The Danger of Following Trends Blindly

A. Michael Shumate

A. Michael Shumate

Logo Design: The Danger of Following Trends Blindly

The Problem With Trends
Search online for the term “logo design trends” and you can see what designers all over the world are doing now for corporate identity design.

But how can you really know if the things you see in these sources are good examples or bad?

Do today’s designers follow each other like so many lemmings, finding comfort in company but having no real direction based on independent and time-proven principles?

Many of the poor examples I have shown in this book I saw first in respected design magazines displayed as supposed good design. Most of the books on corporate identity design show lots of logos, but does that mean that they are all good and worthy of emulation?

If you have teenagers learning to drive, would you tell them all they need to do is look at what other drivers do on the road? Or would you insist that they learn from a bona fide driving instructor or school? Or at least get the official Department of Motor Vehicles regulations and study them?

Anyone can hang out their shingle declaring to the world that they are graphic designers or even branding designers. Do they even have any design training? And is all graphic design training equal? Does coming through a famous school guarantee anything?

I have witnessed a huge change in graphic design education over the twenty-five years I taught graphic design in college. When I began as a designer and even when I began to teach, there were specific manual skills and design sensitivities that had to be mastered. Back then there were whole professions that existed to support the graphic design industry. Typesetters, stat camera operators and photoengravers were jobs that are almost non-existent now.

Why?

Because of the personal computer. Now graphic designers are their own typesetters, do their own scans, and nobody even makes color separations any more for printing. It’s just part of the digital output supplied by our computers.

Graphic design education has had to devote significant time to teaching students the software that they must learn to use. Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign are the bare minimum and all are vast and intricate programs. Subjects like Color Theory, Art History, Design History and Illustration, that used to be an integral part of the standard curriculum are today often considered expendable.

The result is that today few design students are even considering principles, let alone being schooled in them. We are in the second generation of digital design, so even the instructors of the current generation never got that exposure themselves.

Does that mean that there are no principles in design, specifically branding design?

No, of course not. There are indeed principles. That is what this book is all about.

“The Blind Leading the Blind” by Peter Bruegel the Elder, 1568, distemper on linen canvas,
33.8” (86 cm) x 60.6” (154 cm).

Does that mean that one should become a design hermit and not look about at what is being done?

No.

But it would be advisable to always ask if the example in question will work in the myriad of media and situations that a corporate identity must work in, and if it will reproduce consistently.

As we have already demonstrated, a company may discover that their identity does not meet their needs. We will see that many companies and the designers they hire are feeling their way along. Indeed the whole design industry has been feeling its way along to make logos that last, that stand the test of time.

To a large extent, this has been by trial and error. And those errors can be so costly. But over time, they lead designers to avoid the very things that we mentioned in chapters 21 through 27, the Seven Deadly Sins of Logo Design.

We will see in the next seven chapters how many companies have redesigned their identities in conformity with these principles. Why?

Because ignoring them just doesn’t work.

Adapted from Logo Design Theory: How Branding Design Really Works

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