Musings: The Trendy Slippery Slope

By Sam Stratton

I often ponder the industry that we are in and how it operates.

My recent thoughts have lead me to speculate about trends. I’ve noticed that the design industry gets caught up with trends. I understand where they come from and why they exist, but at what point do they become detrimental to our work? Is work of poor quality if it doesn’t “trend” on Behance or dribbble?

Trends are even more powerful today given how connected we are to people. The internet supports trending far beyond the design work. Videos, photos, thoughts, entities, events, work is posted throughout the day from all over the world and goes viral. As designers, we are more in contact with trends than ever, and arguably more impacted by those trends. We get trapped, consciously or subconsciously. We feel pressure to design to trends. Or to design specifically to reject, or modify, trends. Or we naturally design to trends without realizing.

In my opinion, there are no “correct” answers in design. Design is an art form, why so many people fall in love with both the work and creating the work. But if we start to conform to status quo we will never be free in our creativity. Creatives should be the pioneers of new things, not just recreators. Knowing how to work in Photoshop and Illustrator does not make you a designer.

I’ve been studying some old masters of graphic design, each one known for bucking design trends. William Caslon created the first san serif typeface in 1816 (the first to show up in a type sample book). He challenged the long-accepted truth of serif lettering. He revolutionized type by thinking past trends. People like Paul Rand, Milton Glaser, and Saul Bass all revolutionized design by looking beyond trends. I believe their work is still in circulation today because of the timeless nature that they designed for.

Here’s where I am right now personally: challenge the norm. Don’t use a design because it’s a trend. Use it because it makes sense in the context of the work that you’re doing. Trends are temporary while good design will last forever. Design for the future.

These are my ramblings, take ‘em or leave ‘em. I don’t mean to be cynical but, more, to start a conversation around the topic of trends. If you want, read between the lines to figure out where this can fit into your everyday work life. I’m completely aware that some clients will demand trendy work. But maybe after reading this you’ll have some inspiration to help steer them toward a solution with longevity.