This tip can actually be applied to almost anything in life: distinctiveness is in the details. Think about a particular civilization - what makes it distinctive? Its food, language, interaction between civilians, art, fashion, religion, etc., etc. What makes a particular photographer's work distinctive? Composition, lighting, subject matter, color complexity or lack of color?
Why did you choose your BFF? Probably because of the details that make him or her special.
This brings me to the idea of being distinctive as a letter artist (or illustrator for that matter!). You've been practicing non stop for months or maybe even a year but you're getting tired of everyone looking at your work and saying - oh yeah, that looks like so and so's work. And you wonder why? Here's the reason. For anyone just starting out, you lack the trained eye to see what actually makes a letterform distinctive. Right now, you're probably just copying what you see and thinking "hey, that looks pretty good!". And that's ok - it's all part of the learning process. When I was in art school, we had to take a master painting and copy it to the best of our ability to learn how the master did it. Eventually, after about a million studies later, we all started creating work that still looked like someone else we admired but had a little glimpse of ourselves in it.
Fast forward four years of college. Your work no longer looks like that artist you've been looking up to! You've trained your eye to take bits and pieces of what you've learned from the masters and apply it to your own work, honoring what they did before you but also honoring yourself as an innovative individual. You're not a poor man's version of Leonard Da Vinci anymore. Nothing here is stumbled upon by chance - you've made a conscious decision to include or leave out every single detail of your drawing/painting/photo/letter knowing that it serves the purpose of your goal. Not someone else's.
Take a look at the image I've drawn up above. See all those little notes? Use them! Find out how you can manipulate your letter anatomy to serve a purpose. To be truly customized.
On another note - can you see why artists sometimes get their panties in a bunch when newbies steal all their details? It's because the original artist spent years developing the details that make their images unique. It's a big bummer when someone else piggy backs off their work (probably a poorer rendition, nonetheless) and builds an entire career without ever having to really think about it. It's taking the easy way out and ultimately, dishonoring their own individuality and potential for their own work.
All that said - It's okay to copy people you look up to to learn and grow as an artist. In fact, it's NECESSARY. But once you know what you're doing, it's time to really discover what makes you you. It's hard and takes time and practice, but it's worth it! I'm still on the journey and hopefully will be for the rest of my career as a creative. Constantly growing and exploring ways to be innovative.
I'll leave this with a quote from Marty Neumeier:
"Don't offer more - offer different."
Do you find this helpful? Leave me a comment below, pin it, tweet it, share with your friends! I want to know about your journey as a freelance artist.