I think it’s important for us as designers to be a bit insecure about our work from time to time. It pushes us to improve and to push our boundaries. There is a difference between sulking or whining about not being good enough, and what I’m referring to – which is the statement “Dang, they’re better than me. I must get better!”
I deal with this from time to time, for different reasons. I’m a true lover of graphic design, and I have a physical reaction in my chest when I see a piece that is just done right. Good design hits you, and I want my work to be able to hit people the way good design hits me.
My usual frustration is that I have a willingness to take on nearly any project. I’ve been this way for a long time. After starting doing band tees in 2002, I’ve found myself trying my hand at so many different aesthetics. I’ve always felt that more value comes from being extremely versatile. I like to think that I continue getting commissioned for a vast array of projects because they know I can do it.
My portfolio looks like a smorgasbord of aesthetics. While many of my peers have referenced my style, I don’t think it’s as pronounced as many other designers’ portfolios. With so many styles, it’s hard for people to be able to see who I am. In being so versatile, do I lose my identity completely? Is specialization better than versatility? What if you can do it all pretty well?
In my 9 years doing this, I’ve seen styles come and go. I’ve seen designers’ names get big, and then fade away just as quick as they came. I guess I steer clear of the temptation of bombarding the world with one very distinct style, getting recognition for it, but then being pigeonholed with the style, and having to go down with the ship.
But the hard truth is that the One-Trick-Pony steals the show. The old horse that’s been around for years, steady and consistent, sits out of the spotlight. But that horse will always be around, when the crowd gets tired of the Pony.
I want to continue to find my identity, and my true aesthetic — but I know that I need to maintain my versatility in order to keep a career of doing what I love to do the most.
I am a graphic designer. I’ll do everything that I can to stay one for the rest of my life.