The funny thing about being a designer in the 21st century is that I have the privilege to examine it's history, and any commentary about this history. Graphic design, for instance, has had a close relationship to the fine arts during the recent history of the industrial age. Art movements like Bauhaus, Art Deco, Art Nuevo, or DaDa have influenced the design aesthetic.
In even more recent times graphic design has closely modeled subculture. The focus seems to favor more of a tribal approach to design. The desire to reach niche markets has grown from simply appealing to mass culture. Perhaps it is more commonly believed that culture is driven by subculture. This has borne out to be true in many cases, because consumer trust in brands has waned for a while.
So what does it mean that good design should last? In our world nothing really lasts forever. Stuff is still stuff. A pig is still a pig, even if we dress it up real nice. Also, graphic design pretty much exists at the whim of ever changing culture and evolving brands. (There was a time when the food pyramid was considered sacred.) So how can design last?
If graphic design reflects a culture well, it will last. What I mean is that we have an understanding about our past, because design and type worked well together. We can get a sense, along with art movements, not only what the times were like but what they mean for us now. They set a context that is timeless.
The Coca Cola logo or the McDonald's logo are designs that transcend their times. Why? They are appropriate in setting a brand promise and ethos that is universally understood. A time-bound design depends more on the style of the times than on an original meaning. Yet these designs hold a connection to the past that builds its persona, instead of taking away from it.
This is the 7th out of 11 articles discussing, in detail, each point in my philosophy of design. My philosophy is discussed in my previous post.