Why Design Trends don’t have to Completely Disappear

by Tom Kenny (@tkenny)

Web design trends come and go but when one comes around you can’t miss it. That’s the nature of trends in the web design industry, with the ability to release something that the whole world can see immediately, designers are able to push their designs live very quickly which aides in popularising a trend.

A trend is defined in the dictionary as:

“a general direction in which something is developing or changing”

Usually most designers follow these trends resulting in a number of websites looking very similar in style.

Ever since I saw the guys From the Couch stating that ‘the letterpress trend has to go‘, I thought to myself that it still could have its place in design. Perhaps I wasn’t as bored of it as they clearly are.

Recent Trends

These are some trends that have popped up over the last few years with examples of how the techniques are being used today but with much more dignity than before.

That Web 2.0 Look

We all know what this looks like, I don’t even need to show any examples because it really was everywhere a couple of years ago. The ‘web 2.0’ look could be seen a mile away consisting of:

  • ‘shiny’ elements
  • drop shadows
  • reflections
  • gradients

The main problem is that they were over used on almost every site that followed the trend. When used sparingly, these design properties can benefit a design and really work well. Some examples of these techniques use are used well in web design today:



Last.fm uses the shiny look in for the headings in their radio player and it doesn’t look out of place nor does it immediately bring back memories of the web 2.0 look because the use is much more subtle.

Icon Dock


Icon Dock uses shadows on a number of elements and because of the subtlety it isn’t immediately noticeable but adds a nice touch of detail.



Apple’s use of reflections is fairly subtle and is only used on their products which makes them stand out more. A very effective use of a technique that used to be frowned upon not too long ago.

App Weekly


Notice the use of gradients to give the illusion of depth.

Wood Texture

One of the most overused styles was to place a repeating wood texture as a big background. It started getting to a point where its use just became lazy and unimaginative.

Komodo Media


Komodo Media uses wood in a fun and creative way. Little details such as the cracks alongside the search box are nice touches too.


There’s no denying it, the letterpress effect looks great, especially in print where the trend origination from but it has now reached saturation point.

365 Days of Astronomy


365 Days of Astronomy reserves the letterpress effect for their logo only. allowing their branding to really stand out.

Rounded Corners

Rounded corners were all the rage not too long ago. In a way they still are but have become much better integrated into designs. Again the problem was that they were simply overused.



Here we see a simple use of rounded corners that fits well into the design.


As you can see it is perfectly fine to re-use old trends just not in the manner that they were used when they became too popular. The biggest point to take from this is that trends that outstay their welcomes are techniques that are simply overused. Scaling things back can make old trends acceptable again.

The Future of Trends

As time goes on we are seeing more and more unique approached to web design so I believe that we are becoming less annoyed by design trends because of the variety. As Nick La over at Web Designer Wall pointed out over a year ago, there were a variety of different trends in 2008. At the beginning of the year, Smashing Magazine identified the trends moving into this year.

I am excited to see what the future holds and rather than predict the next trend I think that a variety of styles will continue to move design forward. Overall, web designers are getting more creative and experimental especially with technologies such as CSS3 and Typekit.

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by Tom Kenny

I’m a freelance web designer and front-end developer with 9 years of experience designing for the web. Follow me on Twitter here.