When did weird become a bad thing? I grew up with parents who never discouraged my weirdness so I freely accepted who I was. In fact, when I was in high school I had a bumper sticker (from Hot Topic) that said, “when I grow up I wanna be like me”. I still feel this way now that I am a grown up. However, I still have to remind myself often that being weird is one of my greatest assets as a professional creative, not just as a person. I’d like to share with you why your weird is your best tool as a creative. Like any other tool, you have to learn how to embrace it and use it.
There is something that happens to us in adolescence that frames who we think we are or who we think we should be. Some of us longed for acceptance and tried to prove ourselves in order to be popular. Others were the opposite, and did their own thing; this was me. I genuinely hated being called normal. Whichever category you fell into, sometimes we stay in those places in a lot of ways and never embrace the things that make us unique-even as creatives.
Something that I came to realize is something that I think most adults have never grasped: that people are attracted to your weirdness.
On Being Weird
I don’t really remember feeling insecure about my quirks. There came a point when I decided to stop believing that what other people thought about me mattered. If someone didn’t like that I was dressed like a rave kid one day or wore a blue wig, I just didn’t care. I gained a lot of confidence from this attitude because I needed to. People are drawn to confidence, they are also drawn to a person who owns who they are and embraces all their flaws and strangeness. It’s fascinating to people.
When I took ownership of who I was, who God made me to be, in all of my quirky weirdness, I had confidence.
Many of you know what it feels like to be “the weird one”. I’ve worn the label with pride and have learned to love it. But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy one-hundred percent of the time. I went through a time in my life where I lost this mentality somewhat. I had just had my first child and I felt like I needed to “grow up” and do me differently.
In the process of becoming a “grown up”, I kind of lost my weird–and it showed. It showed in my confidence as a person, as a designer, and in my work.
I forgot that my greatest work came from me letting myself ooze into my work and let it be unique.It happens to all of us. We become concerned with doing things like other people so that we might be better accepted as a professional-we let go of our weird.
Normal Is An Illusion
So why do I tell you all this about me? Because I know how easily we can let people or life fool us into thinking that if we aren’t doing work or being creative like that guy we follow on Instagram or that girl in the corner office, then we must be doing something wrong. But we are fooled in this thinking. Normal can be boring, but it’s also an illusion. There’s no such thing as normal, only someone’s perception of it.
Just like the standard of beauty that bombards us from the covers of magazines, normal is something that has been fabricated to make you feel like you need to change something about yourself to be accepted.
Every single person who was created is weird—you need to accept it, own it, and use it to create not only your best work, but your best you. If you are not satisfied with where you are or the work you do, think about what you have or what you are interested in. What do YOU bring to the creative conversation that will speak to someone. Our work should speak; we tell stories and have a messages to send–what do yours say? When you put yourself into your work, it will stand out.
Way too often we kill ourselves tying to find ways to be successful the way that others are successful. We stop creating like us and try to create like someone else and we only find frustration.
Be you! Create like you! Design like YOU! Be the best you that you can be. Be weird. Be the one who brings something new to the table; something no one else could have thought of, because no one else can be you.
Weird is worth it
But what if your weird is rejected? What if people don’t get it or you find it hard to explain? Do it anyway, they will catch up to you, and if they don’t they aren’t your people.
When I was a freshman in college, I started wearing dresses with jeans. This was 1999, so jeans under dresses was not a thing in the fashion world–not even close. I got a lot of strange looks and questions of why I was wearing pants and a dress (God forbid). I always said, “Because I like it”. Then somewhere around the mid 2000’s this weird fashion I had set for myself started showing up in stores. When I was the only one it wasn’t always easy to be bold and do my own thing, but it was worth it and people respected me a little bit more after that. It’s that way with design too.
Weird people often create the trends, they don’t follow them. But it will take boldness and embracing your weird.
I still believe that one of the highest forms of achievement in design that you can get is to create a design that is timeless. However, the more I work to find my unique voice in design, I see that it’s still hard sometimes. Trends will come and trends will go, and maybe we will follow some and hopefully we will set some-but trends won’t rule us if we can just be who we are.
We are created to create what was put inside of us and when we get that out, our work will never go out of style.
Let’s be honest, everyone is weird-especially creative people. We all have odd quirks or strange habits and we like to share them. No one person is exactly like another person. Our style can be weird, simply because it is different, and that’s the way it should be.Creating from a place of authenticity
, and embracing your weirdness, will
make your work timeless because you
The Weird & The Creative
What is it about you that no one else has or what are you weirdly passionate about that is different from anyone else in your field? Use this, and find ways to incorporate it into your work! Take advantage of all the things that are uniquely you and put them into your designs.
As creatives, we have more opportunities than most to take chances and let our weirdness shine!
One odd thing about me is that I have almost always been interested in color and fashion. This is weird because I know all of the rules and many of the trends but I have been known to purposely shun them so as to stand out. People are usually surprised to learn that I know so much about the fashion industry because the way I’ve dressed is sometimes so opposite of the trends.
Now that I’m older, this trait has carried over into my designs. What once made us weird can become unique. I am vigilant to read about and research and know the trends in design, but not so I can blindly follow them. I want to know things so that I can [sometimes] purposely go against them or combine them in odd ways with other techniques or classic styles to create something that is all my own, something weird.
I think that designers should have a love-hate relationship with trends and a true love affair with being weird.
The people throughout history who really stand out to us, the ones we study or go to museums to see, are not the ones who followed the crowd or accepted the norm. It’s hard to figure out what your weird is, and sometimes once you do it’s hard to let that translate into your work. I know for sure though, that if you can find it and start using it, that your best work will not be far behind and you will feel more fulfilled than you have ever been.
There’s something about knowing you are weird and being okay with it that will make you a better designer and a more confident person. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be labeled as weird and do work that I can stand behind, than be normal and create something flavorless and unnoticed.
Don’t be like the rest of the world; be a creator—embrace your strangeness and find the power in it to create.
James Victore says
in an article for Print Magazine, “the things that made you weird as a kid make you great as an adult—but only if you pay attention to them.”
It Won’t be Easy to be Weird
It takes a lot of laughing at yourself and learning how to take criticism for doing what you do and answering all the doubters. But there are so many common things all around us. No one needs more ordinary. As Jon Acuff says, “We’ve got supplies of common to last a lifetime. The storehouses of boring are shelved to the ceiling. Weird? That’s in short supply. We need more weird. So keep being weird.”
We were all created equal, but none of us are the same. What a terribly vanilla-flavored, off-white, plain world it would be if that were the case. Weird people have all the best ideas and are not always accepted right away (Van Gogh, etc.).
There’s a sense of freedom knowing that you are you, and no one can be better at being you. When you stop worrying what others think about you, your vision of who you are as a creative will become clear.
When you know who you are and embrace your weird, your best work will come naturally. I can’t tell you how to find your weird – but I feel like you might already know what it is, you’re just afraid of it. Don’t be. Design is a wonderful world. I hope you’ll join me here, because design matters.