Finding your own Creative Voice

Finding Your Own Creative Voice Modern Brush Lettering by Mel Volkman

This has been an incredibly interesting and unfortunately repetitive topic in my life these past few weeks, and in the midst of sending out my 3rd email just this week pertaining to copyright infringement, I realized that I’ve never really shared my thoughts on this subject. It’s such a touchy subject in general, but to be completely honest, its become quite the headache these days.

Just this week I was made aware of a designer attempting to rip off my entire brand (they have since apologized and removed the infringing material, thank you!), and as if that wasn’t enough, I stumbled across two more designers that felt it would be ok to copy some of my personal work. I don’t like having to be so retentive about this. Trust me, there are a million other things that I would rather be doing. But I do take my company, brand, and the work that I create for my clients very seriously. So, while it may be an inconvenience to my weekly (or even daily) schedule, it’s an inescapable task.

Look, I don’t know what the hell Mr. Wilde was on about, but imitation is the furthest thing from a compliment. It’s not flattering. It’s disrespectful. And above all, it’s downright LAZY. Feeling inspired is, of course, completely normal. It’s when that inspiration turns into a blatant copy that it becomes disrespectful. 

I feel it’s crucial that we, as creators, strive in setting ourselves apart. Especially in an industry that is so saturated in copy! Inspiration should be about giving you your own fresh new ideas, and never about replicating someone else’s hard work verbatim.

It’s our responsibility as creators to put our own unique voice into our work.. to challenge ourselves. That is how we evolve! But when you’re caught up in the game of copy, you’re always one step behind the originator. You become a shadow, and it becomes harder and harder to find your own voice.

Simply put, you cannot develop your own creative voice by copying others work.

And you deserve to have your own voice! Afterall, that is what’s so special about being a creative; having the freedom to walk to the beat of your own drum. To be who YOU are.. And in a world where there is only one unique you, why on earth would you want to be just like somebody else? 

I feel that looking at other creatives’ work too often can actually be harmful to your own creativity. It can become a trap! So, I am always searching for new ways to fuel my own creativity. Challenging myself to find inspiration in ways that don’t specifically involve looking at others’ work in my industry. You’d be surprised at how much impact the space around us has on our creativity! So if you work in studio day to day, maybe that means a change of scenery.. Signing off and spending the day at the beach or strolling through the botanical gardens are two favorites of mine. Or, I love switching it up and working outside when it’s nice out.. The waterfall in the pool and the palm trees blowing always get me

Or, if you’re like me, good music can inspire you! So, maybe you create a new playlist on Spotify, only adding songs that inspire you and make you feel good.. And then take a road trip to the other side of the country (true story!). Whatever it may be, there are plenty of “indirect” outlets to seek inspiration.

Here is a tip that I urge you to try next time you need some inspiration (or catch yourself admiring another creatives’ work a little too much):

Find something that inspires you, study it, and write down the why

Why does it inspire you? That’s right, take notes! Maybe it’s the colors, so you write down the names of the colors you like. Maybe it’s the texture, so you write down the type of textures you like. Or, maybe it’s the feeling that it evoked, so you write down how it made you feel. Once you’ve taken your notes, get rid of that something. So if it’s an image, delete it!

Take your notes and create something fresh, something new!

This way, your inspiration and your work is derived more from your own personal thoughts and how something made you feel — and not a direct imitation of the work itself.

PS. Don’t be so afraid of bringing your own voice and personality into the design.. That is what’s going to make it unique and true to you! Take your time on it. The process of creating, after all, is why we do this whole creative thing, right? Because we enjoy it!

In the process of creating your own work, is where you will find your own creative voice. You cannot rob someone of their final result and expect to develop your own creative voice. In doing so, you’re depriving yourself the experience, the process, and the opportunity of finding your own voice.

This has been a really great technique for helping me find my own voice as a designer, and it’s something that I do often! In fact, I spend very little time seeking out inspiration from others in my industry. Which, to be honest, is one of the few reasons why I don’t follow that many people in the graphic design industry, specifically. Instead, I prefer to study people, nature, and photographs, making little notes and studies on the colors, textures, movement, placement, and feeling. I feel like this helps keep my mind decluttered (mental clarity), giving me more space for my own design voice. Thus, allowing me to stay in tune with my own thoughts, and hone in on my own ideas.

With that said, I challenge you to challenge yourself!

Visit a place that inspires you, take a walk, study all of the things around you and take notes on the things that look interesting, colors and textures that inspire you, etc. Use your own experience and notes to create something new! This is about what you can create next. You may surprise yourself!!

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