Symptoms Of An Epidemic: Web Design Trends

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Since Elliot Jay Stocks so poignantly told us to destroy the Web 2.0 look1, we’ve witnessed a de-shinification of the Web, with fewer glass buttons, beveled edges, reflections, special-offer badges, vulgar gradients with vibrant colors and diagonal background patterns. The transformation has been welcomed with relief by all but the most hardened gloss-enthusiasts. However, design and aesthetics work in mysterious ways, and no sooner does one Web design trend leave us before another appears.

The Symptoms

So, exactly what is this new epidemic? Well, let’s start by looking at some of the most common symptoms, many of which you have probably noticed. They are easy to spot, and as with many other conditions, they often appear in conjunction with each other. (This is why the contagion spreads so effectively — seemingly independent symptoms grow more infectious when combined with others.)

Please note: The following list appears in no particular order and does not indicate the level of infectiousness or severity, which seem to be stable across the board. Note also that the instances given often exhibit more than one symptom, making classification more difficult.

Stitching

Stitching appears gradually, often as a result of the designer playing too long with borders and lines, particularly of the dotted variety. A full-blown stitch is evidenced by the subtle shift from dots to dashes, augmented by drop shadows and other effects to give the impression of 3-D. The purpose of the stitch is somewhat elusive, but it seems to thrive in environments where certain textures are applied, most notably fabric and leather, but also generic graininess.

While determining the exact cause of stitching is difficult, scientists are certain that it belongs to a larger strain of the infection known as “Skeuomorphism.”

Collage of interfaces with stiches
Clockwise from top: The Journal of Min Tran2; Dribbble shot by Mason Yarnell3; Dribbble shot by Liam McCabe4.

Zigzag Borders

Borders are common elements of Web design, and as such, they are difficult to avoid; luckily, they are usually harmless and often have a positive effect on the layout. However, for some reason, a particular type of border — the zigzag — has grown exponentially in the last few years and is now threatening the natural habitat of more benign border specimens. Exactly why this is happening is unknown, although some researchers claim that the pattern created by the repeating opposing diagonals has such an alluring effect on designers and clients alike that straight borders have somewhat lost their appeal.

Collage of interfaces with zigzag borders
Clockwise from top: You Know Who5; Dribbble shot by Christopher Paul6; Dribbble shot by Meagan Fisher7.

Forked Ribbons

Like borders, ribbons have long existed in various forms. What we’re seeing now, though, is the near dominance of a particular style of ribbon, easily identified by a fork at one or both ends. Some ribbons are also folded over twice, creating a faux effect of depth and reinforcing the diagonal lines in the fork. Whether the fork is related to the zigzag effect is unknown, but it seems that diagonal lines are the key to the ribbon’s survival, along with its ability to evoke memories of times past.

The danger of the ribbon lies mainly in its ability to exist independent of other symptoms (although it thrives in the company of vintage typography), meaning that it could date your design long after the epidemic ends, even if the symptom itself appears dormant. In many ways, this is reminiscent of the “special offers” badge of the Web 2.0 look.

Collage of interfaces using forked ribbons
Clockwise from top: Ryan O’Rourke8; Cabedge9; Jake Przespo10

Textures

In the age of all things digital, it’s a conundrum that textures should dominate our illustrations and backgrounds, and yet they are indeed one of the most common symptoms on our list. Manifested by subtle grain, dirt and scratches, paper-esque surfaces and fold marks, they seem to embrace the spirit of the handmade. But ironically, they’re often the complete opposite: computer-generated effects or Photoshop brushes.

Possible explanations for the widespread use of textures include a yearning for tactile media (especially considering the emergence of touchscreens) or envy towards print designers, who have a much richer palette of materials and surfaces to play with.

Collage of interfaces with textures
Clockwise from top: Gerren Lamson11; Zero12; Amazee Labs13.

