On Creative Individuality and Trend Alienation

Defining yourself is a bit of a big deal to me, especially if you're a designer, artist, or developer. I find the design and development world, while at a very vibrant and interesting time, to be quite stagnant as well as limited on design ideas and choices. I'm always open to new ideas and practices, but try and keep my individuality as a creative.

Lately, I've been rocking a Mohawk (which got complimented, thanks Dave Rupert!), and I did it mostly to do something different, but also because I've always seen a hindrance about my hair from others. As such, I'd rather be seen about my creativity, and personality, not just how I look. This got me thinking about creativity in our industry right now, as everyone seems to follow, but not so many question why. Everyone is unique, but it's important to keep our individuality in our work and style, it's what makes our industry so great.

I'm not one to just follow someone else's idea of design just because they, themselves, in their own subjective opinion, says it's what we should do, let alone how a designer should be. It's the same thing with trends and style, we seem to have this problem right now that your choices are judged over what everyone (apparently) says is the best thing to do right now, whether it's a design or practice. Some people even so much as put aesthetic over solving the problem.

I think it's about time I wrote something about this now, being a believer in punk I think it's best if I threw something in to contrast what is going on.

There are only so many wrongs you can do in this Industry

I think it's pretty difficult to be a young designer and get caught up in the opinionated and shallow culture we have in our industry. I've been noticing a lot of ideas lately, and while I don't think any of them are wrong, some just make it sound like everything apart from their idea is wrong. The way I see it is, there's only so much wrong you can do (if you're not following Web Standards, you should), and there are many ways to find the solution to your design. Always remember, design is subjective to taste but it must fulfill the overall objective, and that's more important.

I'm not a big believer in designing in the browser, using CSS IDs in classes nor do I see that I have to make my designs flat minimal. However, none of these are wrong. What I find worrying on some ideas is how alienating they can be. Just because a design isn't flat minimal does not make it wrong, and just because you use a preprocessor for writing CSS (or not) doesn't mean you are right. You should decide for yourself what's right; if it fits the parameters you have to work with, satisfies you creatively as well as suiting you and the design in question.

Find your niche, don't just follow blindly

I find it ridiculous when someone says, not what we should be doing, but what we need to do, or judge someone for their choices. I'd rather decide and see what's right for me creatively, as I'm only human as much as they are. I often see people go on about how bad how a certain design style is, yet doesn't that just make the creative boundaries even smaller? The thought of being judged for your own choices isn't a pleasant one.

I think the great thing about the web is if you don't like what you see, you make it yourself. It's like Punk Rock; if you don't like the songs on the radio, learn to play an instrument and make your own band.

Jeffrey Zeldman

If there's anything you need to gather at this point, it's that you should find your own way of design and listen to criticism, but don't let it discourage you from having different ideas, or ideas that contrast what other designers disagree with. I made a point earlier this year about things I want to do in 2013, and I'm going to get back into design, but the direction I want to go could be seen as a contrast as to what's going on. I want my work to show what kind of designer I am, what I can do, and who I am. I think that's how any designer should be, finding and deciding for yourself what's the right thing to do, instead of being involved in a creative dogma.

Having said all that, there's nothing wrong with listening to what people say but allow yourself a moment to think if it's a good idea, let alone if it's what you'd like to use in your practice. Follow people who inspire you, and listen to what they say and leave it up to yourself to think if it's the best thing to do. Right now, anything goes in our Industry as there are so many problems and we're trying to solve them very hard. Again, there are many ways to achieve what you think is the best idea, and don't let anyone force you to do so. There's best practice, and then there's a subjective take.

Say it with me

Decide for yourself what's the best way to go. We're all different, and it's up to us to decide what's a good idea for things like our designs, and the web, and they should show  the kind of designer, and person, you are. Don't just buy into an idea or trend because someone said so. Be yourself, creatively.

Written by Iain MacDonald

Iain MacDonald is a Web Designer and Developer from Glasgow, Scotland. He likes clean code, functionality, and vibrant design. You can find Iain on Twitter, Dribbble or at his Website.

1 Comment

  1. Matt said on June 22, 2013

    Damn, Iain… that was a fantastic read. Loved it a lot. You make some fantastic points.

    You’re right, the design community doesn’t know what is right or wrong, there is just this trend of simplicity. I’ve tired doing some of it recently but have failed. I’ve been able to mix certain elements of it with the apparently fading less-simplistic stuff and it’s worked quite well for me and what I do. But, you’re right, not everything works for everyone and every project.

    This article is now bookmarked and will being referring back to it time and time again.


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