We are approaching the end of 2020, so there will be an inevitable slew of posts and articles titled "Design Trends 2021." This punch is for the faces of these articles.
Why am I against design trends? Three reasons:
1. They aren't really trends (mostly)
A trend is an upward, macro progression. They shift societies as a whole and alter what we perceive to be the norm. For example, data transparency, responsive design, artificial intelligence, public health (thanks COVID), or E-commerce are trends. Trends are movements that you either get on board with or your company becomes irrelevant. Design trends, therefore, do not fit the criteria... mostly. So let's play a game, which of these three seems like a genuine trend: gradient color swatches, serif typography, accessibility.
Ding! Ding! Ding! Accessibility is the only true trend within that trio. Why? Because your company is not going to be put into jeopardy if you do not adopt gradient color swatches or use serif typography, but it will suffer if it doesn't take into account user accessibility. Remember, trends are macro movements, not subjective, fad design practices.
2. You will have to change it eventually
Expectedly, if you shift with the design trends, you will be shifting a lot. Stand firm on your voice once you find it. Which brings me to my last point:
3. Trends pull away from your story
I'm a firm believer in stealing your identity. Meaning, you have a story to tell, there are things that have influenced you and you can use language, visuals, and other assets from those muses to cohesively fuel your brand. More importantly, you can do so in a way that is impactful and different. Rather than focusing on trends, focus on what you want people to feel. Find things that help foster that feeling and use them in your branding.
Design "trends" are shiny objects. Screw 'em.
"I want to be original," says the young startup founder. Well, I've got news for ya pal, you never will be and you will kill yourself trying to go down that road.
Everything is a derivative of something else. There is no new idea under the sun. Now, you can see this as negative or you can realize the opportunity you have to explore and put your spin on something already successful. The best creative work I come across is stolen. Meaning, the people that made it did not come up with the idea on their own, but they put it into a new context.
I'll give you an example, my friend Luis rebranded an agency a while ago. This agency's office overlooks a harbor in San Diego. So, he took the brand down a nautical path and turned them into a rebellious rouse of scallywags. They changed their name from Digital Style to VSSL, shifted all of their lingo to mirror a gang of pirates, and even named the rooms in their space after the places on a ship (the brig, the gulley, even the poop deck).
Here's the thing, Luis found every single element that went into that brand, he didn't conjure it out of thin air. The logo, the name, the language, the visuals, even the culture of the company is rooted in life at sea.
Find something inspirational and different, then steal it.
This is part of a 5-piece case study on Dashlane. Be sure to check out the previous pieces and stay tuned for what's next.
In full transparency, I'm a huge fan of this rebrand, there will be some bias. No shame.
Back to business. Dashlane's previous brand identity was centered on a shield emblem featuring an impala leaping across. Apart from this mark, there wasn't a cohesive structure to their design language that made them recognizable.
According to their CMO, the old branding didn't reflect where they wanted to go as a company or the attitude they wanted to convey to their users. Dashlane was seeking something elevated, elegant, and premium. Without appearing hoity-toity.
They hired a global design agency, Pentagram, to lead a rebrand. The results didn't disappoint. Here are a couple photos from Pentagram's case study.
The new branding focuses on a core concept of concealing and revealing. This is done by rooting it in a symbol (the slanted rectangle) that makes up the Dashlane "D."
When paired with an upgraded color palette, streamlined typography, classed-up icons, and a creative flex between all of them, their position as a premium internet security company is obvious. Yes, it looks clean and modern, but more importantly this brand helps distinguish Dashlane's position over competitors like LastPass.
This is speculation, but it seems like this new identity system helped streamline Dashlane's marketing as well. They use a limited color palette, two typefaces, and have a distinct grid system for their iconography. This allows for consistency between billboards, digital and print advertisements, ephemera, Dashlane's website, and even the product itself. Simplicity and safe-gaurds for their design team allow them to move faster and with grater peace of mind.
Coincidentally, that lines up with their mission of creating a safer and simpler life online for their users.
Design a visual identity that can scale across every touchpoint a user will come into contact with. Your product, your site, ads, all of it.
Focus on conveying an emotion through color, shape, and type.
Be different from your competition. No one is going to mistake Dashlane green for LastPass red.