Letterpress

A Smashing Magazine article from 200914 outlined letterpress as one of the emerging trends of the year and, boy, were they right. The simple effect has gone from strength to strength and is now a household technique for sprucing up typography online. A relatively harmless symptom, letterpress might also have infected designers through other digital interfaces, such as operating systems and games, as early as the turn of the millennium, indicating a very long incubation period.

Scientists disagree over whether the incubation period is due to the infection needing a critical mass before emerging from dormancy or whether the infection simply needed the right conditions — CSS3 text shadows, to be specific — for symptoms to appear.

Collage of interfaces with letterpress
Clockwise from top: Billy Tamplin15; Dribbble shot by Phillip Marriot16; Remix17.

19th-Century Illustration

After being released from copyright quarantine, this symptom, favoured by fashionable ladies and gentlemen, was nearly eliminated during the last epidemic due to its inability to cope well with gloss and shine. But in this new vintage-friendly environment, it has found its way back into our visual repertoire. For better or worse, the 19th-century illustration will most likely hang around for a while, emerging stronger from time to time like a flu virus.

Collage of interfaces with 19th century illustrations
Clockwise from top: Killian Muster18; Dribbble shot by Trent Walton19; Simon Collison20.

Muted Tones

After a long period of vibrancy, the average online color scheme seems to have been somewhat desaturated across the board. We’re seeing widespread use of browns, earthy greens and mustards and a general leaning towards “impure” colors, although this is generally thought to be a minor symptom of the epidemic. Some scientists will even argue that muted tones are, in fact, not a symptom themselves but rather a side effect of other symptoms, in the way that sweating is a natural response to a fever.

Collage of interfaces with muted colours
Clockwise from top: Dribble shot by Dave Ruiz21; Cognition22; Web Standards Sherpa23.

Justified or Centered Typography (JCT)

This symptom is nothing new; in fact, it was pretty much the standard for the first 500 years of typography, until Tschichold and the New Typography showed up and quarantined it on the grounds that it was old fashioned, difficult to read and inefficient. Although we’re not sure at this point, this link with history might be what has made JCT reappear so vigorously under the umbrella of vintage symptoms. We do know that overall reading habits among humans have not changed in recent years (most Westerners still read left to right), and there is no plausible argument that JCT improves legibility; so, whatever the cause of the outbreak, we know it’s rooted in subjective emotion rather than rational thought.

Collage of interfaces with justified or centered typography
Clockwise from top: Grip Limited24; Tommy25; Visual Republic26.

Circular Script Logotypes (SCL)

A circle is a basic shape and, in isolation, is no more a symptom of an epidemic than a triangle. However, if you repeat enough triangles in a line, you get a zigzag. Similarly, if you include a circle in your logotype, you end up with a circular logotype. And if that logotype happens to be set in a script font, you’ll get — that’s right! — a Circular Script Logotype (SCL). Not that SCL is lethal or anything, but it is relatively contagious and can be highly detrimental when enough hosts have been infected.

Collage of circular script logos
Clockwise from top: Trent Walton27; Mercy28; Dribbble shot by James Seymor-Lock29.

Skeuomorphic Features

Skeuomorphic features — i.e. ornamentation or design features on an object that are copied from the object’s form in another medium — are rife, particularly in mobile applications, and this symptom is one of the defining indicators of the epidemic. Possibly a mutant cancerous strain of mildly skeuomorphic features such as stitches and letterpress, it can sometimes grow to overtake an entire interface, bloating it with redundant visual references to physical objects and materials. However, due to the labor involved in preparing the graphics and the heavy reliance on image resources, some researchers argue that we’re unlikely to see full-blown skeuomorphism dominate our desktop browsers any time soon.

In fact, most scientists regard the phenomenon as a curiosity and predict that some virtual metaphors for physical attributes will prove useful (as tabs have) and some won’t. Interestingly, while Apple has embraced and continues to pioneer the technique, Google seems to some degree to resist the urge to mimic physical reality in its interfaces. Perhaps it has developed a vaccine?

