For as long as I can remember I’ve read articles and viewed comments—perusing general design feedback—which is critical of designers who follow trends. This extends to those people who use superfluous mockup techniques to present their work, or to those who place mockups inside the beautiful industrial design of an iPhone or other high priced device.
The feedback on the design itself is usually non-constructive, and the comment instead focuses on calling out the designer for attempting to sell their design for something it apparently isn’t. I’ve seen this type of feedback in the form of a Dribbble comment and as long-winded as a lengthy Medium article aiming to drive the point home.
To the authors of these comments and pieces of feedback: We get it. Trends by their very definition are not unique, and applying these techniques to your own work without putting thought into them is bad, akin to taking the easy road.
You know what else isn’t unique, and is also seemingly easy? Writing the same article about not following trends that every other disgruntled creative has written, or, reiterating an idea that literally no designer on the face of the world disagrees with. Writing an article saying why it’s bad to jump off a bridge when everyone else is, is not needed.
Actually, let me take a step back and approach this a little differently. Instead, I’ll go ahead and make arguments in favor of following trends. Maybe this is playing devils advocate but I honestly have problems with the excessive demeaning of designers who choose to implement “trendy” techniques into their work or practice.
First, please consider that many designers who follow trends to this extent may be less experienced and may not necessarily know how to create something purely unique from scratch. That’s ok. Everyone starts this way. Creating something completely unique is a challenging task. Finding inspiration in something that is popular and en vogue, and using it to hone and better your own creativity, is perfectly fine. Furthermore, if a designer follows a commonly used convention or approach to a problem, hopefully they will start to understand why the technique is in-fact “trendy,” and begin to understand both the benefits and shortcomings of the trend, giving them the ability to plan and better utilize this solution in future work.
Second, trends become trends because, generally, they offer progress in the way a current technique or approach is built and implemented. Take flat design for example, it’s safe to say there are few designers who think the movement away from skeuomorphism is misguided. At least from my point of view, these shifts in thought are usually started by people smarter and more experienced than myself, and when these movements start to gain traction I make an effort to better understand the new concepts they present, often times looking forward to applying them into my work.
When it comes to superfluous mockup techniques, ones which wrap an iphone around a PSD export and/or angled perspectives which show designs from a more dramatic angle, these techniques aren’t inherently bad either. Sure, to a developer or a designer, seeing the unmodified production file is generally a better way to get an understanding of the intricacies of the product, but when it comes to selling your work and the experience it will create, these types of mock ups can give someone (maybe a client?) a better feel for the intended experience of the app.
The reason these techniques are so popular to begin with is because, to the layman, they make the work look fantastic and give the user a more tactile view of the hypothesized end product. Again, that’s OK! The problem here isn’t the technique, the problem is if you use this technique to sell an experience you can’t actually create, effectively misguiding the people you are selling to.
The point I’m attempting to make is this: web design is a fast and ever-changing landscape with new styles and techniques idolized as often as they are scoffed towards. Instead of mocking or degrading these attempts, we should applaud the effort.
If there is a legitimate concern with the solution at hand, use feedback as a way to discuss the solution. Where was it successful and where does it fall short?, rather than a way to stand on a non-productive pedestal that moves no one forward.
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