How do you keep your work from looking like someone else’s?
How do you find your style?
In case you’re struggling with this like I used to, here are 10 tips to keep in mind while you’re going through this process.
1. Stop Trying to Find It
You’re wasting your time trying to “find” your style. It doesn’t work that way and it surely doesn’t happen overnight. Great design takes time and so does developing a style. Spend your time practicing, instead of searching for something that isn’t there. The sooner you start lettering on a regular basis, the faster you will grow.
2. Schedule Time to Practice
This is a very important step. Practicing on a regular basis is the quickest way you will learn. The same concept can apply to anything else you wish to become better at. If you’re serious about it, you will make the time. Don’t expect any results for a couple of years.
In the beginning, I didn’t do this and my work eventually started looking similar to the person I followed on social media. It’s inevitable if you don’t diversify your inspiration. I suggest following multiple artists, read books, take walks or travel if you can. These are all great ways to help you get inspiration. You might even find it in places where you least expect it.
I mentioned you should diversify your sources of inspiration, that’s because you don’t want to end up copying someone else’s work. The good news is that there are some special cases when it’s okay to do that. For the most part, it’s acceptable to copy if you’re just practicing and you’re not sharing it as your own work. If you find yourself copying the work of another hand lettering artist, have some respect and attribute him/her.
5. Don’t Cut Corners
The worst thing you can do is force a style. This can lead to bad things, like unintentional copying. It may be innocent on your part, but it can give off the wrong impression and you don’t want to damage relationships before they even start. Give yourself some time to establish a rhythm and process that works for you.
6. Trust the Process
A style can come from having a system or process in place and it’s unique to you. How else can you discover it if you’re not actually going through the steps? Having a design process that works for you will allow you to build tendencies and patterns. Eventually, these will become part of you and they are what will make your style recognizable.
7. Get Feedback
Ask your peers if they see any consistencies throughout your work. Get them to give you honest feedback. Having an outside perspective can tell you a lot about your style.
Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Try new techniques, explore other lettering styles and experiment with your tools. You might be surprised by what you find by doing things slightly different than usual.
9. Find a Mentor
Mentorship isn’t like it used to be, but it shouldn’t stop you from asking for advice. More than likely, the big-time artists that are working for agencies and well-known companies probably won’t have the time to go one-on-one with you. You’ll have better luck reaching out to those that are just a few notches ahead because of their availability.
In the past, I’ve received a few emails from people asking for my advice and I know how important it is to them. I was in the same position not that long ago. It’s always encouraging when you have guidance and support from those you admire.
10. Be Patient
This is a difficult pill to swallow for most people, especially in the beginning. All we want is to be as good as the people we look up to. What we don’t see is the time and effort they put in before we started following their work. We only see the now and it can be intimidating, but don’t let that discourage you. With time and hard work, you will grow your skills in a couple of years (if you put in the effort).
Don’t expect any results even after the first year. In 2014, I wanted to learn how to get better with brush pens and pen pressure. I wasn’t fully committed to a daily schedule, but it was close to it and I eventually became more comfortable with brush pens. You can learn quicker if you focus and narrow down what you specifically want to get better at.
Remember, your style is the result of practice and your influences. There is no one-word answer to finding it.