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Five Principles to Help Create Your Own Unique Design Style

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What is it about the word "style" that is the cause of so much debate in the design world? There are plenty of designers who share the opinion that having your own niche "look" is required in this field. Others believe that not having a consistent look to your work is more practical in pleasing multiple clients. The problem, is in the thought that style is a complex concept to grasp. Why can't both parties be correct?


Introduction

What is it about the word "style" that is the cause of so much debate in the design world? There are plenty of designers who share the opinion that having your own niche "look" is required in this field. Others believe that not having a consistent look to your work is more practical in pleasing multiple clients. The problem, is in the thought that style is a complex concept to grasp. Why can't both parties be correct?

To clarify my point, sometimes we are being too superficial in our attempts to define style. I don't like to define style as simply how one favors a certain color palette, or how one prefers designing with a retro feel to everything. A style is determined by its principles that each designer institutes on his or her own. I remember a mentor of mine once told me, "If you make it, it is in your style. Your own quirks and personality will come through any work you produce." So, don't over think all of the minutia of the term, and focus on establishing a foundation of solid design principles in your work.


Five Principles to Help Create Your Own Unique Design Style

As I before mentioned, each designer should build their style on a foundation of certain principles. Understanding that each of us may interpret these elements differently, I would still like to provide you with what I believe are important principles to build your design style on:


Appropriateness

Too many designers seem to overlook this plain and simple fact. Ask yourself "why" as often as you can. Are we using a particular style for ourselves, awards and recognition in the design world, or the client? Style is to be used as a contextual tool, varying to fit the project and the client's needs. Fads are hard to avoid, and not always bad. It is easy to generalize and dismiss common design trends, when, in some cases, they are actually very relevant. The best is example I can think of is the green movement. There are very valid reasons for wanting to design with sustainability in mind. So all I am saying is, make sure it has meaning.


Understanding

Appropriateness comes from understanding the needs of the client. It is impossible to create something truly fitting the client's needs if we don't take the time to understand the problem we are tasked to solve. This is an area where each designer truly has a unique method they follow. Common practices for many designers are to assemble mood boards, study the brand guidelines, browse related work, and just plain old' researching the topic. No matter how you decide to gather your information, realize designing blind not only effects the outcome for the client, but it makes your work irrelevant.


Craftsmanship

This is what we most commonly think of when we think of "style". The execution of our work has to be on the same level as our knowledge of it. Aesthetic is something we all aim to master, and rightly so. If our work is sloppy and poorly executed, it is less appealing to our intended audience. You don't get many clients if you can't make it "pretty". And what a shame it is if we have a fantastic concept, but we fail to put in the time to make it clean and beautiful. Now, I hate to be the guy who brings this up, but I am also talking about our files. If you are delivering files to the client, they better be clean, organized, and perfect. Craftsmanship should act as evidence of all of the hard work you put into arriving at the solution.


Passion

Style should be a reflection of one’s beliefs. Have a desire to constantly be progressing and adapting. As you continue adding to your portfolio, you should see your work begin to transform. Mileage is the best way to create better work, and really realize what your style consists of. Your passion to be better will determine how your style evolves and grows.

One of my most favorite contemporary writers on design, Frank Chimero, said,

I think it’s okay to have a style, as long as it represents what you believe. Unless the style is parallel to your beliefs and priorities, you’re essentially just playing dress up. I think it’s damaging to have a "style" that imitates some one else: it’d be like wearing a Halloween costume every day. If you’re comfortable in your own shoes and making work that reflects what you believe in the best possible way, it’s not a style any more. It’s just you, making the work that only you can make.


Uniqueness

Inadvertently all of us will end up with a look that is unique to us. Everyone works through problems differently. Each designer’s process is a little bit different from everyone else. On the flip-side, sometimes we begin to mimic, too closely, other work without realizing it (hopefully we don't notice it). Make an effort to make your design your own. That will come from experience and incorporating the earlier principles mentioned. Challenge yourself to come up with unique solutions. It is important to branch out of your comfort zone.


Conclusion

Complacency is one of the worst things for a designer who is trying to elevate their design style. More important than arguing about whether or not one's work should have a distinct look, we should care about the principles that our work is based on. Let your style be simply a reflection of all the passion, hard work, and craft that you put into creating all of your work.

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