"As professionals in communications and marketing, part of our job is to keep up to date on design trends."
Surely you have heard this phrase more than once in some advertising course. As true as it may be, as the years go by we realize that "defining" a design trend is a bit ambiguous.
Shutterstock® tries to do it every year in January. They launch a moodboard that includes the colors that will be trendy, types of shots and vector resources that are expected to be used more during the year. Certainly, this type of publication has a previous study (at least I hope so); however, design trends should be seen as stars from a distance:
"The light that comes to us from the stars was emitted a long time ago, and when we see that light from the earth, we are seeing the past, not the present." (Plait, 2013)
This means that when we can identify a trend, it is most likely that it is no longer in force, and what is
more important: many people have already used it. If they search for "branding" in a search engine and group references according to their year of creation, patterns are displayed very frequently. For example, the use of the color pink in branding projects during the years 2019-2020:
Another example is the use of the brutalist trend in recent years:
As designers and communicators in general, it is up to us to keep up with design trends. Developing projects based on these trends also give us relevance and keep our portfolio updated. However, if every time the trend changes our style and that of our clients changes with it, we end up being a weather vane that always points in the direction the wind blows (and what is worse: looking like all other brands and losing our personality).
The key is not to imitate graphic styles that are in fashion, but to look beyond style, discern and take the elements that contribute to our brand, projects and clients and incorporate them to the extent that our project and their needs allow and require. I refer you to the words of Austin Kleon:
“Don't just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style. You don't want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.” (Kleon, 2012)
It is super cliché and also unrealistic to say that we have to set a trend with every design we make. But in the search to be better designers we are called not only to know trends, we must also create trends. After all, trends start somewhere with a visionary who sets them first.
At the end of the day, this is what all brands are looking for: to be first, different, to have content that no one else has, to be segment leaders, etc. As designers who know what trends are today and what trends will be tomorrow, we must help our brands to remain current over time. Integrating part of the styles that are in fashion to help us stay updated of new demographics, or be able to move from a style when it does not suit us.
During the years of work we never finish learning and developing that “sixth sense”. This is probably the most valuable tool we have in each project: knowing when a trend contributes to us, when it remains, and when only a part of it is useful for our project.