Helvetica. Comic Sans. Flourishes. Circles. Sun rays. Splatters. Flowing lines. Smoke texture. Reflected images. Torn, scruffy paper. These are just a few of the so called “overused”. You can go to Pinterest and see a nice picture with a fading or abstract light background with quotes slapped on them in Helvetica, the most used (and considered the most neutral) of all the fonts, in thousands and thousands of posts. Comic sans has popped up on and in the most inappropriate documents and places, like official police warnings and on plaques that adorn important physical places. Flourishes, once used to give pieces a regal and important feeling, are everywhere. Circles used in abundance, at all sizes and widths, to give a vintage vibe to images…Sun Rays, splatters, smoke textures…Reflections. They are everywhere. Design overkill. The masses have access to what was once considered a mystery domain. And they don’t know HOW to use what they have their hands on. Not in pleasing ways. And when they do know, or figure out, a way that is pleasing, they use it to the death.
The most interesting thing here, though, is…we are ALL guilty of it. Because we mistake what we are seeing as trends. When in reality they are a hybrid of trends that won’t die and the general public’s overuse. It has been long known that through out history, that once we (as human beings) find things that we are comfortable with, we stick with them…even when it’s no good for us any longer. Then a “rule breaker”, or a person who has “thought outside of the box”, comes along and “surprises” us with an improved design, only to have pulled the wool over our eyes, because all they have done is taken what we are comfortable with and played with it, and made it their own; their signature look. And then a designer will REALLY think outside of the box, and give us all a beautiful piece, and the masses (public and design trained, alike) will clamor to imitate it. And the cycle is begun all over again.
There are tricks to using these overused design habits. Like really knowing WHEN Comic Sans is appropriate (if ever). Knowing HOW to make one of these “trends” one of your own signature pieces…Knowing how to be original. And let’s face it. With design at EVERYONE’S fingertips, it is hard to be original. It is hard to think for yourself when the computer is at the ready and stock images (free and paid-for) are at the ready always.
So, I challenge us all, as DESIGNERS to close our computers and grab a sketch pad. Even if you don’t know how to draw…It’s not about drawing. It’s about getting your original thought, your original idea, onto a page, before you research images on the computer. It’s about pulling from your subconscious. It’s about finding that piece of you that will forever become embedded ORIGINALLY within a design, rather than looking through stock images or pulling from another designer- or worse, pulling from an amateur who didn’t know better, when we’ve been trained to know.