Collage of skeuomorphic interface elements
Clockwise from top: iBooks30; Dribbble shot by skorky31; Dribbble shot by Igor Shkarin32.

How Did It Start?

Pinpointing the epicentre of a design epidemic (read: trend) is always hard, especially given the myriad of symptoms and the contagious nature of the Internet. Identifying Patient Zero is virtually impossible, and, to be pragmatic, doing so would serve no purpose. What we can say is that we’re most likely experiencing a reaction to the Web 2.0 aesthetic — a craving for textured surfaces and retro imagery, something tactile and natural-looking, as an antidote to the shiny impersonality of the past — and that this is both healthy and necessary for pushing the design industry forward33. Whatever the sources of trends, they often start with applying smart design to solve a particular problem or, indeed, to counter another trend.

Let’s say that everyone used sans-serif fonts, strong contrasting colors and crisp white backgrounds as a rule. Imagine, in this environment, if a designer went against the grain by using Clarendon or some other warm serif to infuse some personality into their website (which happens to be selling “Grandma’s homemade jam”), and then complemented the personality of their font selection with earthy colors and some brown paper textures. The result would inevitably stand out from the crowd: beautiful, emotional, different.

Incidentally, this aesthetic inspires another designer who happens to be working on a website with a global audience, exposing the new approach to a whole generation of designers who, in turn, apply it at will (often without considering the context). A trend is born. And yet, paradoxically, the potency of the epidemic is under constant threat. The more people get infected, the less differentiated the symptoms appear; and once the infection reaches a critical mass, the symptoms begin to work against themselves. Infusing personality into your visuals is meaningless if everything looks the same.

Is It Dangerous?

In today’s open collaborative world, avoiding an epidemic of this scale is difficult; so, in a sense, everyone is affected to some degree. The symptoms listed above are not restricted to small-scale up-and-coming designers, but affect even the elite of the design community. This means that even though some symptoms are harmless — like a light fever or a runny nose from a flu infection — the viral onslaught of trendy features puts constant pressure on our immune system to protect our creativity, and staying vigilant is important to maintaining a healthy dose of original thought.

If you’re displaying a handful of symptoms, it’s really nothing to worry about — catching a cold that’s going around is not hard, but recovering from it is also easy. If, on the other hand, you display most or all of these symptoms, then there’s reason to be extra cautious in your next project. Using all of a trend’s identifiers as cornerstones of your work might make your portfolio look oh so contemporary, but in a way this practice is no different than passing off the work of your favorite designer, artist or musician as your own. Granted, symptoms with no identifiable origin are not protected by copyright, but that’s beside the point — you should be worried not about legal implications, but rather about the creative integrity of your output. The danger is not only that your work will be seen as a passing fad, a popular aesthetic that will look dated in a couple of years’ time, but that you will lose the respect of your peers when they catch on to you.

While nothing is original34, we all need to respect the difference between inspiration and imitation35. As Jean Luc Goddard said, “It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.” And if you don’t take them anywhere, what’s the point?

Worse perhaps than the loss of respect and integrity is the effect that epidemics have on clients and, in turn, the design community as a whole. The more designers are infected and the more symptoms they show of the same disease, the less your clients will believe that you’re capable of solving real business problems. Eventually they’ll exclude you from the early stages (where all the real design thinking takes place) and employ your services merely to skin their wireframes, in the process reducing the whole profession to an army of decorators.

What Can You Do About It?

Now that we’ve seen how detrimental trends can be, how does one avoid them? Is this even possible? Trends, by definition, are popular, and arguably nothing is wrong with tapping into that popularity to increase the exposure of your product. Convincing a client to accept a design that is off-trend can be difficult, and you run the risk of alienating the audience by going completely against the trend just for the sake of it. On the other hand, blindly following others is never a good idea, and you could severely stifle your creativity, integrity and client base by accepting what’s “in” as a given and copying it without purpose.

