Student Answers 03: On Style

I touched on this in both 01 and 02 but I think, to be clear, I really don’t believe I have a style, rather, that my style is in my approach. This is probably one of the more hotly contested topics I’m asked about, it’s also something that crops up in lazy briefs: ‘We think your style would be perfect for this t-shirt’ or ‘We’d love you to bring your style to this headline’. Any emails I get like that usually fall on deaf ears.

I know a lot of successful designers and design houses who have a style; that’s to say, you could pretty much pick any two pieces from their portfolio and know they were by the same person. And I think that’s fine for them but wrong for me, for the following reasons.

For the record: I attempt to approach each brief as a unique and individual thing, coming at it with as few preconceptions as possible. Any instances where I have repeated a treatment have been because an art director has seen a personal piece and wanted to re-appropriate the treatment for a commission. I think this is why I’m probably considered to be difficult to work with; I really fight against doing anything I have done before in every brief I receive which is a tough sell to a lot of clients. They tend to want to know exactly what they’re getting before they get it and before they sign off on the budget. That’s really just not the way I work. I’d rather position myself as the guy who you know will deliver something of a certain quality and based around type but what exactly you’ll get is a mystery.

That’s not to say I exclude people from the creative process: I realise this can tough for some people to get their head around but I think it’s important to keep everyone involved in a project on the same page; from the Art Director and Writer to the client. That way there’s a chance that they’ll come back and from returning clients comes trust.

I’ll refer once more to Vignelli’s quote (in Answers 01) – that he solution to every problem should be delivered in an appropriate visual manner. Therefore, if I come at a brief with a look or a treatment already in mind, whatever that may be, then the solution is going to fall short. If I used the same typeface for every brief that would be incorrect. If always used the same colour scheme, that too would be incorrect. Even if I hand drew everything with the same pen; also incorrect.

I think the point at which you’re being commissioned for your style is the point at which you’ve crossed over from being a designer to being an illustrator.