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Setting Yourself Apart As A Designer

Posted by Derek Brown on October 29th, 2006.

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In the world of shared templates and themes, inspiration sites used by nearly every designer, and color schemes that seem pretty much standard now, it seems nearly impossible to really set yourself apart as a designer. So how do you do it? What kind of approaches can you take to increase creativity and originality? Here are three steps that I’ve found useful:

  • Get Inspiration From the Real World - As stated above, inspiration sites abound on the internet. ‘Examples’ of good design are being scoured and examined by every web designer on the internet. We are all familiar with ma.gnolia and Whalesalad. The sites we all so commonly derive our inspiration from are driving similar site design. So what about using unique inspiration? Wouldn’t unique inspiration yield unique sites? Example: my girlfriend had on a wardrobe containing an odd combination of colors the other day. I immediately looked at it, saw that it was different but that it worked, and threw together a rough design containing the colors from that palette. It’s now going to be used for a professional client, and looks strikingly different from other web palettes. Here’s a first step to putting this into practice: get outside and look around! Go people watching, observe nature, and look at advertising and design in your area. This naturally differs from area to area, so your inspiration will do the same.
  • Find a Look, Make It Your Own - This seems so simple and obvious, but so many people don’t remember the last part. A lot of designers find a look they like (clean, edgy, punk, nature-based, dark, etc.) and they put it into practice in the stale, standard way. Try this sometime: Take what you like, put it on paper, and see what you could do different. Change the orientation of some images, changes the typography, tweak the layout. Do some different things with the scheme while maintaining the overall gist of the style. This not only gives you a different look, but over time you may be able to make your own signature style. This is the application of ‘natural selection’ to design.
  • Find Old Ways to Do New Things - This may be the hardest thing to do. I’m still working on it. The last step, in essence, was to do old things in new ways. This step is the opposite. Do you have a set procedure to design? Try to look at something with fresh eyes, a blank piece of paper, if you will. Then apply your procedure to it. Use old ways and apply them freshly. This is what I call “designing intentionally”. Don’t just go through the motions to get something done, but take every step in the process very seriously. Do everything with a purpose, and see where you can get.
  • Hope these very few steps can help you on your way to creativity and orginality in a design world where everyone is indistinguishable.

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    wow awesome guidelines ! especially for young designers like me a great way to work a bit more free but structurized… sounds confusing but has its sense ;)

    Julius Koroll
    October 29th, 2006

    Thanks for the tips.

    October 30th, 2006


    You’ve got some innovative tips there. I think numbers 2 and 3 are often overlooked in my opinion.

    I find tip number 3 very interesting. I sort of do that currently but I’ll focus on this more to experiment in my next design.

    Andrew Faulkner
    October 30th, 2006

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