Someone hands you a brief, you talk to them about their style, what they want to get across and who they are aiming it at, and all they want and the constraints of the project.
Whether it is a client job, helping out a less creative friend or just being the ‘creative one’ given the task of designing something for a family or community event. Somehow designing for someone else seems so much easier than when you decide to design something for yourself. Be it your logo, branding, business card, a poster, your blog layout or website.
You have the skill, the creative eye and know how to use photoshop well. But yet you find yourself in a mess, trying many ideas, feeling lost, never liking what you create or re-doing it over and over struggling to settle.
Designing for yourself can be hard, but with the right strategy, it can a whole lot easier.
I was there for a long time. Never quite settled on my own style. Always experimenting, changing things and ‘unsure of myself’ visually. I was always wondering if it was good enough, or if it properly represented me and my talents. As if somehow one design should sum up everything about me and all I was capable of. I was putting way too much pressure on it.
WHY IS IT SO HARD TO DESIGN FOR YOURSELF?
You Are Less Forgiving of Your Own Work
Maybe it’s just me, but if I buy food out or eat something someone else has made, it somehow seems yummier then if I made it. Not because I can’t cook, or because what I made isn’t as nice. There is this magic in something being done for you. We don’t see the full process, we don’t know all its secrets, we don’t know all its flaws or what may have gone wrong. We just see that final product. And because we are more forgiving of others than ourselves (think about how you see your body compared to others), it seems perfect in our eyes. When you design for yourself, you see the 67 revisions that just were not working. You saw the poor sketches, you can spot all the flaws, you can almost see how it was made too well that you struggle to look at it as an end product, you have been staring at it for hours that now it just looks ridiculous.
You Want to Say too much in One Thing
. Admit it… you want everyone to know how awesome and talented you are. So you decide to design a logo, and it has to be hand-lettered, animated and illustrated and turned into a font. Becuase then everyone will know you are the king of creativity right and everyone will know how multitalented and gifted you are just by looking at your logo. So it might not be that extream, but it can be hard to stick to what is necessary, and only communicate what that one piece of design needs to communicate.
You Skip Steps of the Design Process.
It’s you, you don’t need to faff about and get your own opinion on ideas or spend hours developing a concept, just cut to the chase. It can be so easy to bypass stages of the process, hop right into photoshop and start whipping something up without first thinking it through. You think it doesn’t matter because it is for you and there is no one to get feedback from or be accountable to.
You Want to Encapsulate Yourself
You want it to encapsulate everything about who you are. You like a lot of things, a lot of different things. There is no way to embody your entire personality and interests in one single design. Yet even though we know it is ridiculous we still attempt to do it.
You Change Your Mind way to Often.
Or should I say distracted by new inspiration too often? Just when you think you have it all down pat, you see something else that inspires you and makes you want to try something completely different. Or you stumble upon a font that is just way better than the one you are already using. There is a struggle to settle and feel confident about the design choices you have made. You are always looking out for how it could be better.
You are too Hard on Yourself.
We are our own worse critics. It’s all too easy to pick holes in your own work. To feel it just isn’t good enough. To compare it to other peoples work and feel it just isn’t measuring up. Rather than focussing on creating a design that fulfils the need, we wind up focussing on creating a design that is the best we have ever done and better then anyone one else as well. And because you set the bar so high, you are never happy with what you have created.
You Don’t Have Anyone to get Feedback From.
You lack having someone to get feedback from and bounce ideas around with or provide a second point of view. Even designers who work alone, can get feedback and bounce ideas with their clients. But when you are designing for yourself, you are both client and designer. This can be one of the hardest parts of designing for yourself. There is that lack of a second pair of eyes and a reassurance that someone else sees things the way you do or can suggest something you would not have thought of on your own.
You Don’t Define the Deeper Meaning
You don’t take the time for self-discovery and honing down on your why who you are and what you are offering. You fail to get to the root of what you are designing for and the deeper meaning behind it and the function it needs to serve. It becomes to surface level about looking pretty or playing with current trends.
