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Making a Statement: What Your Work Says About You

by Taylor Slattery | November 17, 2020

What Your Work Says About You

A common concern amongst young artists and designers is style. How do I find my style and how can I get there faster? Those with this mindset place a lot of importance on the uniqueness of their work, often at the cost of quality. In fact, claiming one’s mistakes are simply part of a style is a common defense mechanism amongst young artists to shield themselves from critiques of their knowledge of the fundamentals and technical ability. But what exactly is style?

In my opinion, style is just fundamentals filtered through the amalgamation of our taste and experiences. It’s the sum of all the things we’ve been exposed to, especially those we’ve been most attracted to, paired with our skill level and technical mastery. By this definition, style is something we all inherently possess regardless of our technical ability.

Within this pairing, the cultivation of taste is a much more passive process, one that takes place without any conscious effort on our part. In pursuit of style, I believe many young artists mistakenly focus on this aspect, when in reality, this foundation has already been built, they simply need the technical ability to properly express it. In the beginning, placing too much importance on looking unique takes away from valuable time that could be spent developing your skills.

Attempting to take shortcuts to develop your style is a fast-track path to a creative identity crisis. There is no shortcut. That isn’t to say we can’t borrow from those who inspire us, but there is a fine line between emulation and imitation. Focus on how the creators you admire apply fundamentals in their work and dissect their pieces to better understand their decision-making. Use the insights you gain to inform your own work, but don’t borrow everything from a single creator.

As I said, style is an amalgamation of our unique tastes and experiences, and when you copy someone’s entire artistic DNA, or even borrow too much from a single source, the evidence is there for everyone to see.

So what does our style say about us, and why does it even matter? Our creative voice is another facet of our personality. Every aspect of the work we make from the line quality, to subject matter, and color choice is a reflection of our values and influences. Virtually every creative decision we make helps to tell part of the story of who we are. The unique combination of our life experiences, tastes, and our technical ability together comprise our creative voice. When these things are in harmony, we’re able to speak with clarity.


Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.


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