Design trends: Why we don’t follow them.

Design, like fashion, music, architecture and almost anything else, has it’s trends. The difference with digital design, particularly with design on the web, is that design trends can move incredibly quickly.

This pace means that following design trends can result in a brand looking great today, but quickly becoming dated and ineffective in a competitive marketplace.

When we set up TAC we made a decision to avoid design trends and instead focus on designing with longevity in mind. This post explains why we decided to work this way.

Long-lasting design

Brands obviously need to stand out from the crowd. However, design trends, particularly on the web, can sometimes be measured in months rather than years. Designing only for the present clearly isn’t a sensible approach.

There’s quite a few Dieter Rams quotes on our website. Here’s another:

Good Design Is Long-lasting: It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society – Dieter Rams

Taking a long term view on design helps build brands that are not only effective now, but will continue to be effective in the future.

Brands need to adapt and change with the times. Strong foundations and getting things right the first time makes taking advantage of new opportunities a lot easier. Evolution not revolution.

Design trends on the web

The web is still in its relative infancy and is changing all the time. The challenge for a web designer is taking this constantly evolving landscape into account and designing with flexibility in mind.

Many websites have no longevity; a lot of brands completely change their online presence as often as every year. Starting from scratch so often is a huge and unnecessary investment. It’s also likely indicative of the failure of a design process.

A further challenge is taking into account permanent shifts in technology and user behaviour. Examples such as the increased use of mobile devices and online video are things that are here to stay.

Eliminating the unnecessary

I believe designers should eliminate the unnecessary. That means eliminating everything that is modish because this kind of thing is only short-lived – Dieter Rams

Many design trends don’t add any value, often only adding unnecessary complexity.

An example of this is parallax scrolling on websites. The effect of a website’s background moving at a different speed to the foreground to create a sense of depth. Even if you haven’t heard the phrase, you’ll have seen it on the web. It’s everywhere.

But does it actually add anything? I’d argue that it doesn’t enhance a user’s experience or simplify a process. What it can add is an inconsistent, sometimes confusing experience for users. Is this worthwhile?

Design for design’s sake is something we avoid. Things that don’t add value create distractions; clarity and simplicity creates focus.

What’s the answer?

As little design as possible – Dieter Rams

The goal of design should be to create something that works well and continues to work well over the long-term.

For us, a simple, timeless approach to design will never stop being effective. Removing the unnecessary helps to focus attention on the messages that really matter. Clarity creates impact.

Starting from scratch every couple of years, or in some cases every year, is a clear sign that a designer is getting it wrong. Not following design trends and instead focussing on longevity and flexibility contributes towards helping a brand stay fresh over the long-term.

Backing it up

If you’d like to see our approach to design in practice you can view a selection of our work.

Talk to us if you’d like to learn more about our approach to design and find out how we could help your brand. We’d love to hear from you.

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