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The Trouble with Trends

Out of morbid curiosity I will sometimes peruse job listings for designers, creative directors, etc. Posts that generally circle my areas of competency. Nearly all of them have a line something like, “must have knowledge of current design trends” buried somewhere in the requirements. That bugs me. Maybe I’m taking the context wrong (would not be the first time), but there are 2 issues with trendy design that grate against my desire to build imaginative, relevant things. Let’s discuss.

If something is “trendy” then someone—actually lots of someones—are already doing it. That’s how it became a trend. What does that mean for your company, brand, or product (note that Oxford comma)? It at least means that you want something because someone else has it, not because it’s right for you. Trying to capitalize on a trend foists your thing (whatever that is) into a box that it probably shouldn’t come in. There might be some short term gain or interest from whatever life is left in the trend, but the long term effects I would argue are a net negative.

The perception of your thing is now stuck in the trend or starting to chase the next one, while your actual identity is buried somewhere beneath and unrecognizable to whatever audience you were hoping to appeal to. The real you is decaying in that coffin (so morbid) with just a fresh cost of makeup so people won’t notice.

Trends are also fleeting. They have a shelf life, and—when modern interest can be measured in nano-second— it’s not a very long one. What does that mean for your thing? It means constantly chasing. Constantly changing. Constantly trying to catch up. That’s exhausting. It reminds me of the Pink Floyd lyrics, “And you run, and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking, Racing around to come up behind you again.” (Fun Fact: I saw Pink Floyd live in 1994 in Tampa, FL. Jealous?).

Chasing that trend can’t make your thing timeless. And if you don’t pivot quickly into the next trend, it’s likely you’ll start looking like a punchline. Time and people are not kind to trends. I mean come on, Creed was trendy at one point, right? Would you be caught dead with their CD now? Do people still use CDs? I still love Scott Stapp. I’m getting off topic.

Maybe that line in the job listing meant it wants you to know current trends expressly so you can avoid them. I kind of hope so. Trends are fun, but they aren’t true to you. Trends are titillating, but they have a timestamp.

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