Paper Cuts: Finding Your Own Style

Back in November I asked on Instagram if there were any specific topics you wanted me to cover on this here blog. You had a lot of great ideas, and I'm really thrilled to have topics that I know you're interested in. I'm happy to share my own experiences with you in hopes that you can learn and relate from my adventures. I'm not perfect by any means, but I'm happy to share the imperfections. I've loved your feedback and it makes my heart happy to know you all enjoy reading these posts as much as I enjoy writing them. 

Moving right along, today I'm here to talk about something a lot of you asked about, and something that I honestly still struggle with. Finding our own personal brand and style. It's really a journey to discover your own creative voice, and I think I'm still on that journey. I definitely have a clear design style - but I never know what to call it. I thought it was classic, traditional, minimal, and romantic - but those words seem to be a nonsensical jumble to me. Clients began writing in and telling me they loved my "classic, but non-stuffy" and "classically whimsical" designs. Humph, what does that mean? I love the idea that my designs are classic, but not stuffy - that's pretty much exactly what I go for, but I wish there was a better way to word it. Any ideas? Maybe I'm struggling because the name of my style is "Sincerely, Jackie". But how, exactly, did I even get to this point? I guess that's what I'm hear to talk about, ha!

There are a LOT of ways to find your voice, but for me it was all about practice, studying, self-reflection and consistency.

I practiced early on in my business by designing for family and friends, which I talk about more in this post on finding my first clients. Practicing allowed me to discover what design styles and methods felt most naturally to me. It also gave me the opportunity to learn which design styles really didn't work for me, as well as areas I needed to learn more about.

While I was working on designs, I studied work by other designers I admired. I spent years, YEARS, trying to uncover what my style was and I still work on curating my style with each and every project I take on. Pre-Pinterest, I would cut out pages of magazines and save them in little plastic sleeves in a binder (remember those?!). Now, with the life-changer that is Pinterest, I'm able to pin all of my favorite images in once place. I mostly pin images of interiors, logos, typography, and some invitation designs. A really helpful exercise that I do with all of my pins is to go back and do some self-reflection. I sift through the images, asking myself the following  questions:

Why do I love these photos/designs?Because they're pretty, classic, balanced, and romantic, with a little sprinkle of comfort.

What do they all have in common?They're all mostly neutral, classic colors, with whimsical pops and accents.

Do they have similar color palettes?Hm, how funny, they sure do. I tend to lean towards light colors, with mostly soft accents, and possibly a few bright pops here and there.

Do you notice a theme in the invitation designs you pinned? Sure do! Clean text, maybe three fonts used (at most) at a time, and one accent font to pull it all together - maybe a classic script.

After continuously going through this little exercise, I realized that I had a very clear visual of what made me feel giddy and warm inside. I knew I wanted those elements to come through in my own work. So, as I continued designing, I would always try to ask myself if I could see my design pinned alongside any of those other images that I loved so much. It was kind of my litmus test to make sure I was still speaking my own language.

Once I figured out what made me warm inside, I tried to remain as consistent to that as possible. I believe that consitency is what turns style into a curated brand. I ithink of my brand style as a language  and I always try to speak the same language. My language, it seems, is romantic, classic, whimsical, comfortable. The large majority of my work speaks that language, although every now and then I add a new word: bold, playful, colorful...whatever it is that I am doing to push myself a little. This year I want to play with new things, like water color and lettering, but I will be sure to do it in my own language. For example, do I love a good illustrated wedding invitation? Heck yes, I absolutely admire designers who can do that, but it just isn't me. It's not my language. If I tried to take on that style, it wouldn't feel authentic, and I'd probably teeter along the dreadful line of imitation. Can I firmly, without standing on a huge soapbox, stress the importance of originality?! FRIENDS, do NOT COPY other designers! OK, I'm off the soap box.That wasn't to bad, was it?

So there you have it, some of the ways in which I've been curating my own style, my own language, my own voice, and my own brand. This post is certainly not the end of my journey, and I'll be sure to add lessons I continue to learn.

I'm curious - how have all of you found your styles? Is it a moving target, or something you feel really cozy and comfy with?

Wednesdays here on the blog are all about sharing Paper Cuts, which is a behind-the-scenes, down to Earth business advice series. I hope you've enjoyed today's Paper Cuts topic, and look forward to having you back next time! To read past Paper Cut posts, click here.