Aesthetic Trends and Accessibility: Interior Design in the Age of Social Media
“How to give your home: Dark Academia vibes” reads the title of a popular YouTube video targeted at homeowners fascinated by the aesthetics relating to liberal education and the arts. A subculture born in the age of social media, Dark Academia is one of many internet aesthetics that have gained prevalence in the last decade. Image-based platforms like Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok have amplified internet aesthetics, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social media allows users to support and create their own trends that rapidly amass a following. Today, the creation of aesthetic trends lies in the hands of the general public and will dictate the way interior design trends develop.
In interior design, trends define styling, colors, materials, and shapes that guide the vision for a project. Trends arise out of popularity, widespread adoption, and a supportive community that follows them. On the internet, the terms “viral” and “trend” seem to be used interchangeably although they are not the same. Trends are generally longer lasting and exist along with one or two other competing trends. Viral fads, on the other hand, are often fleeting and are supported by the fast fashion and design industry. Present-day Internet aesthetics consist of both, gathering enthusiasts into tight-knit online communities.
Design movements are usually reflections of the social scenario of a period in time. In the Western world, the Roaring 20s evokes images of elaborate Art Deco motifs and bold colors that resulted from economic prosperity and relief following World War 1. Following the Vietnam War, the Hippie Movement of the 60s saw colorful psychedelic patterns and tie-dye fabrics in widespread use. Design cultures today are increasingly influenced by online phenomena in addition to real-world happenings. The COVID-19 lockdowns spurred a need for visual stimulation and personal expression, resulting in over 500 user-created internet aesthetics.
Before the Internet, the process of forecasting trends was clearly outlined. It involves identifying consumer attitudes, needs, desires, spending patterns, and lifestyles in relation to economic factors. Trend analysis involves a close study of socioeconomic factors, historical context, and political dynamics to speculate on the design identities of the future. Viral trends and internet aesthetics have influenced this process – often planned well in advance – to make it a fast-paced industry that changes almost instantly. Algorithms and accessibility are now equally factored in when forecasting lasting trends.
Accessible Interior Design
Trending internet aesthetics make it easier for people to find an interior style they resonate with. Social media platforms have simultaneously evolved to promote user-created content – Pinterest is visual but not personal enough, while almost anyone’s individualized posts can go viral on TikTok. The creator economy allows users to post inspiration, mood boards, DIY tutorials, and “starter packs” online, making extravagant-looking rooms an attainable reality.
With accessibility and “virality”, interior design trends are becoming more commercialized. Labeled trends such as “cottage-core”, “night luxe”, “dream core”, and “kidcore” are reduced to marketable décor that is gradually igniting a fast-décor industry chasing momentary fads. Younger generations, who are seen to be more loyal to trends, are now a demographic that can be sold to. Sustainability in the interior design industry becomes an issue if this continues.
The age of social media brings a new landscape for interior designers to compete in. Accessible interior design via social platforms has ideas for every budget range and promotes the popularity of DIY, a threat to the traditional design industry. An equal platform for “virality”, social media is filled with diverse interior styles created both by interior designers and design influencers. Anyone can become an interior style influencer, which brings more competition into the industry.
In the past, interior designers were skilled in trend forecasting and marketing their work to their ideal customers. Their keen eye for design combined with their knowledge of social science allowed designers to stay ahead of market trends. Constantly shifting design trends and the nuances of algorithm-driven preferences shift professionals away from the sense of control they once had. When everything is popular at once and new trends are manufactured for commercial incentives, intentionally crafted aesthetic styles by trained interior designers get lost in the noise.
Interior design on the internet is faced with a double-edged sword – trends, and accessibility. These forces will continue to drive the design industry into an unpredictable, yet interesting, series of events. What will the role of the interior designer be in a world of aesthetic influencers? How will design trends and cultures evolve from here?