Banishing Bad Hair Days since 1997!™

Hair: Secrets Of Hairstyle Design


It was never in my life plan to become a hairdresser. My mom's baby sister, my aunt Margie was in the hair trade and had a salon in her home where I was coiffed in a variety of hairstyles over the years.

In addition, I was tortured by Shirley Temple style perms and super short haircuts that I hated. Such was my introduction into the world of dealing with hairdressers. It's actually harder to get a great cut from a hairstylist when she's in cahoots with your mom.

As I made my way through the last years of grade school I was bitten by the entrepreneur bug and focused on business. I had a short detour in college into the worlds of sociology, psychology and Chinese history.

By grad school I was back on track ending my college years with a Masters in Public Policy with a minor in economics and business. I took post grad classes with the idea of a Ph.D. in business but suffered burnout and threw myself into a career in information technology with lots of various detours into marketing, sales and management.

When was founded I was forced to spend years learning about hair. However, I never had time to go to cosmetology school. I compensated with lots of books, videos, CD, DVDs and ultimately shows where I sat glued to the end of many many platforms and watched an endless list of live demonstrations of cut, color, styling and hair extension application.

Although I learned massive amounts of information about cosmetology, I never felt that I had walked the cosmetology walk. I finally started attending night school at a very well known (and very difficult) cosmetology school in Dallas. The culture shock was overwhelming.

Even though I knew enough about hair to win an updo contest the first week of school, I was stunned by the stamina required to stand on your feet for hours every day constantly using fingers, hands, shoulders, and elbows to shampoo, rinse, blow dry, brush and iron endless heads of hair.

I recently received a hair license allowing me to do specialized hair work in Texas with a specialty in braiding, updos, long hair care and of course hair extensions. I actually attended a second well-known cosmetology college which was originally a CJ Walker school in Oak Cliff.

I feel that I am just starting my journey into the world of cosmetology. I am continuing my cosmetology courses and eventually plan to specialize in color and cut. I am also working as a part time apprentice for a seasoned colorist.

While I was passionate about learning to create updos, apply hair extensions and create a multitude of braids, I was not wild about cutting hair. Since I have always had a hard time cutting a straight line, I could not imagine how I could avoid butchering an innocent customer visiting the school for a bob, shag or other popular hairstyle.

Hair Style Design

Which brings me to the secrets of hair design that I learned at both of the cosmetology colleges I attended. One college was focused on natural hair care for women and men of color and the other college dealt more with Caucasian hair issues. I found that the principles of hairstyling design are basically the same regardless of the type of hair.

Hairstyle design is truly an artistic exercise. Which may explain why some hairdressers are famous for their designs while other hairdressers may not be as celebrated for their hairstyle designs.

Hairstyle design is as much an artistic talent as it is learning technical techniques. Hairstyle design also requires practice, practice, practice.

If you visit my home, my office or see me in my car you will almost always find me with a series of mannequins with a variety of hair lengths, colors and textures. At first it freaked out my family and friends when they would walk into my office to find my latest mannequin mounted on my tripods in various stage of braiding, updos or cuts.

Hair Design Inspirations

Hairstyle design requires a very strong visual orientation. When I interview famous hairdressers such as Ken Paves, Robert Hallowell and Laurent D I always ask what inspires their hair styles. It is interesting what inspires great hair style designers. Some well-known forms of hair design inspiration includes:

  • Hairstyles from the past. Ken Paves and Robert Hallowell both do a tremendous amount of research into past fashion and beauty trends for modern day inspiration. Ken loves to design stunning hairstyles for his celebrity girls based on past movie star goddesses like Marilyn Monroe and Jean Harlow while Robert is inspired by shapes and colors.
  • Furniture, buildings and architecture provide other forms of hair style inspiration. Kate Hudson's celebrity hairdresser told me in an interview that he is often inspired by a wide range of random objects including security cages at the airport.
  • Flowers, trees and many elements of nature such as wild animals inspire other hair designers. Have you ever wondered why some hairstyles end in feathered ends much like some exotic birds? Why are some hairstyles described as poodle cuts or shaggy mops?
  • Food is another form of inspiration for hairstylists who seek to reinvent the form, color and texture of a variety of food items into fabulous hair designs. I personally designed an updo inspired by a pineapple I bought at Whole Foods Market.
  • Waterfall, rivers, streams and ocean waves provide other great hairstyle inspirations. Cascading curl infused hair designs might have sprung from the hairdresser's fond memories of a trip to the local waterfall.
  • Fashion magazines are great sources of hair design inspiration since hair follows fashion in its evolution.

Of course there are more common hairstyle inspirations such as what the current celebrities are wearing or designs from rock stars, TV news reporters or even what hair salon clients suggest.

Original Hairstyle Designs Versus Formula Hairstyles

While the great hair style designers such as those who are in high demand for runways and red carpets work hard to tap into constant new inspirations for fabulous new hairstyle creations, the majority of hairdressers follow formula hairstyle creation. This means that they have a technical workbook that carefully outlines the most common cuts and they stick to those cuts for the majority of their work.

Is a hairdresser who designs hairstyles based on technical formulas versus inspiration received while on a trip on Safari a hairdresser of less worth? No, not at all. Both types of hairdressers serve a major need for hair consumers.

Just as Ken Paves has a lot of opportunity to design award winning new hairstyles for the covers of major fashion magazines, he also needs to be able to cut a precision bob.

It is however important to understand the difference between a hairdresser who does very creative hair style design versus a hairdresser who cuts according to formula. You most likely will find a hairdresser who cuts in the precision model at fast cutting locations where all the hairdressers do is quick and basic haircuts. You will also most likely find the most inspired hair designers at full service salons, working on models on runways or celebrities on Red Carpets.

Depending on your own personal hair style design needs and budget you may do great with a formula haircutter. If you want a basic bob or shag, it would be overkill to seek out a high end hairstyle designer. A formula hair designer generally charges much less than a high design hairdresser.

Also, many high end hair designers want to have free reign to create a hair work of art. They do not want to be told to only trim 1/2" from the sides and make the fringe choppy. They want to treat your hair like a canvas and design as their inspiration flows. If you are a free spirit wiling to turn the outcome of your hair to a high end hairstyle designer you will have quite a unique hair design experience.

On the other hand, if you are a more into controlling the outcome of your hairstyle, go for a technical hair designer, take a photo of the style you want and be assured that you will have more say in the final design.


Hair style design performed by licensed hairdressers is a true artistic talent which requires a very strong visual orientation. While some hairdressers are inspired by a wide range of items ranging from Mother Nature to food and furniture, other hairdressers work from a technical formula foundation which means that they cut and design hairstyles according to a proven hairstyle formula. The high end hairstyle designers are truly artists who generally charge a lot more then the formula hair designers.

If you want to talk more about this or other hair care articles on or anywhere else, please post a message on's Hair Talk Forums.

Social Media Network Information

Please follow us on Twitter at: I look forward to meeting new people from all walks of Twitter and learning from their Tweets.

New On
Active HairTalk Threads
Wanna talk?
HairTalk® is the place for you!
Recent Topics:
Quick Poll
Does Miley Cyrus look best as:
Who cares?
View Results
Daily Hair Tip
For a low maintenance style, try to work with your natural hair type rather than against it. For example, if your hair is naturally wavy, select a hairstyle that works easily with the waves.
Top Gallery Images