So, what’s the right thing to do? Trends are intrinsic to our society, whether in politics, culture, design or even religion, and as the consensus sways in one direction or another, so will your opinion (or “taste”) — to some degree, at least. Alas, avoiding trends altogether seems an impossible and pointless undertaking, but that doesn’t leave you powerless. In fact, you can do a host of things to combat the lemming syndrome.

Ask Why

Always question your design decisions (and make sure they are your own), and keep asking the magic question, Why am I doing this? Am I doing this simply because it looks cool or because it suits the message I’m trying to communicate? Why am I using this ribbon? Does the zigzag border add to or detract from the personality of the website? What does this leather texture have to do with the finance app I’m designing? The moment you stop asking questions, you fall prey to the epidemic.

Put Some Effort In

In his article “The Dying Art of Design36” Francisco Inchauste asserts, among other things, that inspiration requires perspiration, and I couldn’t agree more. I was lucky enough to attend a college where no computers were allowed in the first year, which meant we had to use physical tools to express ourselves — tracing letters by hand, drawing our photography, stocking up on Pantone pens (remember those?), abusing the copier. Not only did our creativity grow, but we learned an important lesson: good design is not effortless, and the best results come from your own experimentation.

Try Something Different

Remember that being distinctive is, for the most part, a good thing. Most great artists in history, regardless of their field, stood out enough for the world to take notice. Who painted melting clocks before Dali? Who would have thought to build a huge wall on stage before Pink Floyd? While mimicking what’s popular might be comfortable and might secure short-term victories, long-term success requires a unique, memorable approach.

Diversify Your Inspiration

In order to remain creative, staying curious and looking for inspiration all around you is crucial, not just in the latest showcase of fashionable WordPress themes. Read a book, perform a scientific experiment, listen to music you haven’t heard before, walk through a new neighborhood, or experience a foreign culture. Widening your horizons beyond your favorite websites and finding more than one source of inspiration is critical to making original, lasting designs.

Focus on the Basics

Finally and most importantly, study the underlying principles of design in order to understand what is and isn’t defined by style. Grid systems, contrast, legibility, juxtaposing imagery, well-written copy — these are the key components of successful design, yet they are entirely independent of fads and styles.

At the end of the day, design is not so much about style as it is about communication, and all style, imagery and typography should be inspired by the content, functionality and personality of the product, not by what simply looks cool at the moment.

No matter how cool37 something looks, it too shall pass.

(al) (fi)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://elliotjaystocks.com/blog/destroy-the-web-20-look-future-of-web-design-new-york/
  2. 2 http://www.mintran.com/
  3. 3 http://dribbble.com/shots/287806-Social-Wine-iPhone-App-Tab-Bar-Tabbar
  4. 4 http://dribbble.com/shots/231084-Detailed-price-tag
  5. 5 http://www.youknowwhodesign.com/
  6. 6 http://dribbble.com/shots/177176-Dash-marketing-page-WIP-
  7. 7 http://dribbble.com/shots/340100-Resuming-work-on-that-thing-I-started
  8. 8 http://rourkery.com/
  9. 9 http://cabedge.com/
  10. 10 http://jakeprzespo.com/
  11. 11 http://gerrenlamson.com/
  12. 12 http://www.getzeroapp.com/
  13. 13 http://www.amazeelabs.com/en
  14. 14 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/01/14/web-design-trends-for-2009/
  15. 15 http://www.billytamplin.com/
  16. 16 http://dribbble.com/shots/34910-Portfolio-Footer-Icons
  17. 17 http://www.remixcreative.net/
  18. 18 http://kilianmuster.com/
  19. 19 http://dribbble.com/shots/310952-Controlling-Web-Typography
  20. 20 http://colly.com/
  21. 21 http://dribbble.com/shots/53700-Sexy-Websites
  22. 22 http://cognition.happycog.com/
  23. 23 http://webstandardssherpa.com/
  24. 24 http://www.griplimited.com/
  25. 25 http://www.thisistommy.com/
  26. 26 http://visualrepublic.net/
  27. 27 http://trentwalton.com/
  28. 28 http://www.mercyonline.co.uk/
  29. 29 http://dribbble.com/shots/99105-Typography-Badge
  30. 30 http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ibooks/id364709193?mt=8
  31. 31 http://dribbble.com/shots/300521-Leather-Switch
  32. 32 http://dribbble.com/shots/344104-Volume-update
  33. 33 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/03/21/dear-web-design-community-where-have-you-gone/
  34. 34 http://www.todayandtomorrow.net/2009/01/21/nothing-is-original/
  35. 35 http://www.jessicahische.is/obsessedwiththeinternet/andbeingresponsivelyinspired/inspiration-vs-imitation-2
  36. 36 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/04/08/the-dying-art-of-design/
  37. 37 http://retinart.net/creativity/tomorrows-cool/

