is Urban Outfitters. They’re probably the trendiest store out there, but take their logo out and it can stand anywhere, anytime. Their ad campaigns are very pointed and trendy, but their overall brand is built to last.
Trends vs. Movements
So you don’t want to jump on the trend bandwagon, but joining a movement can be a good idea. So how can you tell the difference?
Movements don’t run in and out like trends do. They come and stay for much longer. They happen because a large group of people have decided they want to do something, and they all work together to accomplish it. Eating healthy, for example, is a movement that’s been going on for a while and will continue on. But having cactuses on everything is a trend.
Andy J. Miller does an episode about this on his podcast Creative Pep Talk and it’s really good. All of his episodes are great actually, so if you’ve never listened you should definitely check it out! He has a lot of great advice for creatives and freelancers and he’s super entertaining.
Learn from both.
I don’t want you to go away thinking that trends are bad and should be avoided at all costs. They’re actually a great way to learn what people like so you can apply it in a more long-lasting way. Typography, for example, has gone through a lot of trends throughout the years, but one thing has stayed the same-people love typography. As a designer, you should probably know how to design type-based pieces.
Color palettes go through trends too. Bright and in your face, then all nudes and pastels, then only neutrals. But that doesn’t mean they were bad color pairings, some really great ideas have actually come out of these trends. What you have to learn to do is pull inspiration from these ideas and create something your own.
The most important thing to take away from all of this is don’t overthink it. Be confident in your skills and your clients will be too!