Daniel Nisbet

Episode 24  |  March 27, 2018

Stop chasing trends

It's easy to tell when I first started playing around with design on a computer. To give you a rough estimate, it was in the late 1990s. At the time, for some of the older listeners of the show, you may recall that swooshes were everywhere.

It seemed that everybody decided for a moment that they were Nike. Every logo in design had to have a swoosh in it.

My initial work at that time was no different—on top of the many effects that I would overuse in Photoshop, when I would “design a logo.”

My logos had to have a swoosh. If they didn't they weren't a logo.

The tough part about trends is that they usually don't stick around for a very long time. You can easily tell if a logo was designed in the late 90s or the early 2000s when you see a badly placed swoosh. People make fun of web design in a similar fashion: every website has a giant hero image and three blocks of content underneath.

I could link to a dozen articles without even thinking, that point out this trend. In 10 years, who knows, we might be laughing at how we used to design websites.

The things about trends, though, is that they create bubbles. Like anything in life, bubbles pop.

The problem some people have, is when the bubble pops. They don't have anything to fall back on. And that's the tough part about chasing trends: what do you do when the bubble pops?

What I realized after designing many swoosh logos, was that I couldn't focus on designing and executing a trend very well. What I needed to do was focus on the fundamentals.

I had to go and learn how design worked. Not necessarily how to create a swoosh any better, whatever the next big trend was. It meant that I had to learn what good design meant. This took a lot of work and effort—as it as does learning anything.

Yet, what I realized in this process was that by learning fundamentals, I could still execute whatever new trend came along, but I wasn't stucky only knowing how to design that trend.

This helped when I would go and pitch projects. I started to learn how to make my design look more timeless. The obvious benefit of timeless is that it's not to a trend.

We see this in places like the ABC or the NBC logo. Coca-Cola is another great example of this as well. Those logos usually don't stick to a trend, and it's something that we associate with timelessness because of how long they've been around.

This is something that elevated my game as a graphic designer. When I would go in pitch a project, people weren't looking at me like the next big thing or what's hot right now. I have to give a little bit of credit for some of that because I learned design fundamentals.

What's also cool is the flexibility that I've gained. In a morning, I could create something that looked very modern and exciting and fun. By the afternoon, I could scale back and do something totally different. I started to gain that variety to my work that a lot of people appreciate when they work with me.

Bottom line, don't chase trends. Try something a little bit harder. Try to learn more about the fundamentals of design. Try to learn how to become a more multi-dimensional designer.

It's easy to get likes on Instagram and Dribbble when you do something trendy. But if you step back a little bit and create something that isn't quite as flashy, yet has staying power, you'll be impressed with how levels up your game.