Products, like that pastel windbreaker or those slotted sunglasses, come and go with the trends that fueled them. On the contrary, there are products that stand the test of time. These timeless products hold their appeal as they age, while their trendy contenders quickly date themselves, becoming unattractive to the current generation.
Achieving timelessness in your design gives your product staying power. Rather than looking sorely out of fashion only a few years after hitting the market, a timeless design stays looking good into the present day. Design longevity spares you a great deal of new product development costs while allowing your product's fan base to compound on itself.
Let's have a look at the three attributes that timeless designs possess:
Proportions are by far the biggest determinant of timelessness. As the foundation that the rest of your design builds upon, proportion plays a crucial part.
Proportions of a timeless product are balanced, dynamic, and thoughtful. Whereas proportions of a trendy, non-timeless product can be awkward, static, and unrefined.
Do a squint test of your product and take note of the silhouette that your product's proportions create. This silhouette becomes the bones of your product's character. Are these bones strong enough to stand the test of time?
"Form follows function" is something preached often. This mantra is especially effective when striving for a timeless design because whatever does not follow function is either following a trend or an opinion, both of which are at great risk of losing relevance over time.
Eliminate superfluous styling and instead design surfaces to aid the functionality of the product. While it takes great effort and discipline, reduce your design to its simplest form. Typically, the end product will be understated. Understated, but oh so refined.
The tell-tale sign of a dated product is frequently its color. Following the current trends to attract buyers, products are typically dressed in the latest and greatest colors, materials, and finishes. Unfortunately, the popularity of these colors fades when the next best thing comes along.
To make a prediction on what will be attractive in the future, look to the past. The colors that have never gone out of style are the classic ones. Black, white, silver, etc. Sure, classic colors aren't the flashiest, but they give little to be disputed.
A second layer to this point is materials. The key to timeless design is using truthful materials. An abundance of cheap plastic will rarely outlive the appeal of genuine materials such as wood, fabrics, and metal.
Now, this isn't to say you can't participate in trendy colors or materials. To do this, design your product to be modular, allowing for colors and materials to be swapped out over time, without having to redesign the whole product.
When setting out to design timeless products, avoid clues of the current time. Instead, strive for a proper proportion, functional form, and classic colors that were cool way back when, now, and for many years to come.