Well, this is a popular belief saying that you have to stick to one thing and become the best at it if you want to be successful in your career. We find tons of designers who are great at what they craft but it’s always quite the same. The only thing that changes in their work is the scenario. Although it is great to stick to one niche in many ways, I believe it’s not always a must. Sometimes it’s not even good. But I believe exploring other styles brings lots of opportunities for any designer in this world.
In our industry, being flexible in what you do is probably the best option you can have. You have to be able to work on different products and each of them may require a specific skill or trick. The more skill you carry, the more successful you are.
In short, our portfolio is what we make money from. Most of the time, people don’t care where or when with what GPA you graduated when they want to hire you for their projects. The only thing that matters is our portfolio. It illustrates our skills, experiences, and challenges we had on previous projects. Although a consistent portfolio that includes only one thing would be nice to see but diversity in work shows three main things. First, the flexibility for working on different things. Second, the skills we have. Third, trust.
Until 6 months ago, I was just focusing on iconography and creating consistent icon sets. I started to attract a specific group of followers on Dribbble. Mostly they were an icon designer or somehow related to icons. One day I started thinking about this. I didn’t want to be an iconographer until the end of my life — icons will always remain in my heart tho — and sticking to a niche and posting something specific regularly brings only a certain group of people. I didn’t want to stay in that box so I came out and started posting other stuff on my Dribbble too. After a few shots, I saw the results. The audience I had started to increase straight away and bumped up super fast — I used to post 3–4 shots a week. So what happened? The thing is, tastes are different, people look for what they like. The diversity in my Dribbble brought new people to my portfolio because in addition to icons, I started posting new things as well.
You Learn More
Whenever you want to learn something new, I believe there should be a motivator. There wasn’t that much client for me last year so most of my work were concepts and the things I just wanted to try to add to my portfolio. Currently, It goes like this, I get a work inquiry from a company asking for a certain type of illustration. I haven’t done it before but I know the basics. Sometimes I might need to search a bit or watch YouTube tutorials to learn about it but it doesn’t take much to onboard myself. Each time this happens, you’ll learn a new trick. After one year of doing this regularly, your skill set would be a beast.
Another con that sticking to icons had for me was limiting myself. When you only post icon, you only get icon inquiries. Also, without any shame, there are many awesome icon designers out there who are way better than me. Obviously, I can’t beat them all, but I can try lots of other things. When you add diversity to your portfolio you actually attract more clients. By sharing different types of design, you show your hidden abilities. Recently I was collaborating with a real estate company to design their UI and UX. The aim was creating a consistent product that speaks via visuals rather than long and frustrating texts. They knew that I do illustrations as well as UI and UX, so I got a second job to do. They didn’t look for someone else to do the illustrations because I could do it myself.
But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you have to learn everything — I don’t know everything either — I mean if you stick to one thing all the time, it might become an obstacle after a while. You can get out of your rhythm a little bit to explore other styles, colors, fonts or whatever you can think of. The more you explore the more you learn.