Being Versatile vs. Sticking to One Style – Pros and Cons




As a designer, should you be versatile or stick to a particular style? That’s the age-old debate (well, it’s not that old, but a long-lasting one nonetheless). Being extremely versatile vs. sticking to one style: each has its pros and cons.

On the one hand, by being versatile, you can adapt to and attract more clients – but you’re not developing your unique style and design “voice” as much. On the other hand, by sticking to one style, you dig beyond the surface and become a unique expert in that niche – but you’re alienating otherwise-good clients who don’t want that specific style done for their work.

So how do you know which path is right for you and your design career? Well, one way is to look at the pros and cons of being versatile vs. sticking to one style:

Being Versatile

Pros

  1. You get more available work by being able to adapt to diverse client needs.
  2. You never get bored by always trying different styles.
  3. You stay relevant by adapting to design trends and what most clients want at the time.
  4. You can potentially come up with interesting fusions of styles – since you’re trying and having experience with different styles.
  5. You’ll become known as someone easy to work with – because you’re adaptive and not as all-or-nothing with the styles you can work with.

Cons

  1. It becomes harder to develop your own style and design “voice” – since you’re always trying different things rather than spending significant time with one.
  2. You’re more at the whim of clients’ needs – rather than them coming to you, desiring your unique style.
  3. You can never dig deep enough into a single style to really innovate within it; by always trying different styles, you only get to skim the surface. Others who have created in that style for a while will be better and more innovative than you with it.
  4. You have to spend more time following design trends and learning the latest styles and techniques – rather than simply being aware but otherwise spending most of your time creating how you want to.
  5. There’s a potential lack a focus or artistic vision – and as a result, a feeling of aimlessness, due to you not having that one thing that’s at your core or you always come back to.

Sticking to One Style

Pros

  1. You get to really develop your own unique style and design “voice” – since you’re sticking to just one thing at your core.
  2. You become an expert in your niche – you dig beyond the surface of a style and really start to explore, experiment, and innovate. Since not as many people are digging as deep as you are in that single style, you stand out more.
  3. You can attract the type of clients you really want to work with – the ones that want to work with you and specifically desire your style. Basically, they know what they’re getting into ie. your specific style.
  4. You’re never at a lack of focus – you have a clear direction that you keep exploring.
  5. You potentially spend less time researching the latest and trendiest techniques and instead devote more to creating and improving your craft. In fact, avoiding certain of-the-moment trends can help you keep standing out rather than be grouped with me-too designers.

Cons

  1. You can potentially become outdated if your style becomes less favorable with clients.
  2. You’ll get less clients – rather than adapting to what they need, the clients only have a choice to either take your style or not. Since there won’t be as many clients that want this all-or-nothing approach, it can result in less overall work.
  3. You can miss out on interesting stylistic fusions, because you’re sticking to within a certain style’s framework.
  4. There’s a higher percentage of boredom – those moments when you’re not feeling like only creating in your style.
  5. You become known as someone pickier to work with – a take-it-or-leave-it attitude that some otherwise-good clients might not want.

Being Versatile vs. Sticking to One Style: Which One Is Better?

It depends. You hate to hear that answer, but it’s true. It’s all based on what you’re like as a designer and what you want out of your design career:

  • If you are easily bored, are okay with not digging deep in any particular style, and want a larger and more varied number of clients, then be versatile.
  • If you want to develop your unique style and design “voice”, are okay with not having as many clients, and want to become an expert in your niche, then stick to one style.

Here’s the cool thing, though: you can combine both. Like with practically all aspects of life, it’s not black and white so much as a shade of grey. Pick and choose the elements that work best for you, rather than blindly following one or the other. For example: you really want to develop your unique style, so you stick with one style for most of your work. But you make exceptions here and there when the project is right and you want to stretch your designer arms a bit.

Just know that the more you do one, the less you’re doing and becoming known for the other. The more you experiment with different styles, the less time you’re spending honing your preferred style or solidifying your expert position in that niche.

Again, it ultimately is up to what you want. And now that you know the pros and cons of being versatile vs. sticking to one style, hopefully you can make a decision that works best for you and become the designer samurai you’re meant to be.

(Samurai, because terms like “rockstar” and “ninja” are, like, so totally overused these days.)

Do you try to stay versatile, or do you focus on developing and deepening a certain style? Why do you do it? Share your experience and thoughts in the comments section below.


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