The graphic design industry changes rapidly as technology advances and designers try new, cutting-edge designs. Some designs work and some don’t, so many design methods that were popular in 2016 have gone by the wayside two years later.
Graphic design is a $62 billion-per-year industry, so the top designers will continue with never-before-seen innovations and designs. The best way of predicting where graphic design goes in the future is taking a look back at design trends over the last couple of years and making a few predictions about where the industry heads in the near future.
Increase in Videos
By the