Lately I have been very busy working on a few new projects for some amazing clients. About 90% of my new clients come to me because they've seen my previous work and like my personal style, which is a fantastic thing and I am very thankful for it. But what happens when I become bored with the design style I am known for? As a commissioned designer I am unable to create whatever comes to my mind, I have an obligation towards my client to keep up with the brief and desired look and feel. So am I doomed to stick only to one specific style for which I am known?
Recently I stumbled upon an interesting article, written by fellow designer and buddy Darren Hoyt. In his article, titled "Design Versatility", a very interesting question came up:
Is it more attractive when designers can: a) Design like a chameleon in any style or genre appropriate to the project, or b) Design over a period of years in a consistent, signature style
The topic which was very relevant to me, gave me fuel for thought. I am really not sure if there is a right answer for this one. There are great examples of designers who match both options perfectly. But here is the thing, I don't think these options are the exact opposites. A designer can keep his/her signature touch and still design in different styles. At the end, every designer (or any creative person for that matter) establishes a personal style, uniquely their own, even if they themselves cannot recognize it.
I have a feeling we are confusing ourselves with what we consider "style". I think it is safe to say that for web designers, there are two types of style:
These are two completely different things. I would like to think that we, as a web design community, are at a point where personal touch is what makes a designer unique, and not how he/she chooses to create a certain project, which could be minimalistic or graphically heavy. I mean, Smashing Pumpkins produce kick ass rock songs, but they also have some amazing ballads, don't they? (Smashing Pumpkins, you ask? As we speak I am listening to 1979 on the radio so...)
Naturally, as designers, we can be better at one design style over the other. But I think that is only because we get stuck in our own comfort zone where we get good at one design style and keep on creating it. It has a catch 22 quality to it - we get commissioned to create within a certain style, master it and then get commissioned to do the same thing over and over again, because of our mastery. After a while though, personally I tend to get bored of a design style that I master, since there is no real challenge in creating that certain style. This can be very dangerous for a creative.
The tough part is breaking free from that cycle. Finding a client who will be willing to gamble on your talent and ability to produce a design style that is not shown on your portfolio isn't easy. Only a hand full of them will have the courage to take that gamble, and rightfully so, they are paying good money.
The only way to really master a new style is to either create personal projects (which I'm all for), do something for free (which I am 99% against) or find good clients. This is where the saying "The best designers are the ones who find the good clients" comes to play. I am so grateful for my clients who have let me go wild. Theirs are the best project to ever come from under my hands. That said it isn't easy finding those clients. Maybe this is why so many designers have started releasing personal projects and apps lately. No one other than themselves can tell them what style to design in.
At the end of the day, we all have our personal preferences. Some just really like minimalism others have a fetch for textures and basically create most of their designs in their personal favorite style. This is all good, but it is healthy to take some risks or adventures in what we create. If we all stay in our comfort zones how would our industry evolve? Usually new and revolutionary art and design are blends of styles coming from a need to break the mold. Just imagine if the Beatles would have stuck with the same style they started with, we would have 12 albums all sounding like Please Please Me. That would have sucked.
Written in New York. © 2013