There are merely the illusion of trends. A trend is a term for whatever the stylists are copying en masse at the time. What are stylists? Stylists are people who are technically proficient with the tools of the trade to create design, but lack knowledge of the design process. Rather than applying the process they simply find something they find cool at the time and reproduce a spin-off of it.
When you create something along the lines of the Web 2.0 look, or a hand drawn look for example, you are assigning attributes to whatever the content happens to be that may or may not be appropriate. Design communicates a visual message to a viewer, and when you communicate the wrong thing, you are failing your client.
In fact, this type of ‘design’ devalues real design. Just look across the blogosphere, look at the bountiful amount of Web 2.0 style sites for companies which have no qualities that fit the stigma that comes with Web 2.0; it just looks pretty. Look at the dozens of illustrative, organic feeling designs that have popped up recently. Someone told me that super-sized text is a new trend (when the size of type is considered a trend, may the Swiss have mercy on our souls).
To put it in one sentence, I really love Wikipedia’s definition of design:
Designing normally requires a designer to consider the aesthetic, functional, and many other aspects of an object or a process, which usually requires considerable research, thought, modeling, interactive adjustment, and re-design.
Everybody’s Doing It!
No. No, they’re not. Think of the industry rockstars; none of their sites look like each others or any others for that matter. There are many knock-offs but they all pale in comparison to the original design. The reason why the remakes can never ascend to that level of design is because the design is no longer communicating. Each personal site design visually encapsulates the personas of many of these people:
None of the above three sites look the same, nor will you find any other prominent designer’s sites mimicking their style. Can you imagine, say, a law firm in Shaun Inman’s design? No. Even though the site is very clean and professional, it has a certain quality to it that is particular to Shaun. This is the core foundation of design, the very thing that separates the designer from bloke who figured out how to save as HTML from Microsoft Word. Creating anything with disregard to emotions, preconceptions, and message is not design.
If the people many of us look up to are coming up with great visual communications which succeed at communicating the proper ideas, shouldn’t we be following suit? If you do believe in trends, maybe the next one should be unique and communicative.