You're Not Designing For Yourself
Art is subjective. No one can tell you if it’s good or bad. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Design is not exactly like that. There is definitely a difference between good and bad design. I wrote a blog post earlier about finding your style, and I didn’t mean that just because you “found your style” means that you’re now a good designer. But you’re getting there!
If you want to make pretty things that you like and not hear anyone’s opinions about them, become an artist, like a fine artist. Paint and draw and design all you want, and it’ll be good because it’s art and art is subjective. (Not trying to bash artists in ANY way, just showing the difference between “art” and “design.”)
But to be a designer you have to make things for other people. That means they have to like it, even if you don’t. I talked to a girl once who had left the design program at my school because she didn’t like all the critic she was getting. She thought she had made great art but then the teachers would tell her something wasn’t good about it, and she didn’t like that. She clearly needed to go to an art school, not a portfolio school.
In design, we have unspoken “rules.” Don’t use the font Papyrus. Don’t make colors vibrate. Don’t use cheesy stock photos. There are a lot of little things that you probably shouldn’t do, but there’s always the exception because there’s someone out there that can make those things look good somehow. You have to learn the rules before you break them.
As an artist, people usually hire you because they already like your style. They like your realistic animal style or your watercolor flowers, and they commission you to do something for them in that style. With design, that happens, but not as often. For example, someone wants a logo and they like the logos on my website, so they hire me. Those logos were for all different clients and all had a different style to them, but it showed them my capabilities.
Back to what I said earlier: They have to like it, even if you don’t.
You are designing for other people. Maybe you’re solving a problem a lot of people have, or designing the branding for a company that will reach millions of people. You are putting some kind of value out into the world. And this applies for more than just freelance clients.
Let’s say you want to get a job as a designer at Google or Apple, but all your work is scripty hand lettering. Sure, Google and Apple have probably used that a few times, but that’s not their main look. They want to hire someone who does clean and modern design really well to match their branding. If it’s your dream to work there, you need to make pieces that fit that style to show them what you’re capable of.
Now, if you hate that style or aren’t good at it, maybe you should consider finding a new dream job. But sometimes that’s all the work you have simply because that’s all you’ve done. Maybe people keep hiring you to do scripty logos and no one’s asked for anything modern. That’s where the personal projects come in.
Personal projects are great because they can be WHATEVER YOU WANT THEM TO BE. Want to design one hundred logos inspired by dogs? Do it. Want to make movie posters for all the Sharknado movies? Go for it. You can stretch your creativity as far and as wide as you want to.
But, if you’re trying to be a designer as your career, it’s wise to use these personal projects to get freelance clients or a full time gig. Still want to work for Apple? How about a personal project that looks like something Apple would produce. Don’t wait for someone to hire you to show people what you can do.
I’ll do a whole blog in the future about personal projects, but that’s all for now! Get out there and start creating!