AIGA’s “Eye on Design” webzine asked in the headline, “Is Millennial Minimalism On Its Way Out?” but it is the subhead of the article that caught my attention. “The next big design trend is the opposite of whatever’s happening now.” This goes without saying, most design trends seem to be, at least subconsciously, a direct reaction to what is currently popular.
Here are some of my observations that illustrate how trends are influenced by the past, and influence in a somewhat predictable way, what will come next.
When I first started in graphic design, in the 1980’s, the computer was new on the scene. The trend back then was for designers to leave obvious marks of computer aided design in the final piece. Boxy and pixelated was in. That was how designers could demonstrate their use of the latest technologies.
Traditional (non-computer) designers in the 1980’s were influenced by postmodern trends such as the Memphis Group, and artists such as Patrick Nagel. At least that seemed to be the case here in Las Vegas.
Then came the 1990’s. Looking over what was cutting edge in the ‘90’s it was clear that designers were less enamored by new technology, and a new focus on handcraft became the trend. Art Chantry, and Emigré Magazine are some great examples of the grunge era in design. Emigré was actually targeted to computer aided designers but they strove to focus on a look that didn’t make computerized design itself the end goal.
By the early 2000’s, the haphazard look of grunge was being replaced by a less chaotic but equally elaborate ornamental style, particularly in fashion. Meanwhile, the world wide web was becoming a bigger part of everyday life, and skeuomorphic design was one way to make the web accessible to new users.
It’s easy to see how the simpler, minimalistic flat design of the 2010’s evolved from a rejection of the visual clutter of the early 2000’s. In between there was also a retro/handcraft look that will always have a niche with clients seeking to imply a heartfelt small town mom & pop backstory.
To ask the question, “Is Millennial Minimalism On Its Way Out?” is to answer it. Of course people will grow tired of seeing the same design solution used over and over again. New products, new services, and new sensibilities will always inform design, as well as historic and current trends. The challenge for the designer is to moderate their desire to buck the trend just for the sake of trying something new with the public’s perception of what is pleasing, acceptable, and understandable. Holding what’s new and what’s old in tension is both a challenge and also a joy, it’s what keeps design fresh, interesting, and relevant.
I hope you enjoyed my short walk down “memory lane.”