Homogenized. Between twitter, designspiration, dribbble, and ffffound, it’s easier than ever to stay connected and see what other designnners (catch that?) are making. An endless supply of inspiration is pushed on to us so that we can learn from these efforts and glean lessons that better our own work. Man, wouldn’t it be great if it worked out like that? Instead, judging from the amount of “me-too” design work, most people’s search for inspiration never extends beyond a computer monitor. This has led to a design movement that values rehashing aesthetics from a bygone era rather than pushing design forward in a meaningful way.
Let’s not beat around the bush. Here are a few of the visual elements I’m referencing:
Figuring out why everything looks like this isn’t very difficult. First of all, it looks good (of couse, that statement is pretty subjective). Secondly, it features elements that are pretty easy to emulate; texture, MCM Hellenic (or Trade Gothic!), an earthy color palette and other arbitrary elements. Lastly, everyone wants their work and effort to be validated. If someone makes something similar (but not too similar!) to what you’ve made, it legitimizes your creation, so bam, you like it. You don’t just like it, you retweet it, you share it, you heart it, you reblog it. Chances are it clicks with other people, so they make something that resembles it. Those people, in turn, partake in the same liking/sharing/retweeting flurry that you initiated. Behold, the birth of a trend.
Unfortunately, this movement has been solely defined by aesthetics and a yearning for the tangibility largely lost in today’s computer-generated graphic design. What’s the need for everything to look like it was made in 1964? Is there any conceptual basis? Is it because, before the advent of computers, there was more of a craft to design? The computer is here to stay. Embrace it. It’s a tool that lets you do amazing things in a fraction of the time. You may also utilize it to put a fake texture on everything you make, but that’s not genuine. That has no purpose.
If the current trend of making everything look aged is a response to the cold, pixel-based reality of designing on a computer, is reverting to a past really the best way we can handle this? Is a regression to safe territory really the way to push design forward?
I’m no Walter Gropius, I don’t have a solution; I’m merely trying to address the need for one. I’m worried that in our pursuit of instant gratification and praise from our peers we are sacrificing one of graphic design’s most appealing aspects: 10 designers can solve a single problem 10 different ways. It’s easy to forget that when 10 designers are solving 10 problems a single way.
If we can’t abandon our fruitless chase after the next flavor of the week and focus our efforts on something larger, we’ll continue spinning our wheels in the tired and tread upon ground of mid-20th century aesthetics. We are young, capable and connected. If we can’t light a fire under our own collective asses, I don’t know who will.