Design Trends: Should You Really Be Afraid?

Yash Gupta
Designer/Writer, Refuse.
Published November 20th, 2018.

When was the last time you saw a shaded sphere in a logo, a photo covered with grunge overlays, or a rap song with just way too many triplets?

About 29 chairs lined up next to and stacked on one another.
Just. Too. Many.

Trends come and go all the time. However, it can be painful for a lot of people to see a trend emerge, and eventually take over mainstream media.

Everything starts to look the same, brands end up degrading their identities, artists lose quality and distinctiveness, and media platforms grow annoying; which pretty much explains why trends are looked down upon.

It’s always a great idea to avoid using trends where they don’t belong. When it comes to design, trends provide no strategic value to the job, and make the products vulnerable to indifference from the audience. Plus, they just become annoying to look at.

Although most trends revolve around some really powerful design elements; those elements might not always serve a purpose. Imagine looking up at a flower shop sign that’s styled in grunge. Doesn’t feel too right—right? Grunge-styled typography doesn’t communicate anything right about a flower shop.

Less than a dozen wilting, light-pink rose flowers kept in a barely visible white-colored vase.
Maybe except if they sell dead flowers.

Trends can kill your design for a lot of reasons:

It’s clear that trends can easily ruin what could’ve been an acceptable work of design. So how should you handle trends? Boot them from your workflow altogether?

Although chances are that a design trend will have nothing great to add to a composition; it’s still a design element, and still has something to offer where it fits. After all, trends are just design styles or compositions that happen to have grown really popular.

A collage of brightly colored, geometric patterns painted on a brick wall with vents.
Design trends are still pretty innocent.

How Design Trends Originate

Design trends emerge for a lot of reasons. It could be anything from a product becoming really popular to a design style going viral. Every time something comes along and is either really impressive, or gets a lot of attention for some reason; it’s susceptible to becoing a trend. Remember those annoying, 3D globes back from 2000s? People had them in almost every logo and every list paragraph because they were new; they were cool; and computers could now render them really fast.

And oh; memes.

Hundreds of pumpkins growing in a foggy field.
Image: Every logotype from the 2000s.

Should You Be Afraid?

Should you be afraid of design trends? Yes, and no.

While trends can easily hurt your design; they’re still just design elements with their own style, place, and context to be used in. And if you try to confirm that—you might prove yourself wrong. There are just so many poorly-done examples of trending design styles, that the nicer ones get buried in the past.

A rough-looking collage made from ripped magazine pages.
And it can be pretty hard to pull them out of the internet trashcan.

Although if you look at the right places, you’ll find some really good examples of design styles that have now become trends.

Trends aren’t unoriginal or bad by default. They have their own influences that make them them distinct. It’s just that they look really bad when they pass through a lot of unskilled hands.

However, trends can perform just as well as any other design style once you understand how they work.

Interior completely lit by illustrative, pink or magenta neon signs.
Unless you mess it up, trends can still be pretty ducking rad.

How To Work With Design Trends

There’s always a chance you might have to work with a trend. Here’s what you can do to keep your design on the right track:

Piece of metal lettering reading 1984, fixed between two metal beams.
Nothing beats good design. Nothing.

What You Need To Watch Out For

Trends are just as brutal as they are annoying. Regardless of how well you’ve designed things, trends can do their own damage if you pick them for the wrong project. Here’s what you should watch out for:

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