The current trend of design students being overly concerned with trends seems to be trending. It’s also a trend that I wish would end soon. Unfortunately, trendy design instructors seem to be pushing this preoccupation with trends, so I suppose it’s an academic trend among trend-conscious instructors to impose naive notions of what design is all about onto their students.
In my nearly 40 years as a designer, I can only remember one single instance of a client mentioning anything about needing a trendy look, but that was a client whose business depended on catering to trend-conscious adolescent girls.
For all my other clients, trendiness never comes up. My clients hire me to solve problems related to how good design can better communicate their messages, engage their target audiences more effectively and, ultimately, to accomplish business objectives. Incorporating the latest fad or trend into that design just isn’t on my list of priorities, nor should it be.
It’s important that one’s designs not look dated, but not looking dated typically means that it needs to look like it belongs within the last decade or two and not noticeably stuck in the past. As the others before me here have already mentioned, there are design principles and considerations far more important than following trends.
When I notice a design trend emerging, I try to avoid getting sucked into it. Fads and trends that are so ubiquitous that they can be identified as trends are the first things to go out of fashion and look dated. I certainly don’t want this year’s trend dragging down my client’s branding two or three years down the road.
Your design instructor and, possibly, your fellow students in the cloistered classrooms of academia might think staying abreast of current trends is of utmost importance. Once you graduate into the real world, you’ll find your employers and clients don’t care about them — trendy design just isn’t a thing that registers with them. Instead, they care about how well that new brochure or website you’ve designed will help their bottom line.
Anyway, as a designer, you should be looking past the trends, not copying the look of what others have done. You don’t want to be a follower of trends. Instead, you want your work to be innovative and effective. If you do it well, you just might find other less talented students/instructors/designers copying your style, in which case you’ve become a trendsetter and not a trend follower.