The Curious Case Of Finding Self Expression Through Design

Do you think design can be used as a medium of self-expression? Maybe yes. More often maybe not. In any case, it's contextual and debatable. Like most of my articles, I think this one also has the same answer to it - It depends on what you want and that’s how the answer works for you.

I started out as a design professional in 2014 beginning my career as a designer in a prominent couture house in Calcutta. My responsibilities at the time were graphics and trousseau. But, I used to take out time to develop new styles according to my taste but within the aesthetics of the brand. At the time I didn’t know that I was looking for expressing myself through designing a commercially viable product for the designer.

As time went by and I interacted with more people from different industries I learned more about design and how different industries approach the word and subject of design in completely different ways compared to how fashion does. In most other industries design is providing a solution for a stumbling block.

Now if we go by that definition of design it means that providing a solution to the client, whether you like how that solution looks and feels isn’t a priority. The job of the design is to solve and if it solves the client’s issues in an effective way then its good design.

So where does that leave a creative-minded human whose spirit is screaming to design and create that which is in alignment with their own self-expression? What about those sets of souls who carry the seeds being trailblazers and visionaries?

The important thing you need to understand is that if you are only concerned with self-expression then you might want to label your work as art. The moment you do that, your product will be removed from the need to solve a need or be functional. In that case, you are looking at a niche segment that values unusual design and aesthetics as a major part of their lifestyle or those who are just beginning to become collectors of beauty. The scope to freely express yourself will be ample and abundant and you will create a desire for people to pay you for the material manifestation of your self-expression. There are various companies that are looking out for artists and thinkers like you. Let them find you. Let them know that you exist. For a few of us who see our time as our measure of freedom could be better suited to start our own studios and businesses.

And from this point onwards comes in the next most important aspect, which is the aspect of scalability. Now, anyone looking to grow a serious business out of their creativity needs to take this seriously. And it is exactly at this juncture that one needs to create a balanced synergy between aesthetic, expression, and function.

Designers need to develop the skill of employing their self-expression in effective ways. A lot of your client’s success and your personal success lies in being able to crack this critically delicate spot.

You might be completely in awe of and maybe even devoted to Andy Warhol’s style and its quite possible that your personal palette consists of only four primary colors. But will you throw in your self expressed pop art style onto the packaging of a client who has a chain of zen inspired restaurants?! I hope your answer is a big fat NO.

You can be certain of putting aside your need for self-expression and giving the client what they deserve to have hired you. If it helps, stop romanticizing every piece of your work.

In the same month, you could have another client working on a beauty brand and would love to have a pop art-inspired brand guide developed by you. And you can go all in to make love to every slide of your presentation for this account.

It’s all about the context.

The following pointers may be of help to you :

  • Always remember the difference between design and art.

  • Understand the difference between design and creativity.

  • Be objective and rational when making a product for a market.

  • Expressing yourself is a natural need but you need to look for avenues to be able to do that aside from what your work can give you.

  • Your self-expression should add to the design rather than take anything away from it.

That's enough food for thought already. I’ll be back with more on this.

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