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Why designers should never settle on style
Portrait of Andy Leverenz
Andy Leverenz

March 27, 2016

Last updated November 5, 2023

Why designers should never settle on style

This post is a reflection of a recent article by Tobias van Schneider titled Finding your own style as a designer. I highly recommend you give it a read as it hits home with a lot of points in which many designers face today.

If I could summarize the article Tobias wrote into a few words it would probably be:

Your style originates on its own and is nothing you can predict. Never assume having a unique style is the key to being a successful designer.

Defining your own style

One cannot simply define their own style. It is something you just have and acquire over time. This style is something you tend to repeat throughout much of your work. While individual projects may vary, the general feel is still present which can be both good and bad.

Tobias mentions:

“Having your own style can be a blessing and a curse. Usually, it’s a blessing right before it becomes a curse.”

I think what he means here is that having a style is something that attracts attention. If it's repeated and praised among your peers, then more will start to take note and what a piece of the action.

This is all great until you realize the only clients you get want that one style and nothing more from you. That limits things from the start and over time just makes the work really turn into work which is what we prefer to avoid (at least for me).

With all this in mind, you should be diverse as possible no matter what style you have. Mixing up your portfolio with a variety of projects is a good way to alleviate this. Down the road, it could then mean a wide variety of projects for new clients that are both creative and fulfilling.

Settling on a style

As designers, our day-to-day is to be creative. We are hired to help solve problems companies face when spreading a message or defining a path on which users take.

Settling on a specific style may get you businesses but unfortunately, that style is the only business you’ll get if you settle. How you advertise yourself and your arsenal of styles dictates the path on which you’ll take going forward. Don’t be afraid to change things up. Diversity is the key to everything and with it, you can solve a wider range of problems.

Tobias mentioned in his past he would see red flags when working within one style for too long. To switch things up he would search for a new way of doing things or find a new direction to take.

He also mentioned that if you find that you are good at a style you shouldn’t hide it. If it solves a challenging problem then it’s probably the answer you are looking for.

I can relate to both of these as I’m sure many of you could as well. We all find that one thing we excel at and use it to get more work. While it's great for a short time it gets pretty old after a while. Switching up styles and not letting other people’s styles dictate your own is the best bet when progressing and becoming better at what you do.

Finding new styles

If you do find yourself stuck on a single style you’re probably due for what I like to call a * to inspire session*. While this session varies from person to person, I often start mine by taking a step back from anything I’m working on and just shutting off. The key is to develop new ideas and inspiration through non-invoked thought by not even trying.

Go exercise, walk your dog, chat with some coworkers, attend to some errands or something that doesn’t tie to what you’re currently working on. Somehow not thinking about a specific problem you’re facing leads to ideas that come later when you least expect. How many ideas have you heard about that have been sketched out on a napkin in a restaurant or bar? And how many have you heard about from someone sitting behind their desk nonstop?

The same approach can apply to define new styles of your own. Taking a step back sometimes yields new directions that turn out to be the best solutions for different scenarios. No single solution applies to every project you work on. You need to be adaptable and with multiple styles in your arsenal, you’re sure to be on the right path to success.

If you liked this article be sure to check out my article titled How to become a better designer

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