There’s a fine line between using graphic design trends and being stuck in the past. How should they be used and when should you ignore them?
The answer may be a bit more simple than it would seem. There are aspects of design that are created to last a very long time and there are others that can benefit from doing what’s currently popular. Designs that need to last for years should almost always avoid trends. Ones that are created often in a short period of time or are one-off designs for a current occurrence can use trends to great effect.
That’s the answer and that’s the main idea. Is it really that simple? Let’s look at this in a bit more detail.
When To Use Trends
Graphic design plays a major role in all successful businesses. More than just an item on the checklist of a new organization, graphic design is used often and in multiple ways to achieve any goals.
Marketing materials like print and web advertisements, postcards for direct mailing, event posters and brochures can all make use of trends. These items are generally used multiple times through the year and the method and message can change often.
Apparel and promotional items can also make use of trends since they are more likely to be used if they seem “fashionable”.
While it is key to keep the overall identity cohesive, bringing in trending visuals can help your marketing reach targets that would be hard to capture otherwise.
When Not To Use Trends
The visual elements that make up an organization’s brand are vital to its success. A person’s recognition and decisions are based on the established visual cues. Changing a visual identity often will lead to confusion, indecision, recognition loss and, ultimately, disinterest. If this sounds like the list of side effects on a pill bottle, you aren’t far off. These can spell disaster for any brand.
Using trends in design elements that should last for decades will cause this. Logos, color palettes and typography are the security blanket for people who like and trust a brand. Getting these right once and keeping them for years builds trust and loyalty like nothing else can.
Not only will changing a brand’s key identity elements lose trust and recognition, it will also cost a lot of money. Getting a new logo or identity every year to keep up with current trends is a money sink. Investing upfront into graphic design that will last for years and years is how every successful brand stays on top. They make their investment back and a whole lot more.
Brand elements that people come in contact with on a daily basis will also benefit from staying away from trends. Websites and apps rely heavily on their usability. People become accustomed to the details, quirks and navigation. Changing things up often with trendy graphics and layouts will lead to someone having to learn and adapt to these all over again. They may press on and ultimately feel less engaged or they may decide not even to bother.
There Are No Hard Rules
Like most things in life, there are some exceptions.
An organization may be built solely on trends so it makes sense for a brand to change often with the times. A brand that will exist for only a limited time may also make great use out of design trends to establish who they are and what they’re about.
Alternatively, a brand that is all about tradition may want to stay away from using trends all together. A strong link to the past and a specific time would be important to the identity so bringing in modern concepts could tarnish the experience.
Love them or hate them, graphic design trends are real and worth tracking. They become more visible as the spread of information speeds up. Knowing this, it becomes increasingly important to stay aware of them. Keeping in mind the different design elements that can benefit from trends and those that can be hurt by them is a key to great graphic design.