From Quentin Blake’s scratchy, smiling faces to Camille Walala’s tribal pop patterns, a signature style is what makes an illustrator unique and distinguishable. It’s also what helps them earn a living, with art directors hungry to find the perfect style to answer their particular brief. But while having a strong hand in one style is commercially savvy, education can sometimes interfere by encouraging students to prove their versatility. While there is no doubt you have to learn to walk before you can run, too much experimentation can make it harder for students to find their voice and the style that comes most naturally to them. So, can being versatile ever get you work?
Alice Rawsthorn is one of the design world’s most cherished writers. Her regular column in The New York Times, and books including last year’s Design as an Attitude and 2013’s Hello World: Where Design Meets Life, thrum with invention and ideas, creating a body of work in which the work of designers is demystified.