There was a great article written by Espen Brunborg entitled “Symptoms of a Web Epidemic” for Smashing Magazine. If you have time, skip this post and go read it! If you don’t want to benefit from an insightful article I will do my best to sum it up really quick.
Brunborg pinpoints various web trends that he finds in the world today. I will include photos directly from the article actually.
That is really only a small taste of some of the trends he pointed out. If you could’t identify some of them they are forked ribbons, texture, old illustrations, zig zag borders, etc.
The really important issue that he highlights is one of trends and trend copying. It is interesting how these trends catch on in the web world, most likely because we are so connected. Brunborg makes the point that trends in themselves are not bad, however it is vital for interaction designers to know about trends and be aware when using one.
Be Proud to Be a Professional
Its really a matter of professionalism. As we deal with clients, we want them to know that every choice we make is in their best interest. Trends tend to be more for the interest of the designer, the visualizer BUT if that trend fits right in with what your client wants DO IT!! Use the crap out of it if it works but do it with purpose and with design thinking. The biggest mistake that designers make, which causes distrust with our clients, is that we are not logical beings. That we are incapable of backing up our decisions with solid insight and thoughtfulness. A lot of those sites that were featured probably use the trend to their advantage but what if one of those sites were a corporate investment firm? It might not make sense to apply that style even though its trendy. If that investment firm wants to cater to young hipsters, then make it rain!
Design your Design
For some reason I love that phrase. I’ve also heard it said “Don’t design by default.” Those principles are profound when it comes to design. Another problem with trends and judging our design by visuals alone is that it allows for professional confusion. Instead of highlighting designer who are truly communicating we begin to highlight those who are truly copying or mimicking. That act in itself is not a bad thing, its great to repurpose and remix ideas but at what point do we draw the line? Not in copying but in what makes great design.
I think that Dribbble has a little bit to do with our obsession over visuals. We see snippet after snippet of really cool design but there’s no purpose! We don’t know why they chose that direction, how that direction communicates, or what the client thinks. We just say stuff like, “dude looks sweet” or “love the type” or “love the texture” or “loved the forked ribbons, way retro dude.” Is our profession just brown nosing more capable visual designers than ourselves?
Beware of Trends, Embrace Design Thinking
I’m not dissing dribbble. Nor am I dissing popular trends. They look great! I drool over retro type, textures, and justified type just like the next guy. I have enough saved jpg’s to prove it. I am saying that we should all make conscious decisions about what we do. This will separate the TRULY insightful designers from the ones who can only mimic what those ones do. Design thinking is a much bigger than we imagine. It is found all over the place but as designers who should CLAIM it as our own. It is our birthright so to speak and if we can embrace design thinking as our own it will only make us that much more valuable. Both to ourselves, our team, and our clients.