Trends are a natural occurrence in culture, from fashion to music to everyday slang. And design is no different. This could be due in large part to the proliferation of design blogs as wide spread disseminators (taste makers) of anything au courant. Designers, young and old, will see cool work and mimic it on all of their projects until it’s a sad, badly beaten dead horse. This is why you’ll sometimes see three independent coffee shops that look exactly the same, right down to the stamped kraft paper bag and thin, mustachioed barista.
I’m in no way above this. When I reflect and look at past work, it’s enough to make my skin crawl. Flipping through old sketchbooks, I’ll find the same five or six ideas drawn out for each project, no matter the service, audience or positioning—wings, stars, railroad X’s, ribbons, born-on-dates, all of it.
Early in our business, CODO began focusing more and more on offering brand strategy and positioning. By spending time researching a client’s culture, service, competition and audience, we were able to move away from trendy design and start offering more appropriate, lasting work.
All this being said, I realize that sometimes the devil’s advocate rule may apply. If a client wants a certain type of aesthetic, and is paying you to deliver, then it’s easy to set aside all this theoretical bullshit and provide what they want. BUT, I also feel that designers (and design firms) should do a better job of policing themselves—through internal sketching, concept development and critiques—to make work that will be appropriate for more than just a few years.
Trendy work wastes the client’s money and won’t have nearly the same business impact that thoughtful, trend-defying branding would. A large part of our job as designers is convincing clients to choose something appropriate, compelling and lasting. By smartly guiding them through the design process and avoiding cheap temptation, you can make magic happen.
It comes down to being mature enough (and cynical enough) to realize when something is hinged upon an aesthetic trope, rather than reflecting a core, compelling idea. Once you can identify this difference, you’re one step closer to killing weak concepts and creating great work with your client.
Timeless is an interesting word. We’ve lost track of how many clients want their logo to look “timeless.” Logos becoming timeless has a lot more to do with surrounding culture, ongoing success in product/service itself, continual marketing/advertising, and the role the company plays in people’s lives than it does with a typeface or texture.
When we hear this word from a client, we strive to make something that’s not trendy. By aligning visual aesthetics with company culture and service and the intended audience, we can make something appropriate and position you well away from your competition. But it’s not even that complicated. A lot of this is as simple as not putting a damn ribbon on someone’s logo. We’ve been in a few situations where this sort of iconography made sense and had to convince our client (and ourselves) to go another way because that particular visual language has been fully bastardized.
Our work with Piazza Produce is a great example where this sort of element was appropriate. Their compelling brand narrative is being a family-owned business, founded in 1970 and based entirely on amazing customer service. In this case, a born-on-date is an important element of their identity, connoting stability, reliability, and the all important “Wow, they must be doing something right!” feeling that comes along with being in business for more than four decades.
That hipster coffee shop down the street, the one that opened in June—they’ve got no business putting a born on date in their logo. It’s misguided and trite.