So you’ve found something people like? Something that cashes in on the “Likes”, the “Ooh”s & “Ah”s. And for that moment, you bask in the adoration of an audience hungry for more. Perhaps, it’s in these instances that we’re fed, refueled, and given the stamina to soldier on. Where the tiresome tedium of creation feels somewhat worth the struggle. But while immediately satisfying, the public’s overwhelmingly positive response to new work can oftentimes serve as a brutish course correction—hurtling you towards more of the like to relive the glory of self-satisfaction.
In some ways, these hard-earned stylistic successes that resonate with the public on a larger scale can also be a millstone threatening to drag us down. They can cause us to relish in the sounds of a thousand cheering fans; fueling a stagnation wherein we opt to not grow. To not move on. To no longer pioneer new paths, but rather, sink in to a state of complacency—regurgitating, over and over, the same recipe to reignite that same flash in the pan. As if the recipe for success will work forever unchanged.
Until it doesn’t.
In this way, we milk our styles for every last drop of creativity.
We’ve all seen it. That designer who found one way to do things: whether it’s a specific color palette, an interesting web layout, maybe it’s a singular illustration style that’s now just going through the motions—recreating the same illustration with a different subject. An endless cycle of reproduction.
And the truth of it is, it might just get you work. It could even continue to get you noticed. You might extend that 15 minutes of fame for more than a mere quarter of an hour.
But is it worth it?
Is that the kind of designer you want to be? How many jobs will you have to do where you’re asked to recreate the same project with a different masthead until you’re ready to stop coasting and get back into mud with the hard task of building from scratch and trying new things? Because I’ll tell you this much, almost no one is going to tell you it’s time to change outright. That’s the sort of discovery you’ll have to make for yourself. And I won’t lie to you, it’s not easy. It’s a tempting offer to stay the same, to be sure. Especially when financial success and consistency seems within your reach.
While this might work for some people, for those of us who aren’t satisfied riding out a style until we die, growth has to be a part of the equation. And with growth, comes an even larger potential for risks, for missteps, and work that can feel derivative or just downright bad. But it’s a risk that’s worth it, because stagnation and complacency don’t come in the most obvious ways. They’re the quiet kind that let you run their course for so long that they make their very presence a secret. Instead, they’ll offer you temporary social and financial incentives at the cost of your own creativity and propensity for innovation.
So be vigilant for those seasons where you refuse to grow and become far more content to allow your past to dictate your future. Growth is messy and oftentimes tedious, but so are some of the best things in life.