I have talked before about trying to monetize this blog.
So when I signed up for the Design Bloggers Conference, I was primarily going for that reason — well, that and to meet up with some of my online designer/blogger friends, some of which I’ve never met before in-person.
So, while yes, I did get some insight into monetization and connecting with brands, and I had great fun with my blogging friends, my biggest takeaway was unexpected.
I can’t tell you how much I have been encouraged to find a “niche” in design.
Specializing — or, rather, having a unique aspect of the business that you practice — goes a long way with branding and getting noticed. It’s a proven approach in this business, as well as others, to help you attract clients and projects that are best suited for you. We have all heard “the riches are in the niches”.
I have bucked it though, 100%. I have had a wide range of experience in my career, from working on high-end hospitality and corporate projects to working with my neighbors on small remodels in their homes. I desperately clung to the fact that I wanted to remain open to all types of design work, that “good design” was more my mantra or niche. I always thought good design could transcend all types of projects and could even be a niche in itself. I mean, I’ve written about it, with how all the big designers crossover into other arenas and design all kinds of projects and products. Residential, hotels, restaurants, furniture, lighting: they do all kinds of design work. (Oh the headaches my marketing guy had I’m sure, when I first designed and launched this website.)
Not only that, but I really didn’t even want to specialize in a style. To this day, when people tell me they like my style, I am flattered, but I’m also kind of confused. As a designer I want to slip into the style of each of my clients and help them express themselves and their taste in their homes through the use of good design principles and practices, as I know them. The deal is...I really like and enjoy all types of design styles. I get bored doing all the same type of work, and I enjoy being pushed to create something new and different with each project.
However, all the big designers have certain “styles”.
It is a proven fact that many are famous because of it. This is something we’re told at every marketing corner: find your style, stick to it, market yourself with your style.
I like Darryl Carter’s simple but rich aesthetic, and how he mixes high contrast with light, neutral spaces and dark, wood pieces to create interesting but uncluttered interiors.
I love the tailored and thoughtful interiors that Victoria Hagan produces. Her work doesn’t clamor for attention; the real beauty is layered in with quality and subtle nuances that almost go unnoticed, but provide for such a rich, classic interior.
Lauren Liess’ work probably speaks most closely to my personal style, with a more relaxed vibe, modern lines, and a weathered, textural look.
However, I just couldn’t pronounce a style for myself. I haven’t been able to come up with anything specific.
Until I heard Justina Blakeney of The Jungalow speak at the DBC.
Justina’s talk was about branding yourself with Instagram.
She really demonstrated how Instagram is such a great tool for helping you establish your style, your look, and getting the word out about what you do so you can attract the best opportunities and business. She shared tips on how she has branded herself and how it has parlayed into many wonderful opportunities. She now designs wallpaper, rugs, and stationery. Her style is her brand, and she is getting bigger and better opportunities because of it.
She totally wore her brand right there on her sleeve. She WAS “colorful”, “patternful”, “jungalicious” — three words she has chosen/created to describe her style. These words are her guide to posting on Instagram. All the images she posts need to fit those three-word-descriptions.
This goes against just about everything I believed about my work and what I love to do. To get so specific, to basically eliminate possible opportunities because of a statement style has been a hard pill for me to swallow. But really, she won me over with her Instagram feed. One look at that and I was convinced she was right.
On my flight back to Texas I began to go over my notes and took a deep look at how I could come up with three words to describe my style.
They would have to be words that would conjure up some imagery; words that would come to mind once seeing my portfolio; words that would make my style identifiable. They would serve as a guide for what I post on my Instagram feed.
While Instagram is the fastest growing platform for expressing yourself and what you represent with images in Social Media, Pinterest still rocks for search and curation. To me, Instagram is really about your own images or your work, with some sharing of others’ dutifully credited. Pinterest, however, is pure curation. While yes, I do pin images of my work, I also pin lots of variety and the work of many on Pinterest. I can pin many other styles and put those images on boards labeled accordingly and, as long they are good images of products, or they’re related to my interiors or design, it all works. With Instagram though, your profile — IF you’re using it for branding, according to Justina Blakeney — should really be more carefully crafted, protected even, as my daughter the photographer has also told me. :-)
I went to a Pinterest board I’ve been curating for a while called, “My Style”. I am using Pinterest exactly the way most people use it: as inspiration to define what I like. Zipping through this board, I came up with about fifteen words:
- High contrast
- Hand crafted
- Single color
Out of all those words, which would really be good for branding?
- “Clean-lined” ...What’s that?
- “Striking” ...That’s sort of in the eye of the beholder.
- “Comfortable” ...Hmmm, I’m not sure I’d hire a designer for “comfortable”.
- “Modern” ...I like traditional elements and an antique piece or two also, so not many would call my look “modern”.
Ultimately, I boiled it down to these:
Bold - “Bold” relates to the high contrast elements I love. Like dark doors in an all white house...or a dark wood table in the midst of a room full of light neutrals...or my dark granite countertops in my all-white kitchen.
Livable - Better than “comfortable”, right? “Comfortable” kind of sounds like flannel pajamas. “Livable” sounds alive, enjoyable, usable. It gives a nod to the handmade elements I love so much.
Fresh - “Fresh” in this context means uncluttered to me. Light in the sense of weight, not necessarily color or value. It means up-to-date. Current. With remodeling, I am often doing a fresher version of what the homeowners have always loved.
The beauty about these words is that they give my style a little breathing room. I can work on a craftsman style bungalow, a ranch style home in the suburbs, even a loft in the city, and still remain in line with these three branding words and craft interiors that would reside in those particular projects. I ran down my Portfolio and they seemed to work with all the projects I have posted.
I think these work for me. I like them. Might they still be a little too generic? Possibly. But I think I’m going to try them out for a while and see. I’ve deleted some of my recent Instagram posts that didn’t align with these words, and I’m trying to post new images that do. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Do you want to hear more about what we experienced and learned at the Design Bloggers Conference?
Check out my other friends’ best takeaways. We all had different points of view. And whether it was the synergy created by being together OR the conference offerings, at the end of the day we all benefitted in our own unique ways.
Click below for takeaways from...
You also might want to have a listen to these podcasts done by my new friend, Nick May of The Chaise Lounge Podcast. He was at the conference and talked with many of the speakers and attendees. (Laurel is interviewed Day #1, Amanda in Day #2, Mitzi and I are interviewed in Day #3.) He’s the podcast rockstar of the design biz. :-)