Assessment Questions and Feedback

Hi there everyone.

My course work needs me to ask at least three other ‘industry professionals’ some questions about current design trends but hasn’t told me where to ask, so I thought I’d start here.

What are some current design trends?

Are current design trends notably influenced by historic design trends?

Are graphic design trends cyclical? Minamalism coming in and out of popularity every dozen years or so as an example.

How much do trends in Graphic Design inform you own work and design practices?

Thank you very much for taking the time :slight_smile:

DIY, Do it Yourself. A lot of people choosing to design things themselves using Canva, rather than hiring professional designers. And it shows.

Not much. I look at the work of a lot of other designers, but I avoid jumping on the bandwagon. It’s bad business practice if your clients come to believe there are 1000 different designers who can do what you do… because there are going to be a lot who charge less for the same thing.


By “design trends,” I’m assuming you’re referring to trends in how things look, such as typefaces or colors or minimalism vs. elaborate, rather than technical trends, business, or societal trends that affect design.

Assuming I’m correct, my first inclination is to disparage your instructor for giving you the assignment, but I’ll hold off. Graphic design is about using visual communication to help solve practical business problems for clients. It is not about identifying and following trends.

Clients don’t care about trends unless it’s the rare client who, for whatever reason, must present a visual brand of being on the cutting edge of some relevant trend or another. In my 40 years in this business at design studios and agencies, I could count the number of these clients I’ve encountered on one hand.

With that said, you don’t want your work to look like it’s from 30 years ago unless the project requires it for some reason. Styles change over time, but they run their course over several years. Conversely, trends are flashes in the pan that come and go over much shorter periods and are best avoided.

Most every trendy design thing that one might identify this year will be untrendy a year or two down the road. The only use I have for keeping up with trends is recognizing them so that I can best avoid them.

One final thought… A good, creative, and original designer is someone other lesser designers tend to copy. In other words, strive to be a trendsetter, not a follower.


Trends End.
As B said, Don’t Follow. Lead.


Don’t follow trends but understand them so you can use them as part of a solution.

An example is the flat mono color graphics you see all over the web. Its trendy know but that came about because of the limitations of the early web and monitors that couldn’t display high res gradients before HD became a thing. Designers turned to flat graphics to solve that problem but eventually it became what we know today as a web style.

During the early years of the Internet, there were 216 web-safe colors that standard PC VGA monitors could display in 8-bit mode. A more important reason for flat color use during those years was because flat graphics compressed to smaller sizes during a time when transfer speeds were a tiny fraction of what they are today.

However, I doubt any flat-color web design trends are rooted in those limitations. Flat colors have been around since caveman days. There are deliberately retro reincarnations rooted in the styles and technical processes of the 1980s, '60s, '50s, etc. Still, I think the main reason flat colors are sometimes used for interface designs is because they’re simple, they look good, and they were (and still are) refreshingly different from the skeuomorphic look that preceded them.

I pay attention to trends, but I don’t look to them for inspiration in my work. I think trends appear for two primary reasons: 1. Designers notice a look they like (such as flat colors) and then incorporate that look into their work. 2. Technical advances create new possibilities for doing things differently.

These changes aren’t trends until people begin noticing others doing the same thing, which is often a good time to jump off the bandwagon as the trend followers are jumping on.

What I find objectionable is the trend of designers thinking trendiness is something to incorporate into their work, as if it’s essential for some reason or another. Some (misguided) design college instructors seem to promote the idea. Design bloggers and podcasters who constantly need to invent something to write and discuss have made trend prediction and analysis a staple of their work.

In this flurry of less-than-important information about trends, design students and new designers, who soak up new information like a sponge, take for granted that everything they learned in school and heard on a popular podcast is important.

I’m a big proponent of higher education for graphic designers, and I went that route myself for both a BFA and an MFA. However, much of what I learned in school needed to be painfully unlearned or modified once I graduated.

Clients and employers rarely, if ever, concern themselves with trends. To them, the reason they hire designers is because business needs warrant them. More often than not, that need is very much goal-oriented — improve branding, improve sales, improve traffic, improve shelf appeal, make more money, improve their Net Promotor Score (another unfortunate trend), etc.

Once former design students finally make the often difficult transition from design students to design professionals, they typically realize that using their talents to solve client and employer business problems is the primary goal. Doing this rarely involves latching onto here-today, gone-tomorrow trends. It’s certainly inappropriate to use a client’s or employer’s business problem as an excuse to incorporate one’s own aesthetic preferences and desire to be trendy, which, more than likely, aren’t the most effective solutions to the problem at hand.

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