Design Nuggets September - trends old & new!

Welcome to September's design nuggets. This month I'm talking visual design trends: is trendy design good or bad? A library of design trends; and fun tool to emulate a trend of times past: Word Art! Let's get into it.

Definition of Trend (noun): a current style or preference : new fashion trends

Trends in design: good or bad?

I feel like designers have a love/hate thing with trends. Some trends look super tasty (why else would they become so prevalent?), and we want to be known for being hip and with the times; cool and fashionable. I know when I see a visual trend that I like, I want to experiment with the look. 

This isn’t in itself a bad thing, it helps us grow and learn as designers. We gain a deeper understanding of a visual style we haven’t experimented with before. I think the problems come when designers use trends in projects, especially client projects without thinking about the why. Or, just blindly following the trend without applying any actual design. It’s more fun to take a trend and put your own unique spin on it, applying it successfully to a problem you are tackling.

Good - when it fits!

If it makes sense for a trend to be utilised in a design (whether it’s for a single poster, a campaign, a platform etc.) and by using that trend it will get its message across or connect with an audience more effectively, then it absolutely should use that trend. 

Bad - when it doesn’t fit (& removes context)! 

When a trend is emulated for the sake of it, removing the process of thought and reasoning behind the design then it is just bad design. Good design doesn’t only look great, it is carefully constructed to perform a certain function or achieve a goal. By blindly following a trend, we remove the thought and reasoning part of the process.

Trends & brands

Styles come and go. Good design is a language, not a style.

- Massimo Vignelli

A successful brand tells an ongoing story in a particular way that is unique to that specific company. It makes us feel a certain way, recall a specific memory or experience. So in the case of a brand, it’d be really difficult to utilise a trend in a way that makes sense to their story while also providing value to their audience.

Trendlist: trend spotting

Michal Sloboda & Ondřej Zita created Trend List in 2011 to explore visual trends in contemporary graphic design. It is a library of prevalent graphic design trends that we’ve all seen. The list covers trends like gradients, repetition, strikethrough text, underlined, infinity shapes etc.

The library of images really emphasises a big problem with trends in design: in any category, many of the images look the same. The designs, although for different purposes (some posters, book covers, menus etc.), all meant to be telling different messages, are indistinguishable from one another. They have no character or uniqueness to them.

See for yourself:

A lost art form: WordArt generator!

Complete with good old Clippy, this online tool created by designer Michael McMillan lets users generate and export WordArt, just like the old days. Ok, it doesn’t have the custom colours and other controls the real thing had, but it’s still pretty amazing.

Check it out:

Thanks for reading my design nuggets for September. Let me know what your thoughts are on design trends (or more importantly - share your WordArt creations)!

References, links and useful pieces on trends in design:

These design trends ruled the 2010s. It’s time to let them go (Fast Company)

Graphic design trends to look for (and avoid), courtesy of Trend List (It’s Nice That)


Zombie Modernism (PDF)