How to Create Designs that Stand Out

So, you’ve gotten into this whole design thing and everyone out there seems to be doing it too. But how can you make your work stand out?

That’s a question that I get asked all the time. Especially now that I’ve started to incorporate hand lettering and illustration in my work. When I first started, I was worried I could never be as talented as say, Jessica Hische, or Louise Fili. I thought to myself, what am I getting myself into?!

After taking Jessica Hische’s lettering Skillshare class, I was hooked and determined to get this skill down. I read the books and practiced, practiced, practiced until my hands were cramped from all the drawing. I overcame my fear of the pen tool and bézier curves. I spent a year of my life trying to make my work look like the work of other designers I liked. I soon learned that with all things in life, being exactly the same as your mentors isn’t what you should aim for. Your work should express who you are.

The question remains, how do you make what you do unique and your own? How do you create a style?

Find Your Voice/Passion

The first step is to simply find your voice. Ask yourself, why are you designing? What is it that you want to capture with typography, illustration, photography, etc? What are the things that you are passionate about? What does it mean to you? That is how you find who you are.

Do you love art or music? Poetry? Words of wisdom? On Instagram, I started lettering every Tuesday a project I called #TypeTuesday or #TypographyTuesday. It started off as song lyrics that got stuck in my head each week but later evolved into inspirational quotes. I’ve worked on this project for almost two years and it’s still going strong. I also started a more personal project called Things My Boyfriend Says, where I letter the crazy, funny, and sometimes weird things that my boyfriend tells me. I chose this as my passion topic because it was meaningful, it made me laugh, and it is something that I wanted to document to remember years from now. My love for this project allowed me to work on my voice and gave me a real purpose for my lettering and design work.

Pick a Topic

If you aren’t sure what your passion is, pick one topic and create a design for it. Set yourself a deadline, say a week. At the end of the week, ask yourself, it a challenge to figure out what to design? If it is, that’s not your passion! If it isn’t, then design the same topic for another week until you grow to love it more. Your passion projects can change over time as you change and grow, but finding one solid place to start will enable you to have lots of material to write about and it will also help your voice develop. It may take a couple of brainstorming sessions. Write your topics down on paper, then crumple up and toss the ones that don’t work.

Know Your Audience/Be Consistent

If you’re trying to get followers on social media, having clear ideas and a well-established design aesthetic will help them to know what they’re getting into when they follow you. This is something even I am still working on. Your focused voice will make sure that you gain followers who want to hear what you are saying with your designs, not someone who will unfollow you tomorrow when you post designs that are completely different (or a picture of your dog in a funny costume- though, that sounds fantastic and might actually gain you more followers! But it doesn’t stay true to your voice.). Being consistent with your work is a major key!

Be Prepared

No, I’m not talking about the song Scar sings in The Lion King. I mean always plan out your ideas. Keep a sketchbook and draw or write down a list. Create a Pinterest board with things that inspire you. Create a mood board! One simple trick I use to make sure that I always have words ready or ideas flowing is to set up a note on my iPhone. Every time my boyfriend says something ridiculous, I whip my phone out and jot it down. When it’s time to design, I pull out my phone and I have lots of material to choose from. That way I’m never sitting there wasting time and can get right into it.

Stay tuned for next week where I write about How to Promote Design Work on Social Media.