Design trends – useful or worth avoiding?

Published:  October 19, 2012
Design trends – useful or worth avoiding?

Each month desktop puts a question to six creatives. This month we asked Georgia Perry, Alicia Hannah Naomi, Chris Hewson, Carl Morgan, Andrew Fairclough, Jenny Butler the following question :

Design trends – can they be useful or should they always be avoided?


Georgia Perry
Designer / Illustrator
‘Trend’ seems to be one of those undesirable, almost dirty words – akin to ‘hipster’ or… (gulp) ‘blogger’. But in the current state of design where we are constantly connected, switched on and exposed to trends as they are born, is it even possible to avoid them completely? Trends are cyclical and can now appear, saturate and die at a rate of knots – which I’d argue can make for a pretty exciting, chaotic and stimulating visual landscape. The difference, however, is being tapped into trends, or blatantly clinging to a particular look or feel in order to feel relevant. As long as we’re on the right side of that line, I think trends can definitely be useful. They remind us from where we’ve come – and hopefully encourage us to push our work further.

Alicia Hannah Naomi
Jewellery designer / Style blogger
As a whole, trends are good for the design industry. They’re important because they help define eras in design – but choosing to embrace them is the personal choice of each designer; I prefer design permanence over trends when it comes to my work. It comes down to two factors; who you’re designing for and how long that design will be in the market. Jewellery has the propensity to last a lifetime, so I need to consider that when I work, but humans are social creatures who seek unity and sameness. Avoiding trends is not our natural inclination.

Chris Hewson
Design lecturer, RMIT University
It’s difficult to ignore design trends, but necessary to involve students with classic design and to encourage them to be innovative. Students and early career designers are culturally savvy and both influenced and inspired by what they observe and are shown. An associate once remarked how it is inconceivable to separate ourselves from the design process, as we are consciously responsible for the work that we create. Our social and cultural awareness is inextricably linked to how we perceive the world. Consequently, this outlook is then reflected within our practice. Centuries of notable and important art movements have mirrored and championed the zeitgeist of that particular period in time. Designers may in fact therefore be excused for being playful and somewhat preoccupied with technology, new media and experimentation. Where there is some concern, however, is when the trend becomes the design and fresh thinking is resultantly defeated.

Carl Morgan
Designer / Lecturer
Design directly reflects who we are as a society. Our aesthetic appreciation, the idea of self-expression and our interaction with our visual and material environment all hold high stakes in the conceptual stages of design. Sometimes these designs perfectly capture an essence of an age and will, in turn, be popularised by other designers. These trends help to unify and clarify the language of design during the time it exists. Sure, trends have a limited lifespan, and may not always be the best solution, but they convey what we thought was relevant when it was.

Andrew Fairclough
Designer / Illustrator
Kindred Studio
Good ideas will always be on-trend, so in that sense I think they are indispensable. New trends in thinking and technique help drive designers forward, inspiring and keeping our work from becoming stale. Used with caution, trends can be entirely useful. Design problems often call for a solution that places the client ahead of the curve, while others require a sense of timelessness. I think the biggest danger is in slavishly following aesthetic design trends without conceptual thinking or context, resulting in your work becoming a revolving door of style without substance.

Jenny Butler
Editorial assistant
The Design Files
For me, there is a really fine line between embracing design trends and rejecting quality design. I feel that at times, the retail and media industries successfully market current design trends as being disposable – which results in devaluing both the design and the designer. I think that any time spent trying to create (or recreate) a design trend is time that could be more positively used trying to create a style that has meaning for you and ultimately longevity for the design.

Thumbnail: Michael Rowe, from The Noun Project.

3 Responses

  1. I’d prefer to translate ‘trend’ to ‘cultural awareness’. Great design must take into account its environmental status. After all how will the concept attract its target if we don’t know how the market is thinking? Looking at ‘trend’ is great direction and insight but as far as trend’s influence for the next design project, I’d rather start with my pencil, the pad and simple words. This is my ritual and the only way, I think, to providing a completely original and effective design solution, something all our great clients deserve.

  2. Pablo

    Trends are very important for making money, if it isn’t cool it won’t make money!!!

  3. Tetra

    Georgia touches on it slightly, but an unfortunate byproduct of trends and those seen as “trendy”, particularly in new mediums like web development, is that it can promote bad design while maintaining visual allure. You’ll see a lot of patterns used over and over again, mindlessly, without any consideration to the user and the intended function of the method. It’s almost a popularity contest as to who can come up with the most ridiculous and most inconvenient practice while still making it look “pretty” enough to pass off as “brilliant.”

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