Just like every legendary artist has their own distinct style and way of crafting their work, it seems every successful designer has theirs too.
But how does one go about developing that unique vision and style? How do you create it, build it from the ground up and then maintain it long enough to have it become a trademark style? What makes for a successful design vision?
Tailored to the audience
Constructing a design vision that is tailored to your audience is another fantastic way to ensure your design appeals to the right people. Think about how a jewellery store may use visuals to construct a tone of luxury and romance, while a sporting goods store may opt for something more energetic and personality-driven.
For example, let’s compare the social media graphics of luxury jewellery brand Pandora against youthful female-oriented brand Batiste. Pandora use muted colors, elegant imagery, minimal compositions to create a sophisticated, romantic, and luxurious vision.
Batiste on the other hand use bright colors, playful imagery to create a more energetic, youthful, and lighthearted design vision.
Your first port of call should be to refer back to your audience profile and choose an appropriate tone. How best can you speak to these people? Casually and colloquially, or professionally and seriously?
Be selective about your choice of colors, typefaces, and elements – consistently ask yourself whether or not they evoke a tone of voice that your audience will identify with.
A successful visual style should be flexible enough to be applied to a range of different mediums and applications. Consider all of the applications that you will need to cover with this style (i.e. social media graphic types, branding applications, various publications etc.)
For example, check out Audible’s design style across their social media platform. The vibrant, cheerful, but thoughtfully created designs speak to the Audible brand and are applicable across a range of content types.
Does this visual style communicate what needs to be communicated in the most effective way? Try to pinpoint what your overall goal is (e.g. ‘I want to create a social media design that promotes my brand’s products as clean, environmentally friendly and organic’) and work to select and choose visuals that best underpin that.
A good design vision is kept consistent. Try to avoid creating one deliverable that has one tone/style and then another with a completely different one – this only serves to confuse your message and muddy up your vision.
Consistency vs. Repetition
On the topic of consistency, one of the important things to remember when defining and designing your vision is to not confuse consistency for repetition.
Design is about problem solving and about finding the best possible way to communicate an idea visually. So, by reverting back to the same graphical solution for every design you create, you are not giving yourself the chance to capture attention and sell your message in the best possible way.
But, this isn’t to say that we can’t develop a distinct visual and conceptual vision for our designs.
For example, designer Timothy Goodman has a very distinct and personalized vision that runs throughout all of his designs – both stylistically and thematically speaking.
By using bright colors, sharp shapes, and playful type, he creates works that are instantly recognisable as his own. But, the witty, daring and honest tone of voice used in each design is also tailored and consistent to his own brand.
Having a vision does not just mean choosing one style or one layout and sticking to that, it means developing a voice, visual concept, and method of problem solving. Designers like Timothy Goodman choose to approach creative briefs in a punchy, honest and modern way, and you may develop your own approach.
Define Your Vision
So, we know what makes for a successful design vision, but how do you go about constructing your own?
The best way to get started with defining your vision is to look back at your audience. Who are you designing for? What tone and aesthetic would best capture their attention and speak to them?
If you still find yourself a bit lost, have a look at your competitors. What other brands/designers/artists/people are offering similar content to you? Whose approach do you admire? Try to avoid directly copying or imitating any visual directions you see in your competitors, but rather try to get a feel for what makes for a successful audience-geared design.
The best way to get started with defining your vision is to write down a list of keywords that describe how you want your designs to both look and feel. Create two lists for each, break out the thesaurus and jot down a series of adjectives. For example:
By breaking your vision down into simple terms, you are able to create a checklist for yourself that you will be able to refer back to throughout the design process.
How to Capture Your Vision
Sleek & Professional
Looking to create something suitable for corporate and professional endeavours? Here are a few ways you can create a sleeker, more refined aesthetic to match your professional vision.
Keep it minimal. Don’t include anything that isn’t crucial to the design and communication.
Use plenty of whitespace. Don’t think of it as empty space but space that helps your design ‘breathe’. It will boost the clarity and luxurious feel of your design.
Use clean, light sans serifs, and/or simple, elegant serifs. No flashy, complex, or hard to read typefaces here.
Cooler colors tend to work best with sleeker layouts. Don’t limit yourself to blues, but consider building your palette along the cooler end of the spectrum, or dabbling with monochrome – black and white never go out of style.
Youthful and fun
If you’re looking to create a fresher, more vibrant design that appeals to all things fun and young, here are some tips for how to achieve that:
Use bright, warmer colors. Bump up the saturation and break out the primary colors for a bold, fun look.
Experiment with sharp, geometric shapes to create a bold, modern look.
Use bold sans serifs and/or display typefaces to create an eye catching typographical look. If you do opt for display typefaces, use them sparingly and in contrast with cleaner, simpler fonts.
Elegant and romantic
Maybe you want less of a vibrant or sleek look and more of a classic, romantic vibe for your designs. In this case, let’s break down how to achieve that style:
Use elegant serifs. Typefaces with swashes and flowing lines can create a beautiful effect.
Mixing blocks of flat colors against your imagery can keep things modern and sharp but maintain that stylish, romantic feel.
Use soft pastels and metallic tones (golds, coppers, etc.) to create a stunningly sophisticated palette.
To help you get on your way to defining and visualising your own personal style, we’re going to approach this problem backwards.
Open up a Canva document and create yourself a social media graphic that goes against the grain of what you want you stylistic vision to be. Create something that you still think looks good but that doesn’t work for you.
For example, check out this social media graphic for a family-friendly exercise group. The sleek monochromatic design and elegant typefaces may look good but they don’t bode well for the context. See how by creating a design that is the antithesis of your vision you can better understand what your vision is. Have a go for yourself.
Once you’ve done this have a step back and list the reasons why this piece you have just created doesn’t meet your vision. Be specific. How would you change the graphic to better suit your vision? Why does this design not fit the brief/context?