Featured image: photo by Marcel Christ
It’s human nature to generally follow what’s hot and what’s not! As much as I hate to admit it, I think we’re all programmed to want to ‘fit in’, and staying on trend is just an easy way of doing that. Last week I was attending a yoga class and as I left my shoes at the entrance, I realised there were five pairs of the same shoes as I mine laying there on the floor. Well, that really got me thinking about this topic… leading vs. following design trends – what should I do?
When I think about people that really influenced me in terms of design & style – they are people who have made a huge impact on the design world because of the way that they went against the grain. They have really distinct personal style, that doesn’t bend and change with trends because it simply doesn’t need to. That’s what I personally strive for as a designer (and I am not saying I am necessarily succeeding so far).
‘There is a lot of noise out there. I don’t want to follow the trend – I want to create the trend.”
TRENDS ACROSS DESIGN
Across all disciplines of design, from fashion to architecture, trends largely define the styles and directions of an industry at a particular time.
I’ve read many opinions on this topic from different designers and critics. Some are strictly against the whole trend idea, others see many benefits in incorporating them in their work. I think finding the middle ground is the best option here.
I believe trends exist for a reason, and most people are always going to hop on board with what is popular, it’s just human nature. That means that it’s important to understand trends and why they exist. I believe trends should not be pushed aside and stigmatised so easily, just because of their popularity. They are important, because they tell us something about the society we live in. If more and more people identify with some aspects of a trend, there must be a reason for that. (I already touched this subject, but focused on a specific trend – minimalism as a lifestyle in the article “The art of minimalism”.)
WHERE DO TRENDS COME FROM IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Have you ever asked yourself this question? Trends have to start somewhere… Every year, interior-design enthusiasts everywhere are eager to see what the next year will bring. There is a lot of research and psychology that go into design trends. “Trends are heavily influenced by pop culture, fashion, food, music, the streets, and sometimes what is going on in the world politically,” says Lori Weitzner, author of Ode to Color.
Since I am a colour enthusiast, I’m always interested to see what colour will be crowned as colour of the year by Pantone, the company that calls itself “the global authority on colour,” So just how does one company choose a single colour over millions of others? What started off as an “afterthought” that was discussed between a few individuals in the fourth quarter of the year has transformed into a 20-person team – the Pantone Color Institute – that begins global research early in the spring, looking for recurring patterns or colours in daily life situations. The process now takes nearly nine months. Pantone states that the Colour of the Year is actually “…a colour snapshot of what we see taking place in our global culture that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude.” Pantone has crowned a Colour of the Year since 2000, and claims that the colours they choose, in essence, choose themselves
Kaitlyn Ellison explains the connection of design trends in relation to history “The past and future of design trends”. She says that trends are how we interpret what’s happened before, to help us try and understand and predict the future. Trends are often determined to be a reaction to a previous style. Whether that’s swaying from maximalism to minimalism, or colorful to monochrome, trends by their very nature focus on short termism rather than the larger picture. They also tend to be cyclical, meaning across design industries, a trend is likely to come back around at some point, in some form.
Photo by Pantone color institute – color of the year PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral
LEADING VS. FOLLOWING DESIGN TRENDS
As I mentioned before it is important to acknowledge current trends and understand why they become popular in the first place. But one thing with trends is, they will come and go. If you always design for a trend you will in time be outdated and have to scramble for every trend coming out. Your main focus should be quality design and the client / audience it was intended. You could incorporate the latest trend as a perception of what you like but you shouldn’t dive and make everything fall under the trend. Don’t follow trends blindly just because design magazines write about them.
The wonderful thing about trends is, they are here to give us different design concepts and direction, you don’t have to duplicate everything from that trend and adapt it to your style forecast, you just take bits and pieces and gently incorporate and integrate it into your own style that’s unique and special for you and your clients to enjoy.
I always keep an eye on current trends. I encourage you too keep an eye on Pantone’s colors of the year. Keep an eye on what’s going on in the fashion world. Keep an eyes on sites like Brand New to see what new identities are coming out. You can try to set your own trends, sure, but if you feel like you’re not in a position to be a trend-setter then observe the best in the business and see what they’re doing right.
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. In the end the work that lasts for many years, is the work created without looking at what’s trendy, but looking at what’s unique and timeless in its own way. It requires confidence and trust to design something like that, but it is possible.
Photo via Unsplash
ARE YOU A TREND ADDICT?
That’s not to say that it isn’t easy to get swept up into trends – we see them everywhere in interiors – magazines, Pinterest, Instagram… I feel like my days are saturated with photos of gorgeous interiors, and I love that for the most part; it’s how we get inspiration. But when you see the same trends pervading these images over and over again it’s easy to become confused about whether you like it because you actually like it, or if you just want it because it’s fashionable. The fact is, there are lots of ways to design a home that look great, but just because you like the look of something, that doesn’t mean it’s your style or right for you. As much as I like looking at pictures of clean, minimal Scandinavian interiors with lots of white space, it just wouldn’t work for me – I love colour, patterns and I collect antiques and plants like a crazy woman – where would all my treasures go?!
Feel free to use trends as a baseline, but only if you like what you’re seeing. People should decorate and design spaces with colors and items that resonate with them personally and uplift them in some way, as opposed to what everyone else is buying. And outfitting your space with things you love? That’s always on-trend.
CONCLUSION: leading vs. following design trends
When looking at design trends we can take what we need, but disregard the rest. Often when working with clients the best way through is to find a compromise between making something unique and bold but also familiar and safe. The magic comes in when you manage to strike the right balance. If you’re really good at what you do (combined with a bit of luck) you can create something unique, new and even timeless.
But in the end: Don’t stress about trends too much and just do what you think is the best solution and style for the project.