Zeitgeist is one of those succinct German words that mean “the spirit characteristic of an age or generation”. We can see it plainly demonstrated in all cultures in their design trends. There is a great value in knowing what is of interest to the greater population and a great satisfaction in knowing what we’re looking at is “pre-approved”.
Some trends are long and some are short lived. In a world with too much stuff produced to satisfy an increasing appetite for more, it’s becoming more difficult to see whether the choice you make is a lasting one and one that is beautiful to you. There’s an ecological angle to consider as well. If a thing is no longer right, then you throw it away to replace it with another. So there’s a great value in spending time understanding the inherent qualities of an object and learning why it is important to you.
Everyone has a personal design expression or “taste”, just as everyone can sing or cook if they put their mind to it. It’s only a question of how much time you’re willing to dedicate to honing your skill. So how do you develop such a thing? Exposure through reading and travel is the surest way to develop a skillful eye. Magazines inform about trends and designers help to balance the range of choice, but it’s your own interest that makes the final choice personal.
I’m not trying to talk myself out of a job – on the contrary, an educated client is a designer’s best friend. We all want to create something of relevance and knowledge of cultural trends and your relationship to that knowledge will lend your project the relevance if needs to be of lasting beauty to you.