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Design Trends: Should You Lead or Follow?

By on May 2, 2016 in Design Trends
Design Trends: Should You Lead or Follow?

Design trends are constantly changing. Being able to keep up with and implement them is an important talent for designers to have. Great designers don’t ignore design trends; they study and understand them in order to better their work. However, some designers focus more on new trends than others. What should you do?

Whether or not you follow design trends probably depends more on your clients and what they are interested in rather than your own personal preference. Some clients are looking for projects that ride the current design trends, others might want something more traditional, and still others might want something completely innovative and out of the box. Is the best design practice to follow trends or take the lead yourself? Here are a few things to consider when asking yourself this question.

Following vs. Leading

Good design has existed throughout time, but it still undergoes major changes and shifts from time to time. Changes in technology, the shift to mobile and other factors influence how design works and is implemented. Good design has adapted to the current state of technology and will continue to over time. If all designers had followed existing trends, we wouldn’t have experienced the same leaps and advances in design that we have. It’s thanks to the designers who thought outside the box and created new technologies and practices that design has made the progress it has.

However, taking the lead isn’t the right choice for everyone. Following good design practice and trends is just as important in supplying great design for an audience.

Trends in Design

Trends exist for a reason, and people are always going to hop on board with what is popular. That means that it’s important to understand trends and why they exist, but to also be able to be playful and skirt around them. Google is a great example of a brand that adapts to new trends but also stays forward-thinking and constantly challenges the status quo.

Good design should, at the end of the day, be honest and have a long-lasting appeal. This mean transcending the immediacy of current trends while still employing the important elements that they bring to the design world.

For instance, consider a simple trend such as the two horizontal bars for the Pause function on video players. That icon started as a trend and remained steady over time. If you were to replace it with a circle or an octagon, users would be confused, and it wouldn’t be a very functional or effective design choice. This demonstrates the power of trends and their necessity in some forms of design.

Keep Your Client's Needs in Focus

The bottom line is that designers should always keep in mind that they are designing for their clients and not for themselves. The best design meets a client's needs and leaves the designer's ego out of it. Design will continue to evolve, and trends will come and go, but constantly honing your ability to produce great work based on exactly what a specific client is looking for is the most valuable skill to have as a designer.

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  1. RetroSupply

    This is a subject I think about a lot. For me the bad side of trends is when I look back and cringe (80s fashion anyone?) But I also know as a consumer that many brands win my business because of trends.

    For example, I subscribe to Dollar Shave Club. Of course I love the product, but what keeps me loyal is the vintage design (and great copy).

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned adopting trends but staying forward thinking. Many trends help grab consumer attention and build loyalty. But if you're business model relies purely on being trendy your in trouble.

    My two cents : )

  2. Joiaco

    I have also contemplated this question many times and end up thinking forward and out of the box for my own projects, but for clients i give them what they want. Generally people want what other people want, until everyone has it, then they look for something that only the trend setters have... and so it goes around.

  3. mishkablack

    I like what Dustin said except for the fact that I do want to see Mork suspenders come back and love the rainbow- unicorn, glittered and shiny t-shirts of the early 80s... so other than that I totally agree!

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