In the field of design, it seems as though every article relating to trends will tear them apart and explain how they’ll be the demise of design at large. We see how everyone around us is succumbing to design trends, but then we are told to avoid them.
We are told that trends will be the death of us. We are told that being trendy makes you less of a designer. We are told trends are cheap. However, none of this is true. Trends are important—they’re a documentation of progress and experimentation, and allow us to connect with people in this very moment.
Could you imagine looking back into a trendless history? You wouldn’t be able to because there would be no visible progress. We would have a lineage of sameness. Trends are an opportunity to do something new not just from an individual standpoint, but on a macro level. Trends allow us to shift cultural currents and ultimately depict an underlying intuition.
How is any generation remembered? How is any era remembered? How is any period remembered? How is any culture remembered? The generalization of trends over time allow us to identify and form a history—a timeline—of progress.
Take a look at the Roman busts above. The first is of Trajan circa 108 CE, and the second is his successor, Hadrian, dating to 125-130 CE. Between these two emperors, there are to two distinct differences. With the rule of Hadrian, emperors began to embrace wearing a beard, and in terms of sculptural details, the eyes of portraits were incised which wasn’t seen previously. Following Hadrian, these two features became trend and now make it easy to distinguish Roman portraiture prior to the middle of the 2nd century from the work which followed.
Either embrace trends or define them.
But never complain about them.
— Matthew Smith (@mttymtt) December 30, 2015
What stylistic qualities defined the Arts & Crafts movement or Art Nouveau of the late 19th century? What about the fragmentation seen during the movements of Futurism and Cubism in the early 20th century? What about the lack of trend or movement which in turn became it’s own? (Dada) What about De Stijl, literally meaning The Style? Aren’t these all trends?
Aren’t these the movements that defined their own moments in time? Are they not reflective of certain cultures and ideas? Are these not the movements we look to when teaching design?
Call them art movements all you want, but that doesn’t negate the fact they were at once considered trends. We’re all out here just trying to define our own movements and are wanting to contribute to the one’s taking place right before our eyes. We’re on board with being a part of a movement, but it seems that trend has become taboo despite being the very foundation of a movement.
There’s something absolutely beautiful about creating something meant for this very moment. Everyone loves to downplay presentness in the excuse that timelessness is superior, but it’s the defining of a trend and being a part of the now that’ll put you in the history books.
Not to mention, trends can be leveraged to reach very specific demographics more effectively than any attempt at timelessness. Trends enable us to cater to the current needs and desires of our audience. Trends are about relevancy, and what we care about as individuals are things that are relevant to us. Naturally, we don’t concern ourselves with irrelevancy. I mean, why would we?
With that being said, being trendy doesn’t mean you always have to be in the wake of things and playing catch up as many people will make it seem. Being trendy doesn’t mean conformity to design at large or succumbing to sameness. What being trendy does mean is that you are actively aware of the underlying intuition, bias, and preferences of a current culture and are willing to take risks to have them follow and grow with you. Trends are an opportunity to not only connect with people in this very moment, but also an opportunity to define this moment for ourselves.
Brands are afraid of any form of edginess because it borders the line of being trendy and is always a risk. They fear that their look will come and go just as trends do and assume that their business is directly tied to this. They forget that their business exists outside of what it looks like on the surface. And similarly, as designers we forget that content and underlying concepts and ideas exist beneath our visual work.
Those who wish to be void of trendiness must also wish to be forgotten, for we are not remembered for our blandness. We are remembered for our daringness to be bold, challenge conventions, experiment, and define trends ourselves. We are remembered when we define our time. Never fear trends for they’re a documentation of the now. Embrace trends and be willing to define the moments we’re living, but never complain about them—you’ll be happy to look back at them one day to remember what this world was like.