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Espen Brunborg is Head of Design at Primate, a web agency driven by an overwhelming passion for the web industry and a slightly unsettling love for monkeys, and is an advocate of content-led design, simplicity and typographic principles. He writes about his design convictions at 8 Gram Gorilla and his tweets are occasionally worth reading.

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  1. 1

    One “trend” I’m glad really hasn’t taken off is the peeled sticker. You know the one… a round button with the edge curled over. I HATE that stuff. It’s the web (and print)! You can’t put a sticker on it. It doesn’t look cool. Even WORSE when its a UI button. I just wanna scratch your poorly stuck element off my screen. [/rant]

    0
    • 102

      Ha! I agree! LoL

      I came all the way to the bottom of the page to comment on The Sticker, but alas! You’ve beat me too it….

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  2. 203

    90% of the web-using world probably hasn’t seen most of these design elements. You’re living in a very niche world of web geeks and designers where these things saturate the market, saturate your every day work atmosphere.

    Think about the rest of the world. The mom and pop stores. The individuals who visit sites without a lick of design sense. The techniques criticized above have far more positive to add to this world than negative over the next decade.

    “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” -Isaac Newton

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  3. 304

    st3vi3weisskopf

    March 21, 2012 9:21 am

    Some are great, useful functionally as well as aesthetically – and will probably evolve – into new trends and techniques

    For example the muted tones and textures – seem much calmer approach than bludgeoning the user with blocks of bright colour one usually still sees. Today’s websites – will look like CEEFAX/Teletext of the future.

    I like the transparent/layered divs trend for the same reason – as it adds subtle light and darkness for blocking and framing sections of content.

    The ribbons thing seemed really old even as it happened – a bit of a cheap way to add some dimensionality – but i don’t hate it by any stretch.

    Another set of trends I can see is with inventive ways of navigating via scroll
    Parallax > http://www.culturalsolutions.co.uk/
    perhaps even a Zooming type of scroll – into the screen?

    We’ll probably see “Web Stylists called Fronc” in the future – There’ll be so much choice and option!

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  4. 405

    Think this article is a cry for attention and has a negative tone that I will gladly list what I disagree with it.

    1) You are saying some trends are epidemic yet they are used on this very site.
    2) You are saying some trends get to be overused, yet ignore that the world is about that, trends that come and go. If overusing them makes others (few ones) take a new route and explore new things that work, the better then.
    3) Trends, overused or not, is what makes it possible for things to move forward. Historically people will look back at this period and understand why we did what we did. Overused or not.
    4) We have clients and deadlines. Using trends, the work shared by others, overused and what not, do make clients happy when we design sites. This is what matters if you ask me. Not to have certain status quo of not overusing trends.

    I really don’t mind the overuse of trends. They look beautiful if done right.

