As a designer, part of my job is to follow trends. I need to be in the loop about what is coming and going, especially when it comes to the latest design and illustration trends, but I also need to know about business trends when it comes to the types of clients I choose.
While it's good to be aware of trends, it's also good to look at trend alternatives. Here, I will write about some of the top trends people follow and how to look at them alternatively, in a more socially, economically and environmentally responsible manner.
The fashion cycle used to be 2 to 4 seasons per year, now it's 52. That's a new or rehashed fashion trend every week! Is it any wonder that some people own 100 pairs of shoes? For the rest of us, the only clothing we really need to worry about is what attire is required for work and what attire makes you feel good (possibly comfortable) when we're not at work. (Being “at work” for me, typically means meeting with a client in person, so 99% of my work day is usually super casual.)
Get a general idea for what people are wearing, but look for responsible alternatives. Trends such as advanced, sustainable materials, recyclability and the abolition of sweatshops. Find fashion houses who are committed to their communities, the environment, animal or human rights. You might even look for fashion retailers who pay their employees a living wage.
When I worked for Apple, it was part of my life to be up -to-date on all the latest tech, software, computers, games, gizmos and accessories. It was easy back then because all your coworkers would let you know if you missed something. Let's get real…As an average consumer your biggest worry is going to be when your OS is no longer being supported or when the space runs out on your mobile device.
In recent years tech has become so mainstream, it's pretty easy to stay in the loop. As a designer, however, I have to be able to keep up on all tech, not just Apple. For instance, Apple's app icon design standards are a little different than Andriod's so when you're working with someone who is developing apps for both platforms you need to know how to design them, and these design standards are always being updated.
Responsible tech might include agriculture and water technologies for feeding the world. It might include health and science technologies that end debilitating diseases or create alternative and sustainable forms of energy.
If you're wearing a Rolex or driving a Rolls-Royce, then you might be just a little vain. These particular goods are called Verblen goods, which are outrageously expensive items that are in demand with certain types of people because of status. These goods tell the rest of the world that they have money and that they want you to know about it.
Time and money are the only basic luxury items that most people simple do not have. Having the luxury of time to volunteer or the money to give to charity would be responsible luxuries that not only help various organizations, but also make the person “spending” them feel like they have done something to help others. Something I believe, that wearing a Rolex, just doesn't do.
Flat design vs. 3D design, Retro vs. Mod, bright colors vs. subdued colors, positive vs. negative space, etc. While, yes, I kind of have to keep up on this topic (it's my job), I do choose to acknowledge short-lived trends but focus mainly on lasting or classic trends so that my clients get the biggest bang for their buck.
Responsible design might lie in who I choose to design for. I try my best to never design for clients who have anything to do with weapons (anything typically used to kill a living creature), sex (sexuality, sexism, gender issues, etc.), politics (Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Nationalism, Fascism, etc.) or religion (of any sort).
Knowing what types of businesses are doing well and which one's aren't is important to me, but it should be even more important to anyone attempting to start a business. I'm pretty sure I've actually prevented some of my clients from loosing money by providing them with some simple demographics on the zip code where they were thinking of starting a business.
Responsible businesses might include alternative transportation, sustainable products, alternative energies, ecological solutions, refugee housing, free or affordable education, etc. I'm also happy to report that these types of businesses actually are trending and that consumers are finding them extremely desirable.
The last trend I want to write about is culture. Anthropologist E.B. Tylor, defined culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.” In contemporary society, culture seems to be manufactured and marketed. Depending on your reality (the types of websites you visit, what your friends post to Facebook, and where you shop), you can be constantly bombarded by it. Culture is what distracts people into unhealthy preoccupations with fame, celebrities, luxury goods and obsess over their own socioeconomic status.
Is Reasonable Culture the Geek Culture?
One of the few, fairly reasonable cultures I see, is geek culture. It's a culture obsessed with video games, mental games, scientific discoveries and a wealth of diverse, fictional characters fighting crime and making the world a better place. It's a culture in love with Wonder Woman, Doctor Who, Daredevil, Star Wars and Star Trek. Being a geek might mean that you're bombarded with the marketing of useless luxury products like a Star Trek replica or a Wonder Woman bracelet, but it also means that you're most likely interested in science and have some hope for the future. (Even if some geeks' hope might be for a zombie apocalypse, they might stand a better chance of surviving it.)