I recently joined a small online debate on whether designers should have a signature design style or be adaptable
My first thought on this that would depend on what type of designer you are. I am putting in my view as I mainy design brand identity and websites. When working with established brands they often have brand identity in place and it is important you are able to adapt to their style. There is no point in having your own particular style in larger organisations where they have spent hundreds of thousands perfecting their brand. In these scenarios it is good to come up with ideas which keeps the brand evolving but in their style.
When designing a brand from scratch I think your own style often emerges – maybe not on purpose – but it comes through. But I do believe it is important to be as flexible as possible. If you are flicking between a children’s brand, a car racing driver website and a luxury clothing brand then the styles should vary greatly. This is where you get creative with typography, colour and styles to create brands and websites which represent their personalities.
Design decisions are not often made – contrary to popular belief on ‘it looks nice.’ Design decisions are usually based on giving something hierarchy, presence and expressing the brand personality whilst clearly getting the message across.
I think in my line of work ‘my style’ has to vary considerably but I think you can see reflections of it in my work. I recently worked on a design project and the nature of it was well outside of my comfort zone, I had about three days of complete panic where I couldn’t get the look and feel I felt was appropriate. It took a few trips to the book shop and a bit of research to get into the head space of that marketplace and its audience.
There are definitely some styles I prefer designing in than others, and some styles which come naturally whereas others take a bit of research and experiment. If someone asks me to design in a vintage style I do a lot of research into the vintage styles. I spend a lot of time in bookshops, museums, libraries and generally do a lot of research into fonts and colours before I start on the designs. My style is quite far away from vintage but I like to think I can adapt to it.
I know a few designers who have a very defined style and work only withing the one marketplace. All their work for each project differs greatly but the style is very predominate, and they are in demand. I think it comes down to how you want to work. I used to work a lot with luxury brands and enjoyed it, and I love that end of the market still. However, I also like working with brands who are looking for something different, to stand out and be slightly experimental with their approach, which means I can do the same. We all want to stretch our boundaries and be a little unpredictable!