NICHE OR NOT?

Business card design, niche or various styles

Should Graphic Designers find and stick to a niche –
or branch out and try new styles?

This is a question that I struggle with because I have yet to find my niche. Following my favourite artists, it is easier to select the ones that stick to their style because it’s instantly recognizable as their own. I want to say that you also get the option to look at their work when you are “in the mood” for their style which sounds strange but it is more than true. Similar to when you are radiantly happy you like to listen to upbeat, cheerful music and when you are sad, you teeter towards a more melancholy melody and sound.

It’s the same as viewing art and design. For example, when Halloween was nearby and you would log onto Tumblr you would find Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, Beetlejuice and multiple other Tim Burton related works of art. Whereas now that Christmas is coming up, your dashboard will be flooded with Michael Bublé/Bing Crosby singles and Claymation gifs.

This is a bit contradictory for me because although this is how I choose my favourite artists, I think I am leaning towards the direction of branching out into different styles. For one thing, not being afraid to try new things will increase your client base. Anyone who can view your work and see your potential would hire you without hesitance because they know that you are willing to try new implementations. It also proves that you have the skills as a designer even if you didn’t have the artistic talent.

This might get some people scratching their heads, “There’s a difference?” I like to think, yes. I was nervous going to art school because I wasn’t sure that I had the same artistic talent as my peers. I was always interested in all forms of art but I couldn’t whip up a Manet at the snap of my fingers. It’s the same as food… I love sweets and I could come up with some amazing flavour combinations for desserts. But would I know the measurements, temperature, and time span? Most likely, not. That’s what recipes are for. And that’s what art school was for. There are many fundamental skills to learn; specifically basics of typography, layout, and understanding the programs we use. Which means, you can have the technical skills of design without being too advanced in the artistry. You can begin excelling in layout and all you have to use is placeholders, asking the client to supply you with the images. You would still be considered a Graphic Designer.

Now, having these skills and artistic talent is a bonus. This is where you should throw yourself into new styles and techniques. Not only are you adding diverse projects to your portfolio to increase attention span, but you are constantly learning. If someone asked you to create a logo that was “Surreal”, and you didn’t quite understand what they meant; you look it up, and familiarize yourself with what they are looking for. The whole process is research and in the end you are learning new techniques and facts that you can showcase in future projects. Likewise, you don’t get tired of your work. Sometimes I take so much time on a project that there will be days I don’t even want to click a mouse. That’s when I can reach for my camera, my sketchbook, my headphones, etc. It would be hard to avoid if your selected niche was digital illustration, for example. You would have to constantly and solely stare at the screen while creating your graphics.

A negative side to testing a variety of styles is that it would be nearly impossible to become an expert in a specific one. Designers that specialize in illustration and keep that one focus, can become quicker at their practice, innovative, and form a consistent style/identity. Every time they are designing for a client they are advancing their craft and getting better. The more experience you have with something the easier it is. That’s just common sense.

There are pros and cons to both but what works best for me is trying new things. I really like learning anything artistic. If I was immortal I would find myself a mentor for every form of art and revel in it all. The sad reality is I won’t live forever- and a lot of it is about nostalgia for me. I like the feeling of knowing I can express myself in many different ways and I like creating things that I can look back on. It’s interesting and fun for me to remember what I was thinking or how I felt while making a piece. I am lucky enough to look back on videos, poems, photographs, sketchbooks and remember my process. That’s why I think it is best to use various mediums and attempt new styles.
What do you guys think? Leave a comment and let me know the best approach to design. Is it smarter to stick to a style and grow? Or spread out and try a multitude of characteristics? I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer but I’d like to hear some thoughts. I wish you all luck on your designing endeavor.

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