The Movement of Style Across Time

Treatise #7

It’s funny how designers can rally around different trends. Trends are themselves somewhat of a fallacy, but also necessary at the same time. I am curious to explore why and how style moves in time. How a new style is birthed, and then why it disappears.

The first time I really noticed style in a holistic matter was when I looked back at some old photographs in a junk store. I found it interesting how when you looked at a photograph from the 70s or the 60s and so on you could almost immediately tell what era it was from. Looking at personal photos of strangers revealed how the world we surround ourselves in is holistically styled in a certain style.

The photograph reflected how furniture, appliances and fashion all related to each other in that particular moment. Even the quality of the film or the size of the photograph itself also told a story about the technology available at the time. The irony is, the same thing is happening in the present — however the average person seems only able to really see the predominant style looking backwards.

Even among designers, I think this concept of the movement of styles across decades is not discussed enough. The funny thing is we are all contributing to certain norms of a look and feel in a particular moment. I wonder, why do we do this at all when it is only a matter of time before a certain trend dies out or the style becomes dated?

Alot of the time, we are not even aware how we are contributing to a particular stylistic regime until it is in the past. Another large factor is technology and the limits we have. The modern softwares that we use influence how we experience shapes and certain dynamics of look and feel.

For a recent project, I was asked by my developers to submit my files in Sketch. I have tended to use Illustrator because I find it more freeform and powerful. I know alot of people love sketch, but I immediately noticed how it encouraged certain rhythms of UX and UI — and was built around creating such rhythms.

I don’t think we have to re-invent the wheel with each project, nor should we for the end user. However, I think as a designer it is important to be aware of how we contribute or reinforce certain stylistic regimes that may be visible across a decade. Becoming more aware of contemporary design allows us to better emulate it — but I think more powerful than that it also allows us to go beyond it.

In my own branding, this is something that I tried to do with the Aesthetic Dimension website. Because the client was myself I had more freedom to push the norm. However, in each project and with each industry we work in, this awareness of the standards of contemporary design should also inform the choices we make about the styling and look and feel of what we create. When we become more aware of the stylistic dynamic we are creating, we are also able to change it.