The Great Western Trendkill: Graphic Design Trends That Must DIE!

I’m at it again! Devoting time and effort to posting something that is annoying to me. This time, it isn’t just for me: This post is dedicated to every designer out there who is sick and tired of the crap out there and wants it to… well, DIE!

1: Web 2.0

Do I have to explain? Do I?

Web 2.0 is overused. Not only is it overused, over-saturated, but it is OVER! Is there any reason why this is still being used? Is there? Have we grown so little as a design community over the last 5 years that we’ve become stagnant and decided, “You know what? This simple look that has no real character or individual charm? Yeah, lets keep this.” Some designers have moved on.

I have a friend who has defended Web 2.0 design as stating, “Its a good design style, its just been abused.” True, but I don’t consider it a full-fledged design style. This isn’t me trying to be pompous (although I’m sure I sound like it); its about stating what I think is a fact.

If you were to walk into a design agency at any time until 1997 and presented them with any of the countless number of generic web 2.0 styled ads, they most likely would have said, “Well, you have a really nice start, but where’s the rest? Where’s the personality?”

Web 2.0 style isn’t bad, but it’s only a base.

Limited color, incredibly simple designs and layout, generic fonts, and drop shadows and mirrored reflections… these are the hallmarks of Web 2.0 design, and the very reason why it must DIE. I’ve already written how Apple practically invented this style in 1998 with the iMac line, and how, 11 years later, everyone has stolen their design and haven’t really made it their own. We’ve learned that there is great dynamic in putting great, brilliant color against white in order to achieve impact, but we’ve lost a sense of experimentation in the process.

We’ve lost individuality, a sense of purpose, being, and personality. Designers have sacrificed their own personal individuality as designers to create a virtually blank canvas for others to create on. For sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace where the focus is on the user being able to customize everything, that makes sense. The same is true of any site where that’s the point. But for sites that are GIVING the content, its something else!

2. Overusing Pastels

I am sick of pastels! This one started in the late 90’s and became the “it thing” over the last 5 years, and its to the point where I want to start banging my head against a wall. This is another one of those things that, when used rarely, they work well. Really well. In fact, I don’t really hate pastels so much as I am sick of them being everywhere!

This really goes hand-in-hand with web 2.0, because it makes thing really, really… boring. For example, say you have a website with a white background and black type. OK, that’s fine, makes sense. The focus of what your posting is the type and the images. So, in return, the stuff you want people to remember, like the header? Well, you make them all pastels.

Not good.

For starters, if your navigation is a shade of light gray against white… its hard to see. For branding, having a light green against white isn’t good, either. Why? Because the two colors blend and no one is going to stare at your logo longer than 2 seconds if they’re only looking for the content. In turn, your repeating traffic takes a hit because not everyone bookmarks a site on the first visit, especially if the content is only so-so.

In short, here are a list of colors I want to see as little as possible: Light brown, light green, light blue, and light red (aka Light pink).

Actually, its a short list. A very short list. I’m going on memory, too! Why do these colors piss me off? Why do we need LESS of them? Again, this isn’t about the colors themselves; its how they’re used and, in most cases, abused!

You have a band. your band plays a mixture of punk and metal; loud, angry, aggresive music that beats the crap out of your skull and doesn’t stop. Now, you hire someone to design your gig flyer and you tell them, “Hey, we’re sick of using nothing but white, black, and red for our flyers. Can you give us something else?” Well, what are you going to do? You need to convey this band without all those colors. What do you do? Me? I’d go for green and yellow, but then again, I love garish colors when they’re used well and entertainingly. But if your idea is to use light blue, light red, and light brown and draw a happy little blue bird…. then you can see why I’m mad.

This, sadly, happens more than you think for other things.

Light pastels colors are used for one thing: Comfort. They are there to make people feel good and comfy, like they’re buying a set of pillows from “Bed, Bath, & Beyond” or that they’re buying something for a baby, or doing something “Earth-Smart”. They’re soothing colors, and that’s good, we need them. After nearly a lifetime of ads focusing on bright slightly-off primary colors, we need a rest from harsh colors.

But in the end, we lose a lot of effect.

It goes back to the idea of an “empty room” that a teacher of mine talked about in college. The “empty room” is really simple to understand: It basically refers to a design with nothing in it except a white background and some image or type. Nothing happening in the background, nothing fun… just an image on white. It achieve impact, but it loses it when, well, its everywhere. Most of the time I see pastels, its against white, and really, it puts me to sleep. It doesn’t really grab your attention after a while.

3. BAD 80’s style design

I loved the 80’s. I was only 5 when they ended, so in 1998 and I got a ton of then 10-year-old copies of Nintendo Power from 1988 – 1991, you can only imagine how it felt to be nostalgic about the 80’s when I was only 13! I thought, “Wow, there were a lot of cool ads back then! I wish they did stuff like this now!” Well, funny how time works, right? I remember in 2005 I saw the first 80’s-style ad come back, and it was from Comcast. It was bright yellow type against black in huge Helvetica layers. The tag line didn’t fit one line, so they broke it up into 4 lines. It was pretty ugly and made me mad.

Since then, a whole generation of nostalgic for the 80’s designers have taken my beloved memories and took a collective crap on them.

The “Empty Room” I spoke of is, in essence, reversed; it’s an infinite void of black. In it, we see the occasional letters or image with nothing really done to it. It just… well, sits there.

Wait, no, that’s only part of it. BAD 80’s design? Its trying to create this “universe” effect that looks tacky and cheesy. Yes, that is part of the fun, but damn it, it isn’t fun anymore! It just isn’t! I love bright primary colors against black, but this stuff? Crappy Photoshop brushes of universes and galaxies with nonsensical “3-D plains”? Do we need those back? Rays of light that go nowhere? Lasers that make no sense?!

4. 99% of ALL 70’s design

Why? Because it needs to die. I never liked 70’s design. Ever. I have to push myself to a point where I can think of something from the 70’s design-wise that I liked, and sometimes I get surprised. “Wizards” by Ralph Baski blows me away and there are a few films made in 1979 that shock me. Star Wars was designed incredibly well and aged great.

On a whole, it needs to die. Bauhaus fonts, tri-colored bars that make no sense, wood grains for the sake of wood grains? Garish colors mixed in? I went to a “hip” restaurant that had wood grain, green light fixtures and tables, and a black ceiling. Not good.

The 70’s are over, done, dead. We had the revival in the 90’s, and now it needs to go away. Far, far away.

5. Dissolving into light

This one involves a lot. We’ve gone to the other end of the spectrum from what pissed me off at first. Instead of being “generic”, its a false branding of “individuality”. Its also a hard thing to name. I don’t know if it has a real name or not, but I call it “dissolving into light”. It stinks. Its basically the result of one man; the idiot who designed this abomination of an album cover:

You’ve seen this at least once, haven’t you? Yeah, I bet you have.

It goes back to that “crappy 80’s design” I mentioned, but this is worse. Much worse.