Creating a unique brand style and voice can help differentiate you from the thousands of other creatives or studios, making you more desirable in the job market.
Your brand style and voice will reflect a mix of your personality, inspirations, values and mission. Here are six steps I believe helped me develop my style & voice:
Step One: Expose yourself to a wide variety of inspirations from different disciplines, not just from your own field. Look at film, music, art, photography, fashion, writing, design, etc. Become a collector of things that you find beautiful or that resonate with you on an emotional level. In time, you will notice patterns and themes within your collections, all pointing to what resonates with you. These patterns can hold clues to the passions, experiences, emotions & styles that you gravitate towards — all of which can be used to develop your own unique voice. I suggest keeping records of these inspirations either digitally (you can use Drive / Pinterest / Dropbox / Behance) or with a physical notebook.
Step Two: It helps to have a solid understanding of your industry field’s history as well as the contemporary scene so that when you are developing your unique style, you understand its context. This will help you judge whether what you're making is unique enough or whether it’s too referential of a past or current creative’s work. I suggest learning as much as you can about those who came before you and those who inspire you most in your field. Learn about their philosophies, styles of working and who their own mentors were.
Step Three: Devote time to experimenting with various styles & techniques. Play with new tools & materials within your medium. Try using untraditional tools or techniques that you’ve never seen used before.
Allow yourself the time & space to play and try strange things without frustration or fear of failure. You have to make a lot of bad work before you get somewhere good. Somewhere within this experimentation process, you will discover something new. You will discover what kind of styles and mediums you like working with most and what outcomes you gravitate towards aesthetically.
Step Four: Unfortunately, there are too many people doing the same things or using the same style. Whatever it is, your unique constraints can help create you a memorable and ownable style that people can begin to know you for. The more unique your constraints are, the more distinct your style will be, which can help you get more recognition.
Step Five: It is useful to explore yourself and understand what makes you unique as a human. Often what we perceive as negative traits, such as our obsessions, insecurities or hang-ups, are often quite universal and human.
Write down your personal story and history, and through this, you will find your voice and what you have to say. You will find things you are passionate about & want to explore in your work. You can use this as a way to make meaningful connections with audiences through your creative lens.
Step Six: When I was preparing big projects and workshops, I started out by writing a sort of diary of the things I had learned and what I wanted to say. Through this, I discovered the areas of the creative process that were most important to me. It helped me articulate what I had learned creatively, as well as my intentions and motivations with my work. It helped me notice patterns in my creative process and made me more self-aware of my strengths and weaknesses. All of this has helped inform my voice, what I want to say through my work and the kind of work I want to make more of.
Keep making things. Keep writing. Keep your eyes and ears out for new inspirations. Stay curious.
The idea of “innate talent” is a myth in my opinion. No one pops out of the womb as a great designer. I was terrible when I started out. I became good at what I do by putting in the hours, studying, refining & evolving my craft. You have to experiment, try things & make a lot of bad work before you make something good. Don’t ever give up or feel frustrated that it’s “too late” for you.
So while it's good to push yourself, remember to enjoy the process. Otherwise, what's the point?