Overseeing more than 150 designers from various fields of design, there’s nothing I like more than catching a glimpse of each computer screen in our studio and identifying what we’ll read about in these trend lists we all like so much. I read these at the end of each year and often get inspired – but the truth is, nobody can predict the future. What we can do, is influence the way design will look in the next few years. As designers, we shouldn’t do this by following trends; but rather, by bringing our vision and way of thinking forward to create something organic, original and new.
At the Wix Design Studio, we encourage one another to think of these graphic design trends as sources of inspiration, not as rules to follow. Whether it’s cultural or environmental changes, technology, or even politics, there’s always a connection to draw to the world of graphic design. This way of thinking pushes design forward and creates a professional discussion around the future, rather than simply trying to predict it. And though it’s inevitable to sum up a year of design while imagining how the next year will look, I urge you to take the following themes as only a starting point – a beginning of a thought process that will allow you to innovate and celebrate design-forward thinking.
1. Shade evolution
In early 2018, Pantone announced their deliberate choice of Ultra Violet as color of the year. While it reflected the utopian-psychedelic themes that were then on the rise, this choice seemed to contradict the evident appeal towards nature-themed palettes. The choice for this year’s color, Living Coral, is more aligned with the current themes and palettes within the design discipline.
With designers finding new, inspiring ways to echo our relationship with our environment – and alas, our distress over its state – it’s not just the coral shade that will make headlines this year. There will also be its complementary aquatic palette that reminds us of the deep sea. Nature-rooted aesthetics bring in the blue and green shades, introducing concerns over sea pollution and sustainability. We’ve already seen this palette in ad campaigns within the beauty and fashion industries, as well as it dominating the exhibition hall of Art Basel/Miami – and this is just the beginning.
On the other side of sustainability as a source of inspiration are the radiation-themed neons that appear these days in polar-pastels and chrome shades. Though metallics are known to return around the holiday season, this year the palette also taps into alternative realities and immersive experiences.
2. Immersive design
As people are looking beyond what’s pretty and “Instagrammable” in exchange for a more realistic experience, cultural institutions are adapting by providing immersive experiences and alternative realities. Art collective TeamLab had this in mind when creating the Borderless and Planets exhibitions in Tokyo, as well as in their other shows across the globe, creating a new standard for museum experiences. Following suit, graphic design is starting to become more immersive by transforming the sense of space. VR and AR inspired environments are breaking the frame and opening up the classic composition to more fluid and floating design elements.
Drink Recess website.
Uncanny Valley Studio website.
Sketch London website.
3. Exposed mechanics
The sketching phase for any designer or artist is a personal and emotional part of the creation process. As such, we often see the sketch becoming the final work itself, and this aesthetic of exposing the mechanics is an emerging element in various design fields. We noticed a return to this aesthetic when 3D software became popular among designers. The 3D clay model inspired designers to expose the inner mechanics of their work, and it was immediately evident in video ads and product design. One main element that has carried this aesthetic to other styles of design is the grid, which we can see as the background or layout in straight or wavy lines, reminiscent of a blueprint or a sketched model.
4. Alternative art illustration style
Earlier in 2018, I wrote about the “second renaissance” that inspired many fields of design. What started from a collective of artists and their art-filled selfies and collages, had reached its peak when Beyonce and Jay-Z shot a music video at the most sacred place for the arts – the Louvre. Observing this thread of influence, we can detect a recent change in illustration style that emphasizes the artistry behind it. We see more and more illustrations that are hand-drawn with techniques that uncover organic textures and the occasional stroke of a brush – a mix between spots of paint and freehand sketch. It’s a style that moves further away from the geometric and digital elements, and brings forward the abstract and the unconventional.
Spicy no Spicy website.
As 2018 invited the questioning of power structures and systems in politics, gender, and even in the workplace, it was just a matter of time until it reverberated throughout graphic design. And what better way to convey the questioning of power than by defying the principles of visual hierarchy? Change of scale, use of contrast, challenging spacing, ever-growing use of negative space, playful alignment, and unconventional perspective are becoming more noticeable and in 2019, more designers will put these age-old design principles to the test.
6. Interrupted typography
Styles of typography can reflect a time period’s visual trends and cultural spirit. Looking at these influences, there’s a growing presence of what until recently was considered three separate visual movements focused on rule-breaking design. One is ‘ugly’ design, a style that has been adopted by a growing number of designers since 2015 and that currently rules street fashion. The second is the , bringing back the late ‘70s movement that first referenced digital malfunctions, only now having VR as its main reference point. The third style is the brutalist letterform – edged, broken and divided.
These three styles are questioning existing rules and pushing boundaries forward. Up-and-coming designers are more prone to question norms and lean towards an experimental visual language. They are interested in creating engagement with their work, while understanding that simplicity and legibility won’t cut it anymore. Taking these themes to the extreme, we’ll see more interpretations for rule-breaking in letterform design and work that pushes legibility to its limits.
7. Craft and tech intertwined
Craft has been gaining a definite popularity across all design fields, but it seems that 2018 was the year for the steep rise in both interest and demand for all things crafty. Unique and original textile, embroidery, and ceramics, have all been reintroduced into design with handmade finishes in particular. Contradictory to the look-and-feel of 3D printing and well-made works, here we find an experimental, concept-driven touch. Connecting with mindfulness, the practice of craft resonates with our need to balance the daily use of tech, while replacing it with tangible experiences. For that reason, graphic design expresses the meeting place between craft and tech by returning to its core – print. A great example is the School of Poetic Computation and its Tech Zine Fair, that focused on questions regarding tech, regulation, and politics through the magazine format. In 2019 we’ll see the return of unique craft practices of graphic design.