On timeless design

By Jarrod Drysdale

Year-end blog posts about design trends are fun to read, but they contain a hidden implication you might miss: design and fashion are easily confused.

Now, any designer will denounce design-as-fashion and proudly state that great design is timeless. We can point to any number of famous works in architecture, industrial design, and graphic design and show rightly that they are equally effective today as they were upon creation.

But what about digital work, like web design? Technology turns over so quickly that digital design seems to be forgotten or deemed ineffective much more quickly than physical counterparts. No one points to a great website from 5 years ago and says “Yeah, that would still do the job today.”

Is digital design disposable?

The idea that digital design is disposable can be disheartening. You put the same hours, care, and passion into a digital design as you would the design of a physical object. But if you don’t update that site design every couple of years, you start to feel like it isn’t doing its job anymore.

We feel this way because we forget about the purpose of the digital design in the first place: to deliver a message, experience, or connection. That purpose is fundamentally different than the purpose for designing a physical object. Further, realizing this difference brings the core of the matter into focus. It’s not the design that matters. It’s the message.

So, when you’re working on a digital design, don’t worry about whether it’s timeless. Don’t concern yourself with earning web design awards or whether you’re committing a grievous design mistake by following a trend. Instead, focus on the goal of your project. Create a great experience for customers. Deliver your message in a way that people can really connect. And, exploit those trends if they serve the goals of your project.

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