Overused Design (rendering) Trends

Hopefully in this unprecedented times this will be taken as a bit of light critique but I wanted to discuss the overuse of certain styles I see pop up every now and again in shared work on Instagram/Behance/Public domain that designers and art directors alike seem to jump on.

These are as follow:-

  1. Speckle (dying down now but it was everywhere circa 2016-18)
  2. Everything on plinths/geometric shapes in the scene
  3. The hovering plant casting a shadow (often overlaps with #2)

Don’t get me wrong, they definitely make for an aesthetically pleasing composition but it does make me chuckle to see the same styles used over and over again like a rite of passage that a project of the moment needs to conform to until someone defines something new.

(apologies if your work is featured in the examples below, no ill will intended but just randomly selecting saved images from Pinterest to highlight my point)



Reflections galore!

Everything in those examples seems like its taking cues from Wallpaper magazine.

Would you also lump the graininess/noise effect added over top of renderings to that category #1?

Something about color palettes too - the secondary colors and pastels are kind of over done.

Ooh, I love a good thread like this … great way to escape the COVID scare :wink:

I personally like the graininess and noise to add some interest, but know that there is a time and a place for it. When I first found out about those filters, I definitely went overboard — just like how we all must have done with the lens flare effect in 2000-2005. But these subtle bits of grunge help things from being too sterile IMO. Things would get boring if we only had three-quarter white background shots.

Some of these trend images are very compelling, but in the more involved ones (like Row 2, 3rd image) the time and effort to compose a full scene with the surrounding geometry can be brutal! Just from that standpoint, it can be fun for a personal project but not always worth it in your day-to-day job unless it would be used by marketing … or you have some serious time to kill at work. Of course, someone who does it consistently can probably get more efficient at it.

ALL of the overused trends, all in one handy website!

(I can’t determine what the logo reminds me of…some sustainability firm I think…any guesses?)

Sean, that is kind of mean. The guy has some good work and he posts frequently on IG, seems like a good guy.

No meanness intended. It just fit the rendering cliche topic too perfectly. I’m sure he’s a delightful person, and works at Apple ID now, so objectively speaking his work is solid.

I suppose I could have pulled out specific images from the website.

Saying his work is “solid” is a gross understatement. He’s barely 3 years out of school and he has a portfolio/resume that most designers could only dream of.

A lot of these trends have been repeated by young designers who are still finding their voice. Most of these renderings come from recent grads who are trying to make impactful imagery for their portfolio.

This can be evidenced by the fact that this kind of stuff almost never is shown on products that are actually launched. Sure, there are a handful of speckled product/palm tree renderings here and there on products that make it to market…but it’s not anywhere NEAR as prolific as what you see from all the 25 year olds on instagram who are posting their personal projects.

In short, being original is hard when you’re still junior. Your experience (both professional experience and LIFE experience) is limited. There are not many experiences/situations/memories you can draw inspiration from. So you gotta start somewhere.

A lot of it also has to do with the tools. If everyone renders in Keyshot, you’re going to see similar results.

To be clear, I am REALLY sick of the trends you mentioned. They are nauseatingly boring. But I just sort of accept it for what it is and leave it at that.

I think if your website is full of rendering cliches, that was the effect that you were going for. I’ve talked to people who said that they designed their portfolio/website to look like a specific consultancy or manufacturer. If that is the kind of work that they are looking for, then it’s the perfect medium.

Also, as said before, the work is solid.

I find the grainy effect trend absolutely bizarre. I’ve spent my whole career trying to get sharp renders and now I see I should just let stuff render for 15 seconds so that it looks like a grainy photo. I never thought this was conscious decision, I just thought students had slow computers!

Nah that’s not the correct grain. You still need to let it render all weekend or even spend some cash on Renderfarm services if you’re in a hurry, THEN you put in hours in Photoshop to tweak the grain effects.

Still, I find this stuff more compelling than the default-white-studio-background-no-ground-shadow-render. AKA 1-billable-hour-render.

The one billable hour render is reality of running a business. The client is paying for a solution, not a marketing image. Most of the super nice renders you see from design consultancies are done years later when the product is about to launch :slight_smile:

This conversation seems just a little insider to me. It feels like as if a designer in the 1950s said “I’m tired of all these cans on drawings I’m seeing in portfolios.”

I guess if any of us are tired of what we are seeing, then it is up to us to show the way to something better! :smiley:. … so, complainers, show us what you can do!

Isn’t the point of the forums to be insider?

Rendering cliches, sketching cliches (like digital sketches faked on to a sketchbook), design cliches (like generated design random perf patterns) are all just a product of the circular nature of trends.

It’s true I’m sure that as Yo suggest it’s nothing new. Pastels and gauche in the 60s, markers in the 80s…all those lens flares as mentioned in late 90’s…


From my OG 1998 portfolio… (with bonus lens flare over the chalk drawing …because lens flares…)

Maybe we should start a “Stuff from my first portfolio” thread. I have some stuff that I hope archive.org never picked up…

I came across my portfolio mailer that I used to apply to Nike in 2003 recently! … I wouldn’t hire me now :smiley: … in a lot of ways I feel like the expectations have gotten so much hire.

I’ve noticed that too. The bar is set pretty high these days. Other fields such as transportation design are just absurd.

The bar is raised considerably for a few reasons:

  1. ID is a much more saturated field than it was 20 years ago. More competition means you have to step it up.
  2. The tools are significantly better, so it’s easier to output very high quality with significantly less effort
  3. Because of social media, it’s a lot easier to get tutorials and inspiration from experts.

Part of it is trends. That candy looking iMac was popular when I was in school, so some of my stuff was plastic, colorful and round. Totally out of touch with what is trendy today.

Part of it is presentation trends. I would be impressed to see a marker rendering and colored pencil on paper render, but I would wonder why the person was trying to look out of touch. I think I had a lot of bad photography of physical models in my portfolio. I actually took photos on film and scanned them. For the kids: I would take photos, take the film to the developer and get prints (3-5 days), scan them, realize they were out of focus, try to sharpen them, curse a lot.

I remember the last time I did my portolio. I tossed out digital photos and just rendered everything. So much easier!!!

Back OT- overused rendering or presentation trends-

Whatcha got for sketching/digital sketching?

-Digital sketch on fake sketchbook?
-Photo of real sketch with markers laying around?
-Sketch on work surface with artfully places Kinfolk/Wallpaper* magazine or apple device?
-Random arrows and notes call outs even when not needed (my personal fave)
-inappropriate perspective (like worms eye for a desktop object)


I think it’s good to call out the over used trends which forces us to find new ways to communicate. We are all guilty of taking the lazy way of communicate tropes but if overused they lose their impact, right?


I find these visual trends are more for the younger designers who are trying to make a statement (and get a placement).

I use CAD rendering to manage expectations of what the final outcome will most likely look like. In this application, it is very useful. I’m currently using Fusion360’s rendering engine to communicate CNC machined titanium, 3D printed Alumide, Anodized Aluminium in blue and red, Bamboo, colored LED lighting and open cell polyurethane foam for instance. Last year I paired Rhino with Lumion for some Architectural project work. Lumion is an amazing package to work with…

I am proud of you for sharing those. That takes courage. I had that Japanese rendering handbook where you could use marker and pastel to make everything look like a vacuum cleaner.

Composed huge master sheet of hundreds of thumbnail sketches, with colorful Translucent shapes sprinkled about, highlighting “these are the concepts I will next render with a plant”.