How do you, a designer, develop your own theory and approach to design? Honestly, make it up as you go along. Sure, there can be some vague foundations and goals set in place as to where you would like to take your designs. But the truth is, your own style of design has to develop and evolve on it’s own. And as a designer, you have to let it do so without restraint. It may seem like a bit of a cop out and a little too free-spirited of an approach to any serious designer who wants to make a career in this field.
If you ask someone who writes fiction and how they develop their characters, for example, you’ll more than likely find that they may use a very similar technique. The basics of a character are established first. Then the writer places that character in situations and lets the personality dictate how that person would react, develop and move the story along. Thus, the character begins to evolve, taking shape by becoming more complex with each additional layer of personal experience. Apply this thinking to each project you work on as a designer.
As a beginning designer, you can’t start out by saying, “I’m going to be a designer that only creates very organic, nature inspired imagery,” and then expect everything you do to support that approach. There are simply too many factors that prevent a single-minded design direction to occur. This is especially the case if you are a designer that creates based on client needs.
Most designers work on several different types of projects with many different kinds of clients in various types of formats. Each project has different needs and challenges. You have to adapt your design skill and personality to each job environment. At the same time, your own tastes, likes, personality and experiences are influencing how you tackle that project in a very natural way. You may have a basic concept in mind or a style you would like to emulate. But ultimately, your own subconscious will steer you more than you realize. And that’s okay. That’s what helps create uniqueness in your work. It’s what helps insert a little of you into the work.
You will be forced to construct designs that meet the needs of a client, but you will learn to do so within the capacity of your own skill set and with hints of your own taste. This could be in the color palette used or details as small as how delicate of a drop shadow you prefer to use. Over time, as you apply these learned patterns to projects, you’ll begin see how complex of a designer you have become. Your choices will have become more instinctive and natural because your decisions will be based on the results of past experience.
In the end, the hope would be that you are a better designer. As long as you don’t become jaded. At that point, your designs become lifeless, dull and repetitive. That is why you must always be open to learn and push yourself. Well, unless your client WANTS the design to be lifeless, dull and repetitive. Then, by all means, cast aside artistic integrity and go for dull.