The other day Smashing Magazine published a really good article about web design trends written by Espen Brunborg. It tackles a topic that I’ve wanted to talk about for a while but that I was not sure how to approach: Design that mimic reality.
Faux-wood, stitching, grunge, faux-embossing, retro typography and illustrations, you name it… The old has come back and has taken over the web. A few years ago it was glass and reflections, now this. It’s the 80s and their faux-wood cars and appliances all over again. It’s not always a bad thing though, especially if the websites that use that kind of aesthetic promote a product, service or idea related to the traditional, handmade and/or crafty side of art. When it’s not the case however, that’s when this type of design becomes abusive and out of place.
What is your concept?
Many websites whose design relies only on current trends do not have a strong concept. It’s so easy to get influenced by what’s out there that sometimes we take decisions based on looks alone without questioning our motives. Ask yourself, why are you using a wood image as a background? Why are you using a leather texture on that image? Why did you place your client’s logo over that stitched ribbon? If you cannot answer those questions with a valid answer (and when I say valid answer, “because it looks cool” is not one), perhaps you should go back to your notebook, grab a pencil and think of something else; brainstorming phase.
As I explained in a previous blog article, each client is different and their company usually promotes specific values. If you don’t know what they are, ask your client. You need to know who you are designing for and what message their business or project communicates to the public. From there, you will be able to decide what looks would match best their website.
A strong concept will usually mean a strong website. If you only want to pass a message and you are not too preoccupied by the looks, keep it simple; minimalism is a good way to go, especially when the content of a website speaks for itself.
Show that you are different
Trends become trends for a reason; they usually look good and are adopted by a bunch of people because of that. As a designer though, you should be able to show that you can create, not only copy your fellow creatives. If you want to be noticed from the hundreds or thousands of other local designers in your area, you must stand out and do to so, you must not fear being different, being better.
Try new things, try to surpass yourself. You will not regret it.