5 Ways to Make Design Look Dated

Just as we all hung our shoulder pads on the shelf as Dallas ended, we must also apply the same concept to trends in graphic design. We’ll save the trends that never should have existed (from The Rachel haircut to Comic Sans) for another topic. For now, let’s go over a short list of design trends that will quickly date your website and branding.

Hipsteria | First things first, the mustache icon is over. Phew, that felt good to say! Arbitrary triangles, cross hairs, and bows and arrows have been quite exhausted in the design world. There are plenty of pretentious coffee shops and craft “fill-in-the-blank” storefronts to house the trends of this millennial style. If you really want to set your business apart, break away from this concept and develop a look and feel that reflects your business principles and ideals.

Photos on Business Cards | Presenting your self or your business as a breathing entity is crucial in this era of internet marketing. A clear voice, an approachable façade, targeted demographics, all these things help your business appear within reach to potential customers. Putting your photo on a business card is not on this list. Not only does this make your branding look dated, it distracts the consumer from what you’re really trying to tell them. If a realtor wants to convey that they get the most money for their clients and sell faster than anyone in town, a headshot will only communicate their personal taste in hair styling and tie selection. Let your brand tell your story!

File Folders as Navigation Tabs | And now for your quick and dirty history lesson in user interface design: Icons and navigation tools on websites were originally made to look like every day items in order to help users recognize where to look or click on a page. A great example of this is making tabs look like file folders in a drawer. While there are many conventions in design that might not ever get old, this concept is one that has long since evolved. We’ve been looking at websites for over 20 years now, and the average user is quite familiar with where the navigation tabs are and how to use them. The file folder look is a great way to take your site visitors on a trip to the 90s – but not to convert them into customers.

Drop Shadow or Gradient on Type | You have a message, and you want to get it out there! So to add a little depth or contrast, you slap a nice drop shadow on the text, maybe a little gradient on some letters, and bam! Done. But is it legible? Yes, there are many great uses of gradients and shadows. When attached to text, these design elements make the message appear smudgy and often times totally illegible.

Beveled Letters | Ahh, the shoulder pads of design. This text effect uses shadows to create a 3D look, giving letters depth and tangible edges. Beveled lettering acts more like a time machine than a value-add. This one is easy: just don’t. Don’t try super hard to make stuff look modern and futuristic, because the harder you try the worse it gets. Keep text clean and legible to ensure your message reaches customers.