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The 3 most over-hyped design trends of today

At the Fast Company Innovation Festival, three designers shared the design trends they think are the most overrated in 2018.

The 3 most over-hyped design trends of today
Left to right: Jason Chua, Edel Rodriguez, and Marcelo Eduardo. [Photo: Daisy Korpics for Fast Company]

It’s easy for a trend to turn into a cliché–popular ideas have a way of becoming ridiculous when taken too far. At the Fast Company Innovation Festival, Co.Design editor Suzanne LaBarre sat down with several judges of the 2018 Innovation by Design awards to discuss the wild future of design–and to find out which trends are vastly over-hyped right now.

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Algorithms aren’t everything

AI and machine learning are showing up everywhere in products and services–but often, it’s all hype. And more importantly, algorithms themselves are not always the right solution to the problem. Yet believing that machine learning can solve every design challenge is a common refrain today.

“I think there’s this impatience to say we have an algorithm for something, and that’ll solve all our problems,” said Jason Chua, the executive director of advanced topics at United Technologies. “Machine learning is not a panacea, and if you don’t apply human-centered principles, you may see some of these things run amok. I think it’s very valuable . . .  but it needs to be applied in very careful ways.”

Virtual reality has nothing on the physical world

For illustrator and graphic designer Edel Rodriguez, the most overrated trend in technology right now isolates us from the physical world.

“I don’t like VR,” he said. “I don’t care about this stuff. I don’t care how many times people say this is great new technology. It’s just not how I want to experience the world and not how I want my kids to experience the world. There’s a lot of information a kid can get through flipping a page or touching things.”

Data is producing design that all looks the same

In digital design and branding, there’s a certain tendency toward visual uniformity that Marcelo Eduardo, a founding partner at the agency Work & Co, detests. He thinks the culprit is too much reliance on data.

“There’s an oversimplification–a lot of things look the same,” he says. “People believe that you can pasteurize a design and users won’t notice. It gets close to automation. People are designing in such a strict way using data all the time and they’re losing the creative potential . . . that’s when you’re disruptive. Data-driven design . . . stagnates really fast. Someone takes over by doing something different that you wouldn’t do if you were analyzing the data.”

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Are we missing any over-hyped design fads? Tell us you thoughts at CoDTips@fastcompany.com.

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About the author

Katharine Schwab is an associate editor based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture. Email her at kschwab@fastcompany.com and follow her on Twitter @kschwabable

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