Design Comebacks: When Trends Boomerang

What goes around comes around, as the adage goes, and design trends are no exception. In an industry with so much emphasis on finding the next big thing, sometimes the best way to stand out is to take a step backwards. While technological advances like wearables are arguably driving current design trends, in recent years there has also been a resurgence of "old-fashioned" design techniques and styles. Below are some past design trends currently making a comeback.

PrintWhen computers, e-readers, tablets, and smart phones entered into our everyday lives, many declared print to be dead. But as consumers' lives have become increasingly digital, studies have found that print not only still works, it works well. Surveys show that 73% of consumers actually prefer mail over other advertising methods, and on average, direct mail advertising gives a business a 13 to 1 return on investment. And its not just direct mail - over the past 5 years more magazines have launched than have shut down, and even Ikea, despite having a robust online store, continues to print over 200 million copies of their catalog annually. Consumers may not be giving up their tech, but they are certainly returning to their analog roots.

Poster by Jessica Hische

Hand Lettering

In the days before large format printing, signs and storefronts around the country were hand painted by local artisans. The advent of computers and design software caused the focus of design to shift from hands-on craft to technical on-screen execution. Designers today are bucking that trend, getting out from behind their monitors and returning to brush-tip and calligraphy pens to draw type by hand. Print Magazine calls it a "rebellion against the cold, sleek, digital environment"-a direct response to the computer-based design style that has dominated for the past few decades.

Our staff fell in love with gorgeously hand-lettered, vintage-looking chalkboard signage at the recent uber-sophisticated Architectural Digest Home Design show-a perfect case in point. Whether hand-drawn or computer-generated, one thing is for sure: typefaces matter.

Mid-Century Modernism

While some may argue that mid-century modern style is timeless, the impact of a certain period drama on current interior, fashion, and graphic design trends cannot be denied. Since AMC's Mad Men debuted in 2007 the aesthetic of the 1960s has inspired everything from vacation itineraries to a Banana Republic clothing line. Even the flat design trend currently dominating digital interfaces is similar to the colorful and minimalistic style iconic to 1960s graphic design. It is no surprise that a television show set during New York's golden age of advertising has revived the style it is exemplifying.

Mad Men set design by Claudette Didul-Mann

Trends are cyclical, and right now, a lot of them are driven by nostalgia. "People tend to like what their grandparents liked and reject the taste of their parents," says Bobbye Tigerman, a curator of design at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in an interview with NPR. Which means that trends popular during the years of post-WWII America - including print, hand lettering, and mid-century modernism - are back in the spotlight. And, if the cycle continues, that it is only a matter of time until the opulent 70s and glam 80s make their way back into popular design.