    4
  5. 506

    I find it odd how that the website for Primate features forked ribbons, letterpress, textures, JCT, and muted tones. The only things that are missing are 19th century illustrations, stitching, and zigzag borders.

    0
  6. 607

    I have to disagree with the tone of this article. Trends are just that: trends. If we didn’t survive the basic colour schemes of the 90’s we probably wouldn’t have been overjoyed by the use of more colours and trends such as in the web 2.0 days. From then we have scaled back on the rounded corners, shiny buttons and the most bizare of all: the reflection. Thanks Apple!

    If something isn’t viewed as helpful or neat or exciting then it doesn’t become a trend. I for one welcome these trends as it adds a slick and almost tangible effect to most websites. Everything in moderation, friends. Besides look at Smashing Magazine and its drop-shadows and film grain. Kettle, you just called the pot black.

    1
    • 708

      I agree. Although the article was well written, the negative tone kinda turned me off from the get-go. Thumbing your nose at virtually every popular technique out there doesn’t seem very constructive (although the debate its started has had some great insight). Some people are so enchanted by the idea of “going against the grain” that they fail to adopt some trends that do have some value. Popular doesn’t always equal cliched, and I think every one of these techniques can have their place. Design should reflect your clients’ message and goals, and if any or (hopefully not) all of these techniques help accurately convey that message, then they should be used. Like many of the commenters above already have said, everything in moderation.

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  7. 809

    It would be interesting to see some newish websites that don’t follow these trends that are very well designed. I don’t mean to say that all good, recent designs use these techniques and there are no other good sites (if that’s what it sounds like). I mean what I wrote; I would be legitimately interested in seeing a few examples of newer sites that don’t follow the trends and look nice.

    1
  8. 910

    I compare Web Design trends to the Music Industry, whether you produce popular & Commercial Music that SELLS, or you stick to your own style and not gaining a dime from what you make.

    So I don’t see how following Trends can be a bad thing as long as you create beautiful interfaces for the masses.

    1
  9. 1011

    I think the tone and treatment of trends was overly harsh and honestly it made it harder to get to your actual point you seem to find near the end.

    I can’t honestly call my self a designer. My job leads me there from time to time but I am far from a fulltimer.

    With that said I honestly think trends probably produce a lot of work for designers. Trends are the result of somebody trying something new or something old in a new way. When it resonates with people other emulate it. If you never had trends ,site would never look dated, and people wouldn’t need to have designers re-design their sites. (Granted designers probably have pulled out many a hairs trying to get clients to see that what they want is cliche and tired and to just let them do their jobs)

    I agree mindlessly following a trend and shoehorning fads into your design mindlessly is a quick way to make yourself irrelevant and unemployable but how is this insightful or new?

    The whole thing seems like a drive by.

    0
  10. 1112

    I understand that these are becoming trends / are trends, i just don’t like the fact that every technique has / will be a ‘trend’, So how do we use anything without the guilty feeling that we’re referencing that thing we say on that website the other day…

    on the other hand… If you strip back all the trends and see what you’re left with… maybe you can create something new & push yourself. (ironically, you’d most likely create a new trend)

    1
  11. 1213

    Such a fun article- I must say I really enjoy some of the new design developments. Design has always been about trends whether it was fashion architecture, magazine design and now web design. Most will come and go, some will stay permanentaly.

    1
  12. 1314

    Marcelo Azevedo

    March 27, 2012 7:25 am

    Unhopefully since the WWW was created, time after time the design elements are getting more and more cliché. When you see an article saying something about “ten sites using the abduzeedo style”, you can bet nothing is original anymore and in some way such articles or sites are helping to make this happen. I wouldnt use the word remix. If the original is dead the remix is melting….

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  13. 1415

    Actually, this article has inspired me to use both zig-zag edges and a textured background in my next website project. These are good trends. By the time they’re out of fashion it will be time to change the website anyway. Who keeps a website longer than 3 years nowadays anyway?

