When you hear the word design, what do you think of? Many people think of advertisements, clothing, buildings or tangible items that were imagined by an innovative and creative individual or team. Even though we don’t tend to think about it, we also find design in other areas such as medicine and nature. Even if you don’t consider yourself the artistic type, I can promise you that design (good and bad) has had a significant impact on your life. I know I’m biased being an advertiser and graphic designer, but you’ll start to see what I mean. I compare the design of an ad similar to the one of a beautiful flower. Both are designed with purpose and functionality in mind, but are aesthetically pleasing to rope you in and keep you intrigued. Now, what happens when emerging technology gets thrown into the mix? Well as you know with the advent of smart phones, social media, and immediate gratification with tech-friendly services, it gets complicated in some ways and over-simplified in other ways. Many of you have heard of the upcoming technological advancements we have to look forward to like augmented reality, virtual reality, voice driven technology and self-driving cars (just to name a few). So what does this mean for the world of design? Well, if you’re imagining an Orwellian brain-washed society, you’re not alone.
Design of the Past
There are certain time periods that we associate with different styles. When I see Victorian dresses and cameo pendants, for example, I think of the late 1800s and early 1900s. The 60s make me think of tye-dye and paisley, the 70s suede and bellbottoms, the 80s neon and mesh, the 90s pleather and scrunchies and so-on (you get the idea). Design is the reason for why certain things are considered “dated”. As a matter-of-fact, I’m writing this from jury duty as we speak and our orientation video was extremely dated. How did I know that, you ask? As soon as I saw the shoulder-pad friendly suits and larger-than-life perms of the actors in the video, I immediately knew that it was filmed in the 80s or 90s. The cheesy title transitions they also used weren’t very subtle either. ***Hint hint State of California
It’s not just traditional media or clothing that can appear as dated, but we see this in the digital world as well. The Internet has been around long enough now, that we also see trends or phases of design that have happened. I remember being a little kid playing one of my Barbie software games. First, I had to wait forever for the cream-colored, boxy PC to boot up in front of me. I was then greeted by the teal-blue background screen (similar to the color of the original Bic pens). After this, I then had to insert my CD-ROM into the slot (or floppy disks for some of you) and then I could play my game. Now, if I want to play a game it’s probably downloadable from the Internet and I’m most likely playing it on a sleek smartphone that’s the size of my hand.
There’s a sense of nostalgia and backwardness in that process compared to now. Which brings me to modern design.
Design of Now
Websites used to be colorful and convoluted with content. We used to network on MySpace where we bragged about having audaciously animated backgrounds on our profiles. When you look at our social network of choice now (Facebook, of course) it’s incredibly simple! Everything is white and blue and looks like a mad lib, where we fill in the blanks with pictures and words that supposedly make us unique. You see this solidarity and whitespace everywhere now! So many companies are starting to use blue and white as their branding colors, since that pallete has been proven to make a company appear as trustworthy and loyal. What’s the problem now? Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon! Even companies whose logo color is rainbow (like Google) are off-setting everything else with plenty of white-space and black or dark grey text. Even I have to admit this clean look comes off as easier to read and more professional, but I do start to feel like I’m living in some kind of robotic society where we all look and act the same.
What I start to wonder is, when will modern styling and branding start to hinder artistic freedoms and liberties? Can you imagine telling Monet or Michelangelo to only paint with three colors and to make sure they use a lot of whitespace? Of course not! If you look at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican (which I was fortunate enough to see in person nine years ago) you’ll be in awe of the detail and beauty of the incredibly busy piece. So my question is, when did busy become bad? Every era and culture has had its own style in the past that was bold and out-there in some way, shape or form.
I think we design more around usability and functionality more so now than ever before, which don’t get me wrong is a wonderful thing, but is resulting in a loss of uniqueness. For things that require absolute functionality and results (such as medicine, machines, etc.) this is incredibly important. For things such as common products and media, this can make it harder to stand out to a distracted crowd of consumers.
Design of the Future
I personally believe one of two things will happen in the near future. We will either continue the trend of clean design and singularity by turning into the Orwellian world that we fear so much (I mean self-driving cars and Alexa freak me out enough now already), or we will completely rebel and produce the most colorful and tacky designs that we could ever imagine (and you thought the 80s were bad). Of course, no one can accurately predict the future, but I believe we’ll be facing one extreme or the other. In some ways it fascinates me, but in other ways it really scares me. I’ve found that designs, fonts and colors I’ve always liked are starting to disappear from my work due to what’s considered modern design. I even redesigned this blog page in order to gain more readers and increase my SEO, if I’m being completely honest. Even though I’m glad I did so due to the feedback I’ve received, I feel like my site lost a little bit of its individuality in the process.
What are the future trends to look out for? Based on what I’ve seen in the last year I’d say interactive content, whitespace and the limited use of color will remain popular for the next year or two in the digital and tech world. Even though it’s always a good idea to go with the modern trends when you claim to be an expert in design, I do think you should create your own trends as well. Be the Jimi Hendrix or Madonna of design. Make sure you’re following the trend enough to get people to listen to you, but be original enough where you become an artistic visionary.
Infographic of the Week:
Question of the Week:
What do you believe will happen to design in the future?