“Geniality is the ability do make connections” – Leonardo da Vinci.
In the creative process, there’s the step in which we need to “remember”, which means bringing to the table the pool of knowledge and experience we all have, also called familiarity. Imagine all this knowledge as materials an artist can use to make his piece: textures, images, paintings, pencils, and pens of different kinds. The novelty comes on what choices the artists makes, the connections he makes to come up with his final product. One of the things that can block the creative flow of this process is to have something on this pool of knowledge that is influencing the artist so much it starts working as a chain, holding him back and constraining the openness needed to achieve novelty. Graphic designers can be deeply influenced by a series of factors, in different stages of the productive process: his favorite design movement, the designer he’s inspired by, an specific aesthetic, material, and so on. All of this is healthy and expected; unless the “influence” gets so predominant it affects the outcome of the project.
Take me for example, I am widely influenced by the modernist movement and some of it’s most acclaimed designers, which consequently means I naturally tend to apply formulas based on this specific aesthetic to my own work. This helps to create my personal style, which it’s important since Design is a authorial in some level, but it also makes harder for me, for instance, to design things out of the aesthetic of a strict grid, bold simple typography and clean minimalist layouts. If I don’t constantly push myself into other directions, I can get stuck into a design pattern.
It’s important to consider that designers are not artists, in a sense they have clients to report to, conventions to follow, briefs to guide, consumers to relate to and market strategy to respect. Most importantly, unlike art, design is not a personal expression or a manifestation of our vision to the world. Our work belongs to our clients, it’s going to be used by them, directly affected by them and should represent their vision, not ours. But all this does not mean we can’t add a bit of ourselves to our projects. More than that, just by being the designer of a piece, one’s personal background its directly affecting the outcome of the project. That’s why Design Thinking provides us with infinite great answers for the same question. Which leads to an important question: should designers have their own style or should they be chameleons adapting their work for different clients? I believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Having your own style does not mean relying on the same solutions and aesthetics (even if they were extremely novel at some point, or still are, to the community). Claude Estebe, web-designer and acclaimed blogger, stated “I feel that the best designers usually have their own style, specially if it’s quite subtle and hardly noticeable in some instances — there is always something of their own that they added to the work. And when you don’t immediately recognize one of their work, after a while you’ll get to say. Ah, now I see it.”
Design trends can be dangerous
“So why close our eyes to the rules and styles around us? We are always looking for something unique and new, even at the cost of incomprehension? After all, if someone is able to create a modern design it just means that he is able to express the spirit of our time!Explore graphic design, inspire yourself and stay trendy!” – TrendList.org
AboutTrendList.org is basically a collaborative website where users can globally share formal inspirations. The site’s aim is to “to spot when and where graphic design tendencies rise, in which countries they are most extended or you can follow their evolution in time.” It is in fact, a useful tool for creatives to be aware of what’s happening, to gather more information and nice references to improve their work. But want thing has to be taken in consideration in the main core purposes of this website, described by them in their about: “Being able to create modern design just means being able to express the spirit of our time”. Is this true? Being creative is just being able to express what’s already there, around us? Or is more than that, to actually be able to bring to the world the ideas that will, eventually, be around us?
They end their about by declaring “explore graphic design, inspire yourself and stay trendy” which basically means that in order to make good graphic design we must follow certain patterns dictated by what’s currently “trendy”. Bringing patternization, comfortableness and familiarity to the process, we can get nowhere else, but to places we have been already. To be aware of what’s happening is knowledge all designers must have, but with one purpose only: improve our knowledge and reference pool. Relying only on what’s already being done to conceive novel ideas is paraxial and unproductive.