In design, as in society, there is constant pressure to emulate the most successful among us. Just like some people want to copy the look and style of their favorite celebrity, clients often want designers to copy features (or even the entire layout) of the best websites.
While it might make our clients happy and help us become even more fluent in our work – it’s not necessarily the most satisfying experience for creatives. No, it’s out of genuine satisfaction among creative professionals creating something. Even if it’s not 100% different from the last thing we created, we still want to put our unique touch on everything we do.
Having some consistency in your work can be a good thing. Many types of artists often have a signature style as their calling card. Painters, actors and musicians can often carry at least some consistent characteristics from one project to the next. Web designers can do much the same.
But in a world where so much screams “me too,” how can you ever develop your signature style? Let’s look at some ways you can break out of someone else’s mold and create your own.
Create something for yourself
One of the best ways to develop your style is to start a project that suits you. Choose a topic that interests you and create something to honor it. You could start a blog about your favorite sports team or write some music reviews. Whatever the subject, you can get a real creative boost from this labor of love.
It doesn’t have to take up a huge amount of your free time, and it doesn’t have to be widely shared with the public to be successful. You might find it a bit liberating to create something that you have complete control over.
You will be able to try and try things you may not have tried when working with a client. I’ve found that working on side projects over the years has led me to some tools and techniques that I later applied to my day job.
However, you should NOT have a personal pet project that causes you stress. If your labor of love turns out to be just labor, you may have jumped in a little too deep.
This type of project should allow you to take a deep breath and help you remember why you love being creative in the first place.
Learn a New Skill
The great thing about being a web designer is that there are many opportunities to learn around you. With the number of online tutorials and courses available, all you have to do is pick an interesting topic and go for it. Even better, some of these resources are free to use. So even those of us on a tight budget can add to our knowledge.
Spending time learning a new skill or improving an existing one can be a journey of self-discovery. The more you learn, the more you will be able to further unlock your creativity and develop your style.
For example, in this age of using CMS platforms like WordPress, we often rely on third-party themes and plugins. While they can be incredibly powerful and useful, they don’t necessarily help your individuality stand out.
By learning how to create your theme or plugin, you’ll be in the driver’s seat. Instead of implementing someone else’s vision of how something should look or work, you’ll be able to shape it exactly how you want it.
Renew your Spirit
Being a busy web designer can sometimes feel like a shut-in. You are stuck in the office and working so much that you miss other things. This kind of lifestyle is not going to help you build your own identity.
That’s why it’s so important for your mind and body to get away from that computer and experience a change of scenery. If you enjoy nature, spend some time outside on the weekend to spend outdoors. If that’s not your thing, go out and do some shopping or visit a museum. The main idea here is to get away from the everyday grind.
It can be overwhelming at times if you keep pushing your workload until it becomes counter-productive. Instead, find people and places that inspire you. When it’s time to return to work, you’ll have a renewed sense of purpose.
Just Be You
Often, we look at other successful people and wish we could be just like them. However, it’s all about attitude. We can look at someone else’s designs (or writing, lifestyle, etc.) and feel a little jealous. We might even try to replicate what they are doing. But, in reality, we are only getting a small part of the whole picture.
That person may be admirable for many reasons, but they are still human and flawed – just like we are. And they may wish they had someone else’s style and skills.
So while it’s good to respect others – the ultimate end is trusting who you are to build your own design identity.