A little over a year ago, I wrote on the short-sightedness of the visual style which had been named after the technology it had been associated with – Web 2.0. As predicted, the masses have begun to tire of the current trend. Additionally, designers are beginning to write about their dissatisfaction towards the Web 2.0 visual trend and are proposing alternatives to it. As the visual style attributed Web 2.0 wains, we are inevitably going to see the rise of another all but arbitrary visual style take its place which will be adopted by the design masses without a second thought.
A recent article suggests by using elements which are the exact opposite of the stereotypical Web 2.0 style, we will ensure that our designs remain fresh. While I appreciate the author’s intent, it is the equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The next hot style, whatever it may end up being, will most likely be all but contextually irrelevant for the majority of sites it is applied to. Fluff will prevail again and we will be right back where we are right now in two or three years time. To a varying degree, this will happen – defeatist as it may sound.
Make no mistake, trends of visual styles are important to observe and stay abreast of. Seeing what other designers are doing can help you branch out and explore different types of visual execution. They are neither things to blindly follow or blindly avoid. So to suggest certain styles to use in order to move away from another style is truly missing the point. The reason why we have collectively grown tired of the Web 2.0 style is because those visual elements have been overused with little to no consideration to the subject they are applied to. There is nothing inherently wrong with the Web 2.0 style. The problem is people rode the horse until it died and now they are blaming the horse.
The irony of all of this is that the visual style of a design is almost always the most superficial and subsequently least valuable piece of the puzzle. Folks are spending the most time on what will give them the least return in the long run. Of course, there are very few substantive tutorials on the internet on how to improve your process or how to come up with better concepts. In contrast, there are countless tutorials on how use Photoshop to make “glossy” buttons. Process and conceptual thinking takes time, creativity, hard work, hard work and hard work. There are no shortcuts, no step-by-step list to follow in order to achieve desired results. Overused visual styles are a sign that enough designers have decided not to go that route…
There will always be a segment of the population that would rather go the easy route by letting other designers do the creative heavy lifting for them and then pick up the scraps. Why do I think this? Because it is easier – much easier – to follow the current style than to try to come up with your own (if that is even possible in its purest sense). And why would anyone even be interested in spending the time to foster one’s own style when some paying customers “only want it to look good”? Mimicking the latest trend will definitely give you the best bang for the buck for clients who do not care about the product they offer and consumers who do not care about the product they purchase. Sadly, there are plenty of lazy people, which allow lazy businesses to stay in business which allow lazy designers to continue to create uninspired work.
This style-hunting phenomenon has always been around and always will. My hope is that the web design community will increasingly understand that visual styles are absolutely useless on their own. The time spent trying to emulate another individual’s work could be used towards much more rewarding tasks. Designing in order to not follow a specific style is just as bad as designing in order to follow a specific style. The truly exceptional work is always ahead of styles and subsequently influences trends and style afterward. If you are simply following a trend, you can be assured that you have already missed the boat.