You Don’t have Enough Constraints.
Too much freedom stifles creativity. When you are given a project from someone else it comes with limitations, requirements and restrictions. When you have no limits and anything is possible it leaves you overwhelmed and paralysed. When you have constraints you are forced to think how to be creative within the constraints you have. For example, if you were told to make the most amazing food ever verses if you were asked to make an amazing chocolate cake with only the ingredients in your house and it must include one fruit. Which challenge do you think you would be more creative with and find easier to get on with doing confidently.
HOW TO OVERCOME THE OBSTACLES OF DESIGNING FOR YOURSELF
One day, I was sorting out my office and found a notebook from my design student days. I some examples I had done of the design process and an old mind map I made when I was working out my new personal branding as I prepared to graduate. I realised I had changed a lot since then, had become clearer about myself and my business, but yet never had taken the time to sit down again and go through an in-depth process with myself.
So I created my own in-depth process, one that dug deeper then what I would do for a client, to help me get really clear about the brand I wanted to create, so that I could confidently design for myself and not experiment on myself, get caught up in trends, pretty things that inspired me or comparing myself to what other people were doing. I wanted to create something rock solid so that I knew what I was designing had a purpose and was telling my unique brand story.
If you want to overcome the challenges of designing for yourself you need to set in place a structured process and boundaries and rules, so that you are not floundering, overwhelmed or chopping and changing your mind all the time.
So what do you need to set in place before designing for yourself:
You Need to set a Clear and In-depth Process
As I mentioned, I went deeper then I would for a client. Often it easy to look at someone else and quickly form an impression about who they are and there style, because you are an outsider and just seeing it for what it is, and as a designing is about communicating that to someone else, it is easy to see how you saw that, and then how to get that same message across to someone else so that they see the same thing you did.
However, when it comes to yourself, you know yourself perhaps a little too well, that it can feel less clear. You think about the things you love, what you do and what inspires you. But self-perception is a funny thing, and how we see ourselves isn’t necessarily how others see us, or how we might want to be seen.
So you need to ask lots of questions, about who you are what you do, what you like, your history and habits, and start collecting keywords, and seeing it pull together to create an overarching feel.
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You may not have a client giving you a brief, but this doesn’t mean you can’t create a brief for yourself and set your own requirments, restrictions and constraints. Decide what you can work with, what it needs to be used for, and project appropraite constaints like size, colour limits, length or time limit, things that must be included, and what materials you should work with.
e.g I need to make an illustration for my blog post, and it has to be monochromatic and created with Procreate.
If it seems hard to decided on what your constraints should be, consider what is in line with and appropriate for your branding or the overarching project and what you want to achieve beyond the piece of work itself, such as do you want to get it done quickly, then you should constrain yourself to things you are familiar and efficient in and will make the process faster. Alternatively, if you want to also learn something new or practice something you recently learnt then restrict yourself to using that technique.
Be Clear On the Purpose
Write it down and define exactly what the purpose and goal of the work are. Who is it targeting, what is the message it needs to communicate. Why is the work necessary or desired? What action are you trying to make people take, and this doesn’t always need to be a physical action like clicking a link or going to an event. It can also be actions like being inspired or understanding a concept better (for example if you design a graphic or layout to go with text and you want it to help people better understand what they are reading).
By being clear on the purpose, you can check in along the way and be sure what you create is indeed fulfilling that purpose and you are not being led astray trying to make something clever, cool, trendy or pretty without real purpose.
If you struggle with not having someone to provide you feedback, bounce ideas off or you just easily stray, you may want to seek out someone or a group where you can get feedback. Perhaps seeing what a friend or family member thinks to get an outside view, maybe another creative who you can bounce around ideas with, maybe a group or community where you can share your work and get feedback and advice. If you find yourself procrastinating or stuck, it may just take that second pair of eyes and a few thoughts from another perspective to keep you moving forward.
You can Do it!