A few years back, I wrote about my journey to discover what my actual personal aesthetic was, rather than what I thought I ought to like. My journey is still continuing (I’m not dead yet!), but I thought you might appreciate some hints for your own aesthetic journey… (and if you want to see where I’m heading on my journey, have a peek here or here)
#1 Give yourself plenty of time
Roman wasn’t built in a day and working out this stuff won’t happen in five minutes, if my experience is anything to go by. I’ve found working in bursts of activity over weeks, months, and well, years now to be the most effective way for me: I gather a lot of images and then review them a while later, which brings us to…
#2 Build a collection (aka mood board)
While you could do this with magazine pics in the off-line world, there are so many digital images available, it seems a shame to waste paper 😉
- Pinterest is the most obvious collection tool. I would suggest setting up a separate board and just working with that – which leaves all your other boards free for whatever you feel like. Up to you whether you make it a secret board or not.
- Etsy has a favourites function, which is what I initially used – this limits you to Etsy items only, but there’s a very wide range of those. Of course, it could be hazardous for your budget (not that I’d know… much!)
- You could also try setting up a Tumblr account or curating an album on Facebook. I haven’t tried those. If you do, let me know how it works. And there may well be other sites out there I don’t know about – feel free to share ideas.
Once you’ve picked your tool/s, it’s time to find some images. You probably already have some ideas about what you like: start by searching a favourite colour or a theme or style. It doesn’t really matter what’s in the pictures – it could be clothing, scenery or something else entirely.
You are looking for images that resonate with you – not just things you look at and think “that’s okay”. You want to feel the love! If you’re half-hearted about an image, leave it out. You won’t miss it.
#3 Don’t over think it
It’s really easy to slip into over-analysing or spending a long time one each image. Unfortunately, this gives your brain time to think, and risks letting your social approval mammoth off its leash… which can lead to self-editing which can lead to finding out someone else’s aesthetic, rather than your own.
If you catch yourself doing this, take a deep breath, and maybe even a long break (it’s okay to pause in this work).
Then, when you’re ready leap back in and watch your instant reactions: it’s okay to react with loathing to things other people like; it’s also okay to really love something your mother might find weird… Only add the ‘loves’ to your collection.
Once you’ve got a bundle of images (I’d recommend at least 20), it’s time to move onto…
#4 Refine/ Edit / Curate
Now, no matter how hard you try, you’re not going to shut your mammoth up for the whole of the step 3 – trust me, I know!
So, once you’ve got that collection, leave it. Come back days later and review each image – you’re still looking for that instant love or resonance or ‘aaaaah’. You may be surprised at how you react to things you originally thought you loved.
This step has been the most important one for me: separating the ‘oughts’ from the ‘loves’ can be harder than you’d think. It’s all to easy to get trapped into thinking that if you like one aspect of a subculture then you must like everything.
For example, my own aesthetics include a lot of goth and steampunk influences. Within these subcultures, tentacles are a regular feature (I blame Cthulu, myself). While I appreciate a good kraken as much as the next person, I’m really not that into random tentacles. It ‘only’ took me about five edits to realise this!
#5 Rinse and repeat
You can repeat steps 3 and 4 as often as you want – I’m still going after several years! And I’m still learning more about myself as I do…
It’s normal for your preferences and passions to develop and change, along with the rest of life. This is a continuing journey, not a one-time special offer!
But mostly, have fun with it!
Personally, I’ve found it both fascinating and helpful to work out what really floats my boat aesthetically. It makes things like shopping, de-cluttering and home renovations much more straightforward. And I really enjoy having more confidence in my own taste and my own self. I hope you can find that too.
Which brings us to our final step:
#6 Share your discoveries
This is entirely optional, but I would really love to see what you find. So, please feel free to share links to your collections in the comments section below or on the Facebook page – who knows, you might help someone else uncover something they never knew they loved!