Trendsetter Critique: Banners

When does something become a design trend? It’s hard to say, for me it’s always been more of a gut feeling saying “Holy Effin’ God, this shit is everywhere!” Trends can be as specific as the overuse of a typeface (I’m looking at you Gotham!) to the use of a certain look, style, or element. Here are the following reasons people use design trends

A.) The client sees it’s overuse and equates it to hip and freshness (hahah, how ironic….) and demands its use.

B.)  The designer defaults to it in an attempt to cut corners

C.) The trend unconsciously seeps into the designer’s aesthetic rolodex – a byproduct of it’s overuse

D.) It’s actually appropriate to the design solution (hahahahhaha)

In any case, for the past month I have been furiously working (on and off) on a website design for my portfolio – researching, sketching, researching again, coding, and then starting from scratch another two or three times. In that time I’ve come across a plethora of great sites for website inspiration, the best by far being While my motivation is less about stealing design ideas and more about getting a feel of UI design, I can’t help but notice one design trend that continually pops up, waving it’s banner (quite literally) of hip freshness.

Yes…banners. And while it’s use is overwhelming across the internet, the design and feel of this trend is surprisingly narrow. Here are the limited renderings that I’ve come across:

The architecture is usually very geometric where the ends are crisply folded underneath with a fishtail on both ends. They either have a pithy phrase or works as a masthead for the site.

Used as a ribbon or flag to display a logo (which is in most cases is a slanted light condensed font in an emblem or button-type form)

Will most likely come in the following shades and following textures (really anything that combines retro and pastel vintage together is a shoe-in!)

And that is the basic makeup of this year’s (and last year’s) banner trend. Look, I even made a collage of everything I found in literally an hour of web surfing. (and yes, each banner is from a different site, no cheating for this gal today!)

Maybe some of you will ask “Ayn, why the fuck do you care about what other people are doing? If you don’t like it, then don’t use it!” to which I respond “Nay, in fact I love the look of the banner trend (especially in its manifestation of adorable-but-modern vintage homage)”, but it still remains that in an industry built on making people places and things stand out, using an overused trend is the last thing a creative wants to do, ESPECIALLY in web design.

Maybe I’m old-school (or lazy) but for me, web design has a kind of permanent, stable quality to it. This isn’t an ad campaign that can recycle design clichés and quickly retire them, it’s an element that stays there and day in and day out, defines your brand and aesthetic. Incorporating the banner into your logo, your masthead, your branding, only dates your design that much faster so that next year you can’t help but groan at its sight, like a bad tattoo from your 18th bday (you know, the one you got because it looked just soooo cute).

But luckily this trend isn’t a bad tattoo and it can be removed, replaced, or readdressed. If you are going to use a banner, think about it’s appropriateness and use:

Use it as a callout to a new component, product, or otherwise serve as a temporary notification.

If you’re considering using it in any long-term branding, ask yourself how relevant the banner is to the company or event. (Hey maybe they’re a stationary/craft store with ribbons, maybe they’re promoting a circus or something!) Branding should be more effected by the innate qualities of that company, and not a reflection on the design environment today.

Is there a way to use it in a way that builds upon the trend rather than copy & paste?

In any case, I have a feeling that by this time next year we will hopefully have moved onto something else, that I will undoubtedly critique.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this design trend, this series will definitely continue with other overused design elements of today!

2 Responses to “Trendsetter Critique: Banners”
  1. Lindsey says:

    Yes I’ve noticed this trend as well. I wrote a blog piece about the magazine “plus sign” (+) trend. For a while I saw oversized plus signs on a ton of mag covers and I did a montage of them as well. Trends such as Gotham and banners are so easy to be lulled by… Why is that?

    • ayn1120 says:

      I remember that blog post! Haha! It’s amazing how we fall into the trap of rehashing what other people are doing! For me, it can be hard to avoid a trend, especially when I’ve seen it used, but absolutely LOVE IT and want to try it myself.

      In the end though, I just try to recognize what’s out there and have that factor into my design judgement 🙂

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