October 1, 2021 · 4 min to read
Design Niche

Finding your niche is one of the most problematic areas for many designers... and there's a good explanation for that. You will not believe this but zebras can probably explain why that is.

There are a few reasons why zebras have stripes. One is that they are for camouflage. And you may be thinking, well, that's an odd camouflage. Lions, cheetahs and other predators go well with Savannah's sun-baked grass. But you can see a bloody zebra from 10 miles away. Right?

So biologists go out to study zebras. They sort of take notes on a zebra and observe it. Then they look down at their notes... and then they look up... but they think, oh, no, no...

What zebra was I looking at? So the camouflage is actually against the herd. Zebras are herd animals, not solitary. The black and white stripes set the animal apart from the herd, so you can not identify it.

Zebra herd

Biologists think, ok we are smart. What we will do is tag zebras with red paint. That will do the job.

Zebra skeleton

What happened shocked researchers. Lions killed the tagged ones. As soon as it became identifiable the predator could organize their hunt around them.

There's the old idea that lions and predators take down weak animals. Well, lions love healthy zebras meat. It's the red tag that was the trigger. Something that makes single zebra identifiable. That's what happens - they take down the identifiable animal.

If you stick your damn hand up you get picked off by the Predators.

The whole story was published first time by Robert M. Sapolsky in his book "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers". He is currently a professor of biology, and professor of neurology and neurological sciences and, by courtesy, neurosurgery, at Stanford University. 

So what?
Well, funny thing same rules can be applied to designers. Not only designers but to all humans.

Designers group
Human beings are herd animals. We survive only in highly coordinated groups. Standing out is against our self-defense instinct. Individually, we are designed to pick up social cues and coordinate and align our behavior with those around us.

Designers get well together. They congregate on platforms like Behance or Dribble. Go to special designer-friendly events, conferences and etc. And well, we all try to have "the right stripes" and blend with the herd.

The Problem

The problem with that is that among designers I barely could find a few that would want to buy a logo or website design because well you can do that yourself.

The client is in a different herd. That means that in order to get well with them we should blend in with their herd. OMG, you won't believe it but it's a rare case that you find any designer in the conference for lawyers, or hospitality, or even fintech industry. And it's something unimaginable rare if they give a keynote. I can compare that only to some rare comet crossing the sky of the earth.

Client vs designer

You need to go to places where your customers congregate to sell your services. Yes, this is actually scary. Because if you raise your hand, someone might bite you...

It's scary to stand out and have the red tag on your hip. But I challenge you to do differently. Find your niche and mingle with the new herd.

niche blend with herd

Free mini-course "Find Your Niche Without Sacrificing Your Dreams."

I know it's hard to find your niche. That's why I created a free mini-course, "Find Your Niche Without Sacrificing Your Dreams." It's free. And I promise you it will serve its purpose. Do not miss out on this opportunity. The link is in the description.

Create your account & get instant access to the course "Find Niche without sacrificing your dreams"

Benefits of the niching down

If you find your niche, and when I say niche, I don't just mean specializing in one of the many design areas like branding, user interface, or app design.

I'm talking about the market that your clients are in.

So few magic things might happen:

  1. Expertise
    When you dive deep into one industry, you can become a domain expert, a person who speaks the same language as your customers. We fear what’s different and are drawn to what’s similar, so blend well with your client herd.
  2. Work efficiency
    Being a niche designer means potentially less work for the customer. Just think of how many hours you spend gathering information about the client’s industry and market trends, competitors, specific industry jargon.
  3. Market trends
    You’ll be more familiar with new developments and common concerns of the market.
  4. Credibility
    Additionally, the client will have confidence in you if they know you are an expert with industry-specific knowledge.
  5. Predictable value
    The biggest benefit of "niching down" is that over time you'll find that clients in the same market share similar problems that you can solve. And that's a sweet point because now you charge not for the time but for the solution. That's one of the strategies of becoming a really valuable and well-paid designer.
  6. Marketing focus
    It is much much easier to market yourself to a specific audience.

If you really want to have a successful and long lasting career, you need to find your niche. And I don't want to brag but my free course can help with that. It's few exercises that helps to understand yourself better, and find the niche that makes sense to you.

About the author 

Zbignev Gecis

Zbignev has been a product designer for nearly 20 years. He has worked on hundreds of projects and offered his expertise on everything from SaaS and eCommerce to marketing and branding.

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