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It’s not so much that I believe a particular design trend is great or that one isn’t, but more so that we need to take a step back and remember that trends come and go and that one trend doesn’t make a design great. Also remember that just because a trend works for one project, doesn’t mean it works for another.
Dictionary.com defines trend as “the general course or prevailing tendency.” We all know what design trends are and that many of us fall into them each and every day. What many designers don’t know, or don’t realize, is that these trends will come and go and eventually you will look dated if you stay in that rut for too long. I’m not against using them at all, I use them often. It’s excellent practice and helps to mold us into the designers we will become in the future. My only problem with trends is that they can cause problems for people if not used correctly. Let’s discuss.
Using trends can be great because they can help to push your limits to learn new things. The problem is that they can be counter-effective if you rely on them too much. What I mean is that they can make us complacent designers who never try anything else new because we already know how to design something a particular way. I have personally fallen prey to this with my corporate design background. I worked for an agency where about 90% of my design was corporate and driven by project manager requests. The company had little backbone to stand up to clients and tell them we were the experts in what they needed to be effective for their clients on the web. This led to the designers of the agency finding a “safe zone” with a particular trend and sticking with it because we knew we’d get less push-back if we didn’t step too far out of the box. Complacent designers mean less effective projects, end of story.
Trends also create copycats very easily. You will find this all over the internet these days. People find a designer they like and then decide they’re going to rip off designs in the portfolio for their own projects…or worse, they steal the work for themselves. Personally, I think copycats are becoming even more prominent with the rise in design related social sites such as Dribbble and Forrst. I think these sites are awesome, I am simply pointing out that they are enabling trends to prosper moreso than they have been able to in the past. So my take on this, feel free to use trends to help you along, just don’t steal other people’s stuff and remember to put your own creative twist on whatever inspiration you gather.
This could probably go both ways. I can see where it could force designers to come up with a better way to do something, meaning the trend has helped us along in our quest for awesome design. But more often, I think it puts design in a box. New designers feel they can’t design something different than the “great designers” out there because it will never be accepted. They try something fresh and it never gets noticed because no one else is doing it. Of course, if it’s good enough, eventually a popular designer will pick it up and then it gets pushed through the industry like wildfire. So my point here is that we need to make sure the trends don’t limit our designs but rather cause us to come up with new ways to achieve the results we desire.
Ultimately, I think we need to take into consideration that trends can end up being less effective on a project if used improperly. This is what I mean when I say that just because it works for one project, doesn’t mean it will work for another. Take a massive dropdown menu for example. It’s a trend we’ve been seeing a lot of lately and a great example is onsony.com. This works great for the design they have going on and the amount of information they want to put in front of the customer immediately. But it may or may not work for the next project you work on. Maybe they don’t need a drop menu at all or maybe there’s only a few links to drop down. Either way, just remember to assess the situation and whether what you’re using will help or hurt the usability.