Why We Define Design Styles

There’s quizzes and articles and blogs and trend reports and more all about design styles. What’s your design style? What styles are hot right now? How do you recreate a style? What makes up your style? On and on and on. But why do we spend so much time defining and picking apart these styles? Why don’t we just pick what we like and avoid all the labels? You would think that putting labels on everything would constrain your creative efforts, but in reality it makes it easier to get exactly the style you want. Really, there’s one overarching reason that we define styles, and that’s to communicate.

Whether you’re a client explaining your style to a designer or architect or you’re a designer explaining your niche to a client, having references to pull from makes the process so much easier. Imagine trying to tell someone what you like about a space without any references to style. You’d be breaking down every color, shape, feeling, and aspect of the room and it still wouldn’t be clear at the end what exactly it is you want. Go ahead and try it with this image, and see how long you last without mentioning a single design style:

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You can talk all day about the colors and finishes and materials, but you get a much clearer picture with words like industrial lighting. European influenced accessories. Rustic accents. Transitional decor. All these words, whether you’ve studied design or not, give you a certain picture in your mind. We see hundreds, if not thousands of images every single day that are stored in our subconscious, and our brain pulls from those references when it hears a buzz word like a design style.

This not only rings true for describing an entire room, but for small projects like shopping for furniture or art. If you can tell a designer, tell a sales associate, tell a friend the style that you’re looking for, it drastically narrows down the colors, materials, shapes, and finishes that you might use. It becomes a reference point to make it easier to look for similar styles.

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Defining styles also helps design to grow. As time passes, certain styles will fade and come back and others will remain timeless. It’s important to be able to look back on styles from the past and be able to clearly identify them. Then we can decide how to update, combine, transform, and play with them. Can you imagine art history without any references to their style of work? It tells us so much about their time period, influences on their work, which artists may have influenced each other, etc.

Labels and definitions in design don’t constrain your creativity, but allows it to become more clear. We define styles to communicate better, to analyze work, and to create a universal language to speak in. Styles aren’t just a result on a quiz, but part of the foundation of communicating about design.

 

What styles do you see in this space? Tell us in the comments below!

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