Aesthetic: What does it actually mean and how you can find your own
In this increasingly digitised world where the war for eyeballs only grows stronger, visual is king—and one way to wave that crown around is a distinct aesthetic that people will frolic to. And yes, concerning yourselves over what aesthetic to have can seem like a total First World problem but don’t roll your eyes just yet. Having a personal aesthetic can really help you (and your brand) stand out.
But most people still find it hard to grasp what aesthetics are. Finding your own? Just as difficult. Ahead, we break down the concept and how you can find and bring your dream aesthetic to life.
What is an ‘aesthetic’?
If you want to have a personal aesthetic, then we have to start with the basics: understanding what an aesthetic actually is. It's one of the favourite words used by millennials and Gen Zers in recent years and you've probably used it yourself, describing something as "so aesthetic".
According to the official definition by Cambridge dictionary, aesthetic can be used as a noun and adjective—but they both have the same underlying meaning which is that of beauty. As a noun, aesthetic describes “relating to the enjoyment or study of beauty” and as an adjective, it connotes to an “object or a work of art is one that shows great beauty”. In millennial layman terms, aesthetics are all about making someone feel some type of way with their work.
How can I find my own aesthetic?
There are already tons of aesthetics out there—from colour-specific to food-centred ones, anything under the sun can be made into one. It’s easy to follow the plethora of pre-existing aesthetics because let’s face it, it’s a whole lot easier to imitate than create. But we humans also naturally strive for individualisation and any way we can stand out from the crowd is easily welcomed.
Once you break it down into these easy steps, it’s actually not as daunting as you might think. Follow them below and you’ll be on your way to creating an aesthetic with your own personal pizazz.
Step one: Define yourself
Finding an aesthetic is so much more than gathering a bunch of pictures and calling it a day. A personal aesthetic is a visual representation of you so ask yourself what it is you want to show to the rest of the world. Here are some questions you can begin to ask yourself:
- How would you describe your personal brand?
- What do you believe in/stand for?
- How do you want people to feel around you?
- What are your goals?
- What are your likes and dislikes?
- List three things about you that you think are special
Step two: Look for inspiration
If you’re having trouble coming up with answers to some of those questions, don’t fret. Leave those blank for now and look for inspiration to guide you—those can certainly help visualise what is hard for you to express.
Start with photo-image sharing platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram, VSCO and the like (although we can’t guarantee you won’t get sucked into a never-ending vortex) to get your creative juices flowing and start collecting images together. Here are some prompts to kickstart the process:
- Fictional characters
- Favourite movie or TV show
- Your go-to songs
- A quote or phrase you like
- Dream wardrobe
- Holiday wishlists
Tip: Try and diversify where you’re looking for inspiration as much as you can—don’t stick to just one person, movie or style. You can even try a quiz to find out what your aesthetic is for starters and work your way from there—we've created one that you can try out here. That way, you can avoid the slippery slope between imitation and inspiration.
Step three: Mood board it up
So now you’ve got your little puzzle pieces—time to put it all together. Constructing a mood board of all your favourite things is helpful to see how your aesthetic is coming along, up close and personal. Pinterest is great for digital mood boarding (they have a 'Pin It' tool just for this) or you can always take the old fashioned route and print the images out. Take this time to play around with colours, textures and the like to see what really works for you.
Tip: It’s easy to go overboard here and place whatever suits your fancy but take this time to also filter and really hone down your aesthetic. Analyse if a certain picture still fits with the rest: is there one that doesn’t go with the colour story you’ve chosen? Try not to think that the aesthetic is limiting you but rather, you’re learning to organise and present your interests in a visually cohesive way. If that picture doesn’t work, try finding a different image with the same meaning instead. Sooner or later, you'll know what you're looking for and begin to see consistent colours, patterns and so on.
Step five: Present your work of art
Congratulations, you now have a visual representation of you! Now it’s time to present your carefully curated aesthetic to the rest of the world. Here’s what you can do with your newfound personal aesthetic:
IRL: Whether it’s decorating your bedroom or revamping your style, let your aesthetic guide you. You now know what makes you unique and happy so let that come into aspects of your life. But don’t forget that it’s totally fine to feel differently down the road—the most important thing is how you feel in your current aesthetic. That’s why step one starts with you: you are your biggest muse.
- URL: A visually cohesive aesthetic can easily be translated into a snazzy Instagram feed. Don’t be afraid to show more of your inner self online—finding your own personal aesthetic means you can now be more assured in yourself. And that confidence should pour into your online persona too.