How to Find Your Design Style as a Graphic Designer (5 tips)
I’ve always been someone who lives life in the middle of two extremes concerning my personal style. I’m a really weird mix of being the girliest-most-rose-tones-loving human you’ve ever met and simultaneously baggy t-shirt-adoring and often shopping from the mens section. I freakin’ love men’s t-shirts and don’t really care what anyone says about it! I think my style is a lot like my personality (I don’t know if this a weird parallel to draw) but I’d say I’m pretty much the marriage of relaxed and chilled out AF and like, mega excited about most things.
I tend to like to balance out my style in all elements of my life, from my clothing, to my home decor, to my design work. I like to draw parallels between the feminine and masculine, the soft and the hard, the beautiful and jarring, the sweet and the sour… you get the picture. I hope.
My design style; as most things in life, has been a journey… An evolution. If you check out my Instagram feed, you can see it very clearly for yourself with your eyeballs. It’s actually kind of crazy how Instagram as a platform allows us to do that, not even just with our art- I bet you could equally pick out the phases of my life and the way I’ve changed over the years in my personal feed. Now I’m scared y’all are gonna be scrolling through my personal feed and LOLing at my more questionable phases. Staaahhhhhp!
Tip 1 | Pay attention
When I first got started in design, I knew exactly what I liked. I could see a piece of work in a magazine, on Pinterest, or on a shop sign, and be able to tell whether a) I liked it and b) whether it might fit into the category of something I could see myself wanted to create, one day. Overtime, these observations slowly evolved and now I can tell you why I like something or not and whether it fits into the category that I consider to reflect my personal design style (which is, of course, constantly evolving.)
Tip 2 | Make s*it happen
“Portfolio” projects as I call them are arguably the most important thing for a new designer. I plan on making an in-depth post about why I have this perspective and how to go about creating projects for yourself, but I will touch on it briefly here. Don’t wait for clients to come to you (cause they won’t if you’ve got nothing to show them and no style to sell them on). Design for the clients you aspire to serve. Keep designing until you’re literally the best and I promise you those clients will find you. I know this sounds too simple to be true, but trust me man. Design cause you love it, breathe that passion into your work, and the work will manifest itself.
Tip 3 | Find your why
I found keeping a journal when I first started designing and doing client work to be SO helpful. I would keep notes on all my wins and losses, things to remember, any mistakes I made along with a plan to prevent them in the future. I also wrote down my dreams and goals and things like my ideal client and any mock/ portfolio projects I wanted to do. A journal can help you get clarity on exactly the kind of design you want to do + who you want to serve. What do you LOVE making? If you were going to be known for one type or niche of design, what would it be? Who is your ideal client or audience? Write it all down, girl. This is something that is so great to revisit and revise ever- so- often, as well as totally kick ass to reminisce on once you’ve done the work and your business is thriving.
You are WAY more likely to be accountable to your goals from the simple act of writing them down. The physical act of writing is also a great way to do a complete brain dump and be able to get clarity about what’s going on in our heads by being able to physically see the words on a page. I’m also a HUGE law of attraction and manifestation gal, so I truly believe that if you have clarity on what you want and who you want to be, everything will come full circle for you, and fast. But thats just me.
Tip 4 | Have role models and mimic them (without copying)
Success leaves clues.
One of the most crucial parts of becoming a designer is learning from others. Admire. Find people you LOVE and watch everything they do. Immerse yourself in their instagram page, their blog, their youtube, find the designers THEY love and do the same with them… You get the picture. Feel out what it is you like about what they do and transfer those qualities into your own art. When you do this often enough (without copying, don’t copy, yo) you will eventually build an arsenal of skills and styles that morph into your own personal unique style. Also, if you wanna mimic someone else’s art to the point of copying, by all means, do it, just keep it to yourself (don’t post a copy on your social). This could also potentially be a way of learning, as we learn by doing. Pinterest is really great for this, particularly using my moodboard process to create a collection of styles, images, and messages you love; to gather your thoughts creatively and get inspired. From the moodboard you can study the bits of others design work that you love, and bring them all together to make something that is totally and uniquely yours!
Tip 5 | Live life
Get out of the house and *gasp* off of Pinterest
Okay, so I know I literally just finished telling you to head to Pinterest to grab some moodboard inspiration. But, in addition, and arguably even more importantly, (especially once you’re past the beginning stages of your career) is drawing inspiration from the real world. The most inspired inspiration comes to me at the weirdest times and usually in the weirdest places. I quite often don’t find design inspiration from others designs (anymore) but rather things like nature, a noise, something in a song or something someone says, a structure or something random like the way a curtain is draped or the way a shadow is being cast on something. I’m pretty sure this makes me sound a bit *woo woo*, but seriously you guys, the best design does not come from other’s design, it comes from real life, in-your-face, what-are-the-chances inspiration.
I truly hope you find some value in this article and I wish you all the best in your design journey!