Unlock the Designs You’re Truly Meant to Create

Are you not your true self? Most designers aren’t. After all, it’s not that easy! We create designs we’re not 100% into or best at. Instead, we withhold our unique design contribution to the world. What we do is simply good enough designs. Good—maybe even great—but not uniquely and insanely amazing.

Do you want to be one of the countless me-too designers, or do you want to add your unique and remarkable contribution to the design world? If you answered yes to the first one, you can stop reading the rest of this article. It’s not for you. That’s okay – some people enjoy the activity of designing and don’t mind stopping at simply paying the bills with it. That’s perfectly fine.

But if you don’t want to settle and are looking for a way to make your unique dent in the design world, then keep reading. You’ll find out how to bypass the simply-good-enough barrier and unlock the designs you’re truly meant to create.

Why Most Designers Are Nothing Special

Why do most designers fall into the good-enough trap? Every designer is unique as a person, so why aren’t their designs?

A few reasons:

  • The aforementioned reason that some are content with churning out good-enough designs to pay the bills
  • Some are afraid of showing their true selves due to peer or monetary reasons (“people will hate it”, “it won’t sell”, etc…)
  • Some are conditioned to follow rather than lead and aren’t aware they’re allowed to uniquely express themselves

Most designers keep the designs they’re meant to create locked away inside due to one of those reasons.

The result is a flood of me-too designs that offer nothing remarkable. For proof, you can just browse through hundreds of designs on crowd-sourcing sites, but let’s just not go there!

Now, they look slick and professional. Just like how most Top 40-bound pop music is somewhat catchy, has a decent beat, and is well-produced. But most of that music is pretty boring and ultimately forgettable – and the same goes for a lot of the designs out there.

Sure, these designs look pretty and do the job, but if they didn’t exist then no one would miss them. Us humans aren’t meant to survive – we’re meant to thrive. And that means creating work that goes above and beyond. Providing the design world with a unique contribution. Not just going through your design life and career, but shaping and molding it with something unforgettable.

Unfortunately, most designers end up being like the rest and create nothing-special designs that do the job but nothing more.

But you’re not going to be like the rest, right?

How to Unlock the Designs You’re Meant to Create

Okay, don’t simply be good enough, be remarkable. Sounds good and all, but how the heck do you actually go about doing that?

Otherwise, that entire last section would read like some rah-rah feel-good message. One that sounds good but is just empty self-help-y words. “Believe in yourself, be passionate, change the world.” Um, right.

Let’s get to some concrete, actionable stuff.

1. Combine Your Inspirations

The general idea of how to unlock the designs you’re meant to create is to harness your design inspiration to create the work you want. What that means is to literally bring in your biggest design inspirations into your designs. To use those visuals in your visual designs.

  • Maybe you love art deco designs, or gothic, or futuristic, or cyberpunk.
  • Or maybe you dig the clean and minimal, or the traditional Japanese art, or the mid-20th-century French and Italian movie posters.
  • Or something else entirely – the combination will be uniquely you.

See, your specific combination on influences is unique to you. Even within the same designs that others love, you’ll like one aspect of it particularly that most others won’t. Combine that with 4, 5, 6 or more influences of the same type, and the resulting combination of your favorite designs and their elements is very unique. There’s no need to over-think how you’ll channel your influences or anything – just wholly lift the design elements you like straight into your own designs. You’ll get better with making it more your own with time, but for now just focus on getting them all in there.

What happens is when you literally add those same exact elements into one of your designs, the sum becomes greater than its parts. For example, a traditional Japanese-style graphic but with mid-20th-century French film fonts and cyberpunk-like objects for flourishes.

Be like Quentin Tarantino, who combined westerns, film noir, kung fu, a Shakespearian-revenge story, and who knows what else into his film Kill Bill. Sure, the individual elements aren’t terribly special, but the sum became unique and greater than its parts.

The design you come up with will be uniquely you, since no other designs will have that exact combination of elements.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Include Every Inspiration

So you listed almost all of your design inspirations and know what you’ll try including into your next design. But maybe there’s that one design or visual style you love but think to yourself that there’s no way you could include it. Maybe it’s some erotic, like ’70s porn covers, or something very niche and singular, like anime.

Don’t be afraid to add it in. In fact, that last element is what will make your designs even more uniquely you and remarkable.

The reason is that if you’re having doubts on including that influence, chances are other designers have as well. By just going for it, you’ll make yourself stand out more from other designers with little effort. And, more importantly, you’ll even further unlock the designs you’re truly meant to create.

Just look at Eminem – he rapped about things most people joked about with their friends, but he simply had the balls to include those topics in his tunes. There was nothing extraordinary about those jokes and shocking topics – Eminem simply wasn’t afraid to add them into his music. Combined with all his other influences he added, he became uniquely Eminem and unlocked the music he was truly meant to create. Who’s music do you think will be remembered 50 years from now – Eminem, or some safe me-too music artist’s?

Unlock the Designs You’re Truly Meant to Create

After literally adding in your favorite design elements into your designs—and not being afraid to include that last inspiration or two—you’ll be creating the designs you’re truly meant to create. Designs that are uniquely you and remarkable. Your designs will be a breath of fresh air to clients and users, and you’ll be much happier and more excited designing them.

Will you potentially offend or turn off some people by including that last design influence of yours? Sure. But they weren’t meant to be your clients, or users or fans of your designs anyway. By going all the way (that’s what she said), you’ll much more effectively attract and get the attention of those who resonate with your visual style. Those who think, “finally, someone that creates stuff that I actually love and is exactly up my alley.”

When you unlock the designs you’re truly meant to create, you more easily attract the right audience that gets your designs, and you make your unique mark in the design world.

How else have you been able to get past the good-enough barrier and unlock the truly unique designs that were hidden inside of you?


  1. Cgalive says

    Thanks man! It really cleared up my mind!
    This is good christmas inspiration! (Yeah I know, it was more science, but, anyway!)

  2. says

    What I like to do is sit in my room, turn of everything distracting (cellphone, pc etc.), turn on some down tempo music in low volume, put a blank sheet of paper in front of me. Then I just start doodling anything that comes to mind, or write simple words down. That is my way of creating my personal inspirational materiel.

  3. says

    This is a nice feel-good post in anticipation for the New Year, when I think all of us designers are grappling with doing better and doing more, with pushing our boundaries and achieving that level of inner satisfaction. That’s why we’re all here, isn’t it? Yet, it’s all too easy to find ourselves lost in a sea of clients who want what everyone else has. We’re to blame too — It’s all too easy to just float along with the status quo and easy designs we could do in our sleep. Looking back over the past year, my greatest triumphs came when I pushed the envelope and thought “The client could quite possibly hate this…”. Luckily my “intuition” was nothing more than nervousness because the clients loved these designs the most. I agree – it really does feel best to walk the edge.


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