Jason Little, creative director in the Paris office of Landor Associates, presents an interesting and somewhat shocking analysis of design trends for 2010 and how they will impact brands. Little asserts that technology and globalization have led to chaos and encourages designers and marketers to let go of any attempt to organize or control this chaos and to embrace it instead. This outlook poses quite a big challenge for companies with tight design and brand management policies and a great opportunity for companies that have the ability to release their grip and live in exploration mode. Here are the three trends that Little outlines and a few of my own observations that reinforce or question these assertions.
"So many designers are viewing the same sources of inspiration that they inevitably develop similar styles, whether deliberately or unconsciously."
This might be true but it's nothing new. I am as guilty as any other designer of being exposed and inspired by whatever experience I encounter and some of these experiences are not exclusive, especially not in a world that is so heavily influenced by commercial and non-commercial content. However, I am not convinced that this fact is anymore true today as before. It's is also clear that there are some overall design principles that are shared by many (think: simplicity) and can lead to similar methods and sometimes similar results. I believe that the symbiotic relationship between culture and design have and will always exist. And the key to a thriving brand was and always will be differentiation.
"We’re seeing the emergence of “ugly” design as a means of grabbing attention. What was once considered less than pleasing to the eye has now become a credible way to define brand identity."
Well, that explains the London 2012 brand identity. But as a trend for 2010 I think it also is a reflection of a much larger phenomenon. Sub culture is always in risk of becoming main stream if too many people begin to appreciate it. It's just how people adopt new ideas and accept change. This trend is somewhat in contradiction of the previous one and that is no coincidence, but I believe that designers and marketers need to be less concerned with the question "does it look good?" and more focused on "does it work?".
"Computers have given rise to a means of creating visual graphics without direct human involvement; designers can set general conceptual parameters and then let the program do the rest."
Once again, this is not something new and we are probably in the very early stages of this trend. It all started with Gutenberg's printing press and the end is nowhere in sight. The film Avatar is the latest manifestation of this trend but it wouldn't be a huge risk if I said that two years from now Avatar will seem a bit...old. I guess as long as designers can set the "general conceptual parameters" then we're okay. But if and when computers start doing that too then we'll have something real to worry about.
In conclusion, Little writes: "Flexibility is the wave of the future. Restrictive color palettes will yield to complete spectrums. Photography will shun the staged look and veer toward user-generated content from sites like Flickr. The challenge will be to maintain a cohesive brand presence without reverting to strict rules."
I'd like to conclude with my own trend prediction and advice that should and will go beyond next year into the future of branding and marketing. What will make or break brands is the element of Authenticity. Designers must be able to create and re-create authentic experiences that express value while walking the elusive line separating illusion and truth without compromising trust. Wow, did I just write that?