Thoughts on design trends? Follow or avoid?

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Karla's picture
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Joined: 22 Jul 2014 - 11:48am
Thoughts on design trends? Follow or avoid?
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In the past few years (especially 2014) of looking at design blogs on Tumblr or browsing Behance, I've come across a lot of similarities between designs, aka "trends". And I think trends are driving a lot of the most celebrated design work of today.

You can look at http://trendlist.org/ for a good example of what I'm talking about.

Just a few of the most popular design trends:

- Letterspace: spacing out or throwing around the letters of a word within a design
- Hyphens: adding hyphens somewhat randomly to words
- Left, Right, Up, Down: placing words on the sides of the design, forcing people to read sideways
- IK (International Klein) Blue: the use of a bold saturated shade of blue
- Squiggles: using squiggly lines across the design -- this one seems like one of the oddest
- Apercu Typeface: This isn't on trendlist but I would consider just the use of Apercu online as a pretty big trend

I'm sure you've all seen a number of these trends while browsing online. My question is, do you think using popular trends in your designs is a good or bad thing? Does it show that your work is "of the times" and that you have your finger on the pulse of the moment or are you simply being an unoriginal follower?

+ What are your favourite design trends, and what are your most loathed?

Cory Maylett's picture
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Joined: 18 Jan 2007 - 1:11am
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I keep up with the larger stylistic changes that happen over time, but I pay no attention whatsoever to the minor trends of various sorts that other people claim to notice.

For the most part, the supposed trends listed on the site you link to are the same sort of thing that I've noticed for years. I mean the site claims that, um, gradients and circles are trendy. I really can't take this person's observations all that seriously.

As a designer, it's important to avoid looking either dated or trendy. Designers should be setting trends — not following them. Just my opinion, but any designer who intentionally latches onto a trend just for the sake of doing so has pretty much self-identified him or herself as also-ran talent.

Bob Evans's picture
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Joined: 18 May 2005 - 7:20am
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None of the things you mention are really "design trends" - while they are used they are not what really is the look of the times we are designing in. Many factors determine the look of any given time and things even cycle in and out as part of the overall look. What is good is solid design practice combined with creative ideas that make your designs stand out from the crowd.

James Michaels's picture
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Joined: 6 Mar 2010 - 12:54am
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There are trends in all forms of design — architecture, clothing, interior design, graphic design, etc. — and many designers like to keep up with trends so their work looks current and perhaps is more likely to win awards.

But I wouldn't consider the trends in your link to be prominent, and some of the trends you mention seem more like experimental work by college students than what most designers are actually doing.

The vast majority of graphic design is done for businesses and corporations (because they have the budgets to pay for it) and many of them are conservative.

One general trend I've noticed is a preference for lighter weight fonts in headlines.

If you're looking for trends, you might check the websites of large, successful design firms (Pentagram, for example) and advertising agencies. There are also magazines read by many professionals, such as Communication Arts.

Cory Maylett's picture
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Joined: 18 Jan 2007 - 1:11am
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JamesM wrote: "There are also magazines read by many professionals, such as Communication Arts."

And speaking of Communication Arts and trendiness on a typography forum, the latest CA Typography Annual just arrived in the mail today. I haven't opened it yet, but I'm looking forward to seeing what they say has been trending this past year. ;-)

James Michaels's picture
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Joined: 6 Mar 2010 - 12:54am
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I got it too but haven't had a chance to open it. I often feel that graphic designers and font designers don't always think alike; two different worlds.

Donald H. Tucker's picture
Joined: 13 Dec 2012 - 3:47pm
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Many businesses are conservative, but others are not. For good examples of contemporary typographic design trends pick up some print copies of Bloomberg Business Week. Headings wander like snakes through the text, words bleed into the gutter, top business executives are presented in strange pictures, and bizarre graphics abound. Don't miss the discussion at the start of each issue on how the week's cover was designed.
Some of the BW techniques appear on your list. Others are more creative.
Don

Anthony Barnett's picture
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Joined: 11 Feb 2015 - 2:16am
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Deleted.

Peiran Tan's picture
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Joined: 11 Dec 2012 - 2:51am
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I think that’s better classified as “imitation.”
Trend? Art Nouveau is a trend. The Swiss movement is a trend.

Johann Dough's picture
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Joined: 24 Jan 2015 - 3:31pm
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"My question is, do you think using popular trends in your designs is a good or bad thing? Does it show that your work is "of the times" and that you have your finger on the pulse of the moment or are you simply being an unoriginal follower?"

The answer is, it depends. It depends on the client, the application, the audience, and the objective. Designing snowboard designs for Burton is very different than designing logos for Fortune 100 companies.

I'm a big fan of Paul Rand's writings, and the lesson that I take from him it to always look for the simplest, most elegant design solution to any problem. Simplicity, all other things being equal, translates into strength and durability. That said I'm not an ideologue and I'm happy to bend rules or break them outright if the ends justify the means and it works.

I see a lot of trendy design that I love. It's exciting, fresh, and different, even if it's a flash in the pan and I know it will looked ridiculously dated in a few years. If it is strong enough it will become iconic and get woven into the lexicon of design. A lot of stuff from the 50's, for example, is "of a piece" and dove straight into a design cul-de-sac, but it still makes us smile when we see it.

Some design is meant to endure, like corporate logos and book design. Some of it, like magazine design, is ephemeral and makes no pretense to longevity. Certainly watching trends and integrating them into your work as opportunity allows or requires makes the act of design more interesting.

Reynir Heiðberg Stefánsson's picture
Joined: 19 Nov 2010 - 11:15am
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Nice jacket, of course, but only @hrant could get away with wearing it.

Russell McGorman's picture
Joined: 25 May 2006 - 10:01am
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Has there ever been a time when there were not trends to follow - or not follow.