I’ve been considering trends and fads lately, and the idea of selling out. I think there’s a difference between being a someone who falls into fads blindly, someone who follows and tries out trends, and the sellout. The song I chose this week that really speaks to thinking that you know what you’re doing by doing what doesn’t feel right is “Glass House” by The Classic Crime
. Now I don’t think that this song is actually about selling out, but the lyrics really made me think. Primarily the lyrics “You got hung up on the outside / You fake like you’re living the good life / But death and decay on the inside / Just add pride and hate to your long list of crimes.”
So really, what will happen if you give up doing what you love to do in order to follow a fad or a trend while abandoning what you really love or what you’re truly great at? You will seem to have it all if you’re successful, but you will start to feel like you die a little bit more every time you create something only for the sake of getting noticed. And you will never admit that you made a mistake because most artists are much to prideful for that.
So avoid the trauma to your creative self, and learn how to use trends to your advantage without selling out your aesthetic or your artistic soul.
First off I want to say that I believe that it is important, crucial even, to be able to distinguish between a fad and a trend and to closely follow the trends so that your design work doesn’t get dated or stale.I think it’s important to differentiate between these things because otherwise you won’t know how to approach a fad or trend when it crosses your path.
A fad is something is short lived, driven by emotional excitement, and will usually fade in time. A trend has staying power, sometimes it is a fad that has evolved into a relatively permanent status.
Trends take longer to build and could last for years. Selling out can be a lot of different things in the context of being a designer. In this post I’m mostly going to talk about how following fads (or trends) in the wrong way can make you a sellout. But first I’ll talk about how experimenting with fads and incorporating trends can be a good thing, and doing this correctly can prevent you ever being a sellout.
First of all, let me say that fads can be fun, they are usually the designs, or fonts that you chuckle at at first, wondering what the creators were thinking. That being said, I think that it can be really beneficial to experiment with your designs; try out the fads. They will not be around for long, and chances are that most trends are not something that you are used to doing. This can be a very good thing, because it forces you to stretch your creativity and skills to try to intentionally go outside of your chosen skill set for a short time to workout your design muscles. There’s lots of fads, a lot of them originate in the fashion design world and creep into design, sometimes not so subtly because of how design and fashion
are linked, you can find them at any mall just by browsing.
So if you’re looking for something to try, look out for anything that seems ridiculous to you but is actually very popular-this my friend, is a fad.
Try making something in that style, pick elements from it, and see how it goes when you do it yourself. It could be incredibly fun and hilarious, or it might be incredibly frustrating, either way, it will broaden your view of design. Trying out a fad is not selling out.
Since trends are things that take some time and evolve into having some relative permanence, it is absolutely essential that you keep up with design trends. Whether it is web, print, fashion, or any other kind of design. There are some trends that I’ve come to recognize and embrace that I don’t believe are going away anytime soon. One of these is hand lettering, and hand written fonts. Because of their unique individual nature, there is a definite appeal to a number of different people and therefore the possibilities for this trend is endless. The more you learn to watch for them, the more you’ll be able tons find the trends apart from the fads. The important thing to remember about trends is not only to follow them and learn about them. Even more so than trying to re-create a design fad, is to tap into the deep well of design trends and practice them. Practice them and learn about them, learn how they are created. Only then will it be possible to do the best thing that you can do with a trend: adapt it to your style.
Adapting a trend to your style is where trends have will have real power and add credibility to your body of work.
If you can learn how to meld design trends into your work, it will be noticed and recognized and you will be seen as being up to date and modern. A designer who knows the trends and is able to work them into their own work without it looking forced, will be a huge success. Designing with trends and adapting the trend to your style is not selling out.
So what is selling out then? One of the definitions of selling out, is “when an artist changes their style, compromising their integrity, morality, principles, or authenticity in exchange for some sort of personal gain, such as making more money”. A lot of times this term is really reserved for musicians, but the same principles can apply to designers. I don’t believe that making money doing something you love makes you a sellout, that’s being a success. Giving up what you love because of someone or something else, is. I mentioned that adapting trends to your style is not selling out; however, adapting your style to match the trend, is selling out.
The minute you decide that changing your art, your style of design, just to get more followers on social media or to make more money, you are selling out.
Designing trendy things will definitely get you noticed, and it will most likely make you more money (for a time), but you will feel in the end that you were basically taking orders. More of the lyrics by The Classic Crime are, “I was too young to know the difference / I was just following orders / when the glass shattered around me / I learned a good lesson about my disorder”. It can be very hard to stop letting the fads lead you and your clients order you around once you’ve done it. Stick to your guns and lead your own work.
Another aspect of selling out is not only in making your own art or design, but also when making art for a client. In the music industry this is often a music producer or record label that is telling a band that they need to change their sound because they know what will sell. Clients are not the artists, you are. They are not the designer, you are. Trust your knowledge, be confident in the ideas that you have and don’t let them dictate the quality of work that you do or how much you are worth. A true sellout will comply to every whim and change that a client has when clearly the suggestions they are giving you are bad choices A sellout will let the client talk you down and persuade you to discount your prices
. A sellout will bend and change to every fad that blows their way.
Another one of the bands I follow closely is House of Heroes (featured last week
). They have a song that talks specifically about a record label that says, “don’t fuss with creativity, they never asked for an artist. take all the heart, take all the heart out…”
This is what happens when you let the trend or the client take control, they take all the heart out. Only you can put the heart into your
work. Set boundaries, and don’t be a sellout– be an innovator.
When you control the fads and trends, you become a success, not a sellout.
Use the fads and trends as a conduit to make better, and more interesting work. This is the only way to follow the trends and not be a sellout. Music and design are a wonderful world. I hope you’ll join me here. Because design matters.