Trends and fads are quick wins in the world of design. They a fun, popular and cool. And of course, you want your brand to appeal, be popular loved and appeal. While it is important not to make your visual branding all about what you love but consider also what your audience loves and what will not only attract them but make them feel at home and excited to be part of your world. This doesn’t mean the only way to do this is by following the latest design trends and fads.
Now when we talk about timeless, this doesn’t mean the design needs to stand the full test of time and look good for 100 years. Even big companies like Coca, Google and Apple have adapted and modified their logos and identity over time. But note I said adapted, not re-designed. The core visual concept always remains, but tweaks and adaptations are made to suit design trends and to keep it fresh and modern.
The Difference Between and Design Trend and a Fad
It can be easy to think trends and fads are the same things. There is, however, a difference, and it is important to be aware of that difference if you want to design a timeless brand identity.
Trends tend to be broader and longer lasting. For example flat colour (rather than shading), minimalist layout and simplicity, the use of geometric shapes, hand lettering or natural colours. Trends tend to last at least 5-10 years. Which means utilizing trends in your design will keep your style looking fresh and modern and appealing, but it will last and you won’t find it looking dated after only a few months.
Trends also relate to direction. Where are things heading in the design world to meet current needs? Design isn’t just about things looking nice (which fads tend to be mostly about) but also the function. So design needs to adapt to meet modern needs. Like the use of mobile devices, or how people consume content digitally or even how people are feeling. For example, if there is a trend toward the need for space, and calm in a world of fast-moving information, then design trends could move toward more spacious minimalist styles.
Fads, on the other hand, tend to only last a season. They tend to be more specific, playful and daring. They jump up at us and feel fun and fresh, but as they are less classic and quality and more out there, brash and cool. They tend to have a short lifespan and quickly look dated or overused. It’ll end up making you look ‘like everyone else’ and quickly date your style so within months you will be feeling the itch to change things. For example scrapbooking, vintage filters, chalkboard, neon colours.
Of course, like a lot of things in design, there are exceptions to the rule. If your brand philosophy and story actually fit perfectly with a fad, it may last you longer then it would for other people. This is because it is rooted in meaning rather than just for the mere sake of being trendy.
So if you are thinking of using any trend or fad, first consider if it is a trend or just a fad, and then does it hold meaning to your brand or are you simply trying to look cool? And also what are your customer’s needs and feelings. What trends in society are affecting them right now, and how can you respond to that in your design?
Don’t waste your Money.
I once saw a post in a Facebook group saying ” what sort of logo wouldn’t be ‘timeless’ i want something that will stay classic for a solid few years as ill put a lot of money into it”.
Making your designs look cool and on trend for the moment, will end up costing you in the long run. Sure it might get you some initial traction, as people love what you have done, but it will quickly date and lose favour.
If you are going to invest your time or money into your visual branding you want something that will last you several years. And even then, doesn’t need a total re-design, but just some tweaks to freshen it up.
If you find yourself in a re-design cycle, constantly trying to get the right look, only to feel unhappy a few months later, it is likely that you a falling into the trap of simply looking at aesthetic alone and not the function and meaning behind the design. And until you really delve into the story and messaging of your brand and get clear about what you want it to communicate to people, it is never going to sit well with you. This is because there is a disconnect. The look doesn’t match the message. You are either trying to fit in and look like other people, trying too hard to please your audience and create what you think they like or you just have no clue what you are doing and keep getting carried away by the latest pretty thing you see.
Start with your Brand Story.
If you want a brand identity that is timeless, the simple answer is to design something that tells your story. THEN look at current trends, to keep the feel fresh and modern, but base the concept on what you want to communicate.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to create something complex that tries to explain your whole brand story in one graphic. It is about evoking an emotion, feeling and triggering a thought and association in the head of your audience.
This is done through keywords. Start by considering who you are, what your business message is and who your audience is, and then find those keywords that sum it up, and create that feeling in your design. Consider symbolism and physiology of shape, line and colour. A lot can be said with simple things. And this is the great art of design. It only takes a little to say a lot.
Often the more simple you keep things, the easier it then is to keep it feeling classic and timeless and also to adapt it over time.
Keep the Basics Classic and Sprinkle in the Fads.
If you want to keep your branding timeless, but still want to play around with some fun fads, then the best way to do that is by starting off by designing your core brand elements and keeping them more classic and timeless. Then once they are in place, sprinkle in some fun stuff in other ways.
Maybe you add some fun backgrounds or texture to your graphics or website. Maybe you use photos or illustrations that can compliment your brand but are more of a fad right now and only part of a current campaign.
Remember with branding you will be constantly producing graphics. For sharing content, promoting products and events and sharing your message. So it is in these more short-term graphics that you can have a bit more fun, as long as it is consistent with your brand aesthetic and message. Don’t go off brand just because you want to use something.
A Unique Visual Style will Stand Out
It is easy to get swept up in cool styles and do what other people are doing because it seems proven to work and popular. The problem with this though is you end up blending in and looking un-original. I see it way too often, a lot of brands feel ‘same-y’ they just look like everyone else, and lack any originality. Sure they might be pretty, attractive and current. But they fail to stand out and really own their own visual identity. The key here is ‘identity’. Branding isn’t about making things pretty, it is about creating an identity through those visuals.
By having a unique visual style, you have your own voice. You are visually telling your message in your own way and attracting the right people who resonate with it. You create something that becomes iconic and identifiable so that when someone sees it they instantly know it is your brand, rather than one of the many similar looking brands.
If you want help to go through the visual branding process and dive deeper, you can sign up for my free email course ‘Define Your Brand’s Visual Style’ below and take the time to define a timeless, unique style, that tells the story of your brand.