Should a designer have a style?

“The extent to which you have a design style, is the extent to which you have not solved the design problem.”
-Charles Eames

…but even Eames had a recognizable style (and almost every other famous designer I can think of)

Eames was also a brand, and other big names like Stark and karim rashid are also brands. And a brand should have it’s own style. If I was designing for myself I would have a style or aesthetic I favor, but in my job I design for a wide variety of brands and so I design toward the brand, not myself. I think sometimes the hardest part of being a product designer is designing things that you don’t necessarily like personally, but they are good for the end user. I think some might argue this point, but it’s a reality in corporate product design.

Yes, its the same with musicians and their interpretation of the piece they are performing.

Yes you can duplicate someone’s expression of intent, however to compose your own and for it to be successful is something only taking a million knives, putting them in a bin and counting how many stick to a wall when its thrown at said wall. Hit and miss.

You can improve your chances by being the first, sharper knife, but in the end its the same.

Since clients refer to other designs in their briefs then you are adopting other styles and interpreting them in a way that makes sense to the project. I believe a designer has to be creatively versatile to handle a variety of needs as well as have a style that they like. So I believe a designer should reflect their style after all of the clients needs has been met if at all.


Correct. The brand and the value of that brand to the customer is the only thing should matter to the designer. The designer is irrelevant. We can make fun of that butt-ugly Oreck vacuum as seen in numerous threads, but if it customer needs duarbility to run 8 hours/day, 365 days/year and a low price point, do you think they will choose a Dyson?

No matter what, you will have a style of thinking that will lead you to certain default ways to resolve certain details. I never saw myself as having a style, but recently someone said to me “That is such a DiTullo design”…

Uhh, I try not to, coz of the variety of brands I work on. Like this week, I got called in to do the updates on a mens sneaker range - the designer is too busy on other projects - so I’ve got to emulate the way he does things to ensure continuity.

I see it like acting, I have to play many different roles. If I do my own line, then my style will come into play.

I think a designer will likely have a personal style and I think that’s important. For example, my college buddies still call me retro-Raymond, and I understand why. Designing for myself, I do like things to have a certain '60’s / '70’s look (colors, post-modern form). Also, I’ve been told that I “dress like a european”. Unfortunately, never by a European, but I suppose it says something about personal style.

As for marketing a style, I think that’s a difficult task for the vast majority of designers. Think about it, there are 3300 designers in IDSA, probably another 10,000 who aren’t. How many individual styles that are applicable to any product exist? I would say it’s in the hundreds (maybe). So, there are going to be 130 other designers with your same style. In other words, it’s not your style anymore.

First of all, awesome quote.

But I’m going to take Charles’ side and suggest that their perceived “style” was simply the output of the specific design problems they were solving. I don’t think they were in any way forcing some sort of alien aesthetic, but were simply reflecting popular culture (bright color-blocks, atomic shapes) and the unique capabilities of creative manufacturing (bent plywood and wire, formed fiberglass etc.) However, I think their approach was so innovative, that it became recognizable.

Another example: Jonny Ives. He’s very practical and likes to innovate with materials. Here are two innovative examples. Would a stranger think these were designed by the same person?

Yet these days, having a recognizable style is incredibly important for brand recognition, and is almost certainly in the majority of design briefs as a problem to solve. …But that doesn’t leave much room for a “designers style” does it?

I don’t think the Eame’s had a style. I think it’s that we use them to represent a movement. Case in point:

Eames v. Saarinen.

No it doesn’t - the only time I can think a designers style is part of a brand is when the designer is the pioneer for that brand - they set the scene for everyone else who comes along and works on it.

Actually, I think the right one was first designed by Dieter Rams, along with many other “original” apple products. :wink:

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Back to your regularly scheduled program.

Agreed, though sometimes there is design language evolution that happens… giving designers opportunities for some creativity in different directions.

Do you think Jonathan Ives designed that second look alone (or decided alone to borrow it from Rams)… I almost feel like it was his and (maybe largely) Steve Job’s brand stewardship guiding the decision.

Also, hypothetically, there could have been several directions conceptualized by Apple designers who live-eat-breath Apple, "ghost"designing… I don’t know anything about the designers there at all, but why not, it’s has been happening since classical times and at other corporations

Oh totally, and that proves that at Apple there is no room for personal style.
Like the Eames’, I see Apple’s style formula as (manufacturing elegance) + (modernist zeitgeist) + (brand identity.)

Clients come to me for my ‘style’. It’s all about style.

I think what Eames is saying is that when you’ve arrived at the perfect design solution, the objects form is the exact form that the object needs to be to be able to perform its intended function. Therefore it cannot possibly be inflicted with any sort of style, as its form has been ‘styled’ its function.

That said, there are certain styles that perform emotional functions - sorry to ref the most obvious, but Apple as a brand having its own style, and people buy that style.

The perfect design solution never exists. there is a best possible solution for a given moment for a given target of people, but it is never perfect.

A designer with a style is a bad designer. And that’s what Eames is implying (me think).

If you have to design a camera for a 20 year old it best look and work a hell of a lot different than a camera for my 60years old mother.

I once heard a cardesigner of some ugly rolls-royce saying about his latest creation that he didn’t really like it. But his target audience did. At that time I thought he was selling out (forgive me I was a student). Many years later I’ve learned that he was a 100% right.

I do hope I don’t have a style


This would be a great forum topic on it’s own. Can anyone think of a product that seems to be the perfect design solution, something you cannot find a way to improve upon? Really this is the basis of a industrial design, evolving design solutions to existing products because nothing is perfect, right?

I just looked at your website and I wanted to say how much I enjoy your style.