    0
    • 1516

      I’d say anyone who wants to run a reputable & reliable business. Take a look at some of the biggest successes online e.g. Amazon, Ebay, Google. I wonder what your clients/employer would say if you told them you think your design isn’t meant to last more than 3 years?

      0
  14. 1617

    I’m not sure what I’m supposed to have learned from this article except, maybe, that this style is overused. This trend has stuck around for a long while because it looks good and, when done properly, works well, making the end user feel comfortable with the interface. That said, if your portfolio consists ONLY of this kind of mimicry, you’re doing it wrong.

    Always use your own voice, but respect what works for the design and for your client. I design for my clients and their intended audience, not for other designers to critique.

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  15. 1718

    I can’t believe I’ve read all the comments so far. Maybe that’s the purpose of this post, after all. If yes, it’s done well, I found these opinions very useful. If it’s written for the heck of it, it’s also well done. The “Hello, I’m an other one of the threemillionfivehundredsixtyninethousandeghtyfive designers who says hello in the header” trend passed away?
    At least I know why so many people jumps at your throat. It’s very easy to create a misunderstanding when you talk about beloved things, even if you mean well. So, you better not. It’s just a question of evolution (talking to a primate;) and like the web codes, everything tends to blend into a bigger thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of these effects would be available in the near future at one click in some online “create your own website” code. Personally I can’t stand that mass madness or flock fashion, but that’s the deal with trends. I remember noticing that years ago at the first button shine that clearly wasn’t meant for Apple.
    And it’s also very true – someone here talks about it – that we find designers at every street corner and softwares are very handy nowadays. No wonder that ten year olds can create websites that look like that. Especially when you get the readymade kit for free on some “eager to get more comments and likes” site. That’s not what I’m worry about, but the copy/paste syndrome, the one that steals concepts, structure and other personal specifics.
    A real eye opener. Maybe a few can reflect a bit more before mixing oil with water. There is only one thing I don’t like: the fact that you have to explain yourself after all the reactions.

    1
    • 1819

      “a ten year old can make it look as good”

      you make it seem designers are worthless.. come on dude..

      I just finished an app design for a car alert center and i did use the leather stitching because it was within the context. My point is it was pretty time consuming. so please for our sake don’t make it seem like it’s a cookie cutting process.

      0
      • 1920

        hi there Mr. Moony, I agree that the article was annoying, something we all are thriving to achieve these days by absorbing trends unintentionally, but lets not judge over the content, its in the conclusion that has an open ending by saying “use it where it is needed do not over use it”.

        If leather stitching effect fits in your context then do it, otherwise your giving yourself a break to do something more efficient, making something look cool is like convincing your client you know trend and you know techniques I am gonna light you up with my pro-abilities to merge in flock”

        0
  16. 2021

    You’re rather pre-mature with your statement on how it’s becoming an epidemic.. this article was annoying. sorry.

    1
  17. 2122

    I think what was annoying was the comparison of design trends to a viral infection. I would love a infection of good typeset, textures and circle logos if it makes for a better design.

    I don’t see Tends as being a epidemic but more like the next popular step in design. Was all the major art movements of the 20 century a epidemic? I see them but style in which people work? Although I would suggest not only working in trend for fear of your work looking outdated in a year or so. I think the meaning of this post is use popular trends wisely. by the way it is also trendy to bitch about trends! Dam hipsters. I think the author sums up his thesis about trends when he says to use a healthy dose of original thought. Don’t just follow a trend because its popular use trends to accomplish a goal and innovate those trends in your own way so we can all move design world forward onto the next step.

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  18. 2223

    I think the critique is right on the money – though I don’t believe it’s a new trend (print designers have been doing this kind of retro stuff or 30 years now).

    Unless there’s a specific reason to suggest a certain time and place in history (which I admit, there often is), retro design is just a boring cliche. It’s also a little depressing. The web is such an exciting and still-new medium that it’s very uninspiring to see it constantly referencing a “simpler time.” As the someone once said, “When men got structural steel, they didn’t use it to build steel copies of wooden bridges.”

    0
  19. 2324

    I don’t like this article….

    Everything we have in web trends right now is named as “epidemic”…..

    0
    • 2425

      There are a lot of “epidemics” in graphic design…

      Using a bold typeface to catch attention
      Using little circles at the beginning of items in a list
      Making the initial cap in the first paragraph of an article two or 3 lines tall
      Ending an article with a little square to let people know the article is done

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  20. 2526

    I think a lot of designers should maybe learn how to think creatively instead of learning ‘how to design a website’. The creative process doesn’t allow for narrow thinking and opens up possibilities. This is important.

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  21. 2627

    Guys, Don’t get scared…

    Creativity Never Ends.. Designers who find these techniques overused or old always find better newer and better ways to create fresh designs….

    The one’s who are happy with this they can continue….

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  22. 2728

    Well, it is in Human Nature, to look around and follow. How many Salvador’s Dali were living at the same time? Leonardo’s, Hokusai’s? Only one, right? At least the way we know. And art scholars were learning AND USING their inspirations. Some successfully, some not so.
    And the rest of smaller scale creators of daily life artifacts were getting inspirations, copying them, reverse engineering sometimes. Was anyone concerned back then, that some Lorenzo di Whataveri’s frescos were too similar to Leonardo’s paintings? Well, buy urself a round fare to Roma and dig it up from some public archives. Does it stop smaller scale developers to contract and pay local Lorenzo to paint another church/temple/baptistery walls? Then after while, Lorenzo will find his own type, method, whatever to express his very own style. The same is novadays. Its ALWAYS the same reaction.

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  23. 2829

    I’m confused… Circular Script Logo != SCL, shouldn’t the acronym be CSL?

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  24. 2930

    being a newbie in the pro web design biz (under 3 years), I couldn’t help but notice, and have described the web design biz in general, as a high following of trends in visual design not unlike the music biz I left behind. Personally, I have no use for ribbons and leather (even freebies from media loot) but I still have to “watch and learn”.
    y’know – monkey see, monkey do.
    want to see what a monkey does? click here

    I got a good laff outta this one! Thx!

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  25. 3031

    good article!

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  26. 3132

    Well said!

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  27. 3233

    I think responsive design is going to be the future of web. It’s really silly that people still try to get iphone apps for their small business. This is what my company focuses on. Please check out my blog post on the benefits of responsive design. polarmass.com/understanding-responsive-design-and-its-benefits-to-your-business.html

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  28. 3334

    I don’t understand the revulsion to following trends in the graphic design world. Especially in advertising and marketing.

    When I design something for my company or client, my number one goal, and sometimes only goal, is to fulfill their marketing/advertising/communications need. If they’re looking for a design that attracts prospects or converts prospects to customers, I do whatever it takes. If it sometimes means following a trend, and I think following that trend will have the most impact, I follow that trend.

    I also say that when both time and money is scarce (like it is in an in-house design department like mine where the out-of-pocket design budget is under $50 and you only have a few hours to produce) you gotta sacrifice innovation for just getting the damned thing done.

    Course, this mostly applies to design for standard advertising and marketing. Of course, if it’s something less direct-response-y, I do aim to be innovative. Such as an annual report or something like a museum book.

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  29. 3435

    I loved your article, Espen. So well written and clear. Coming in late to web design, I bypassed using most of those techniques. It’s not easy convincing others to do something they haven’t seen. Like fashion trends, We like what’s already out there and presenting something new often leaves us open to criticism and even ridicule because we’re different than the rest. When Dali painted those clocks, I’m sure he was blasted by his peers. I’m all for not following the crowd. It’s a lonely road though. Plus, for me, with my limited resources, I find it difficult to have the online presence I imagine. Keep writing great articles. This newsletter is great. Thanks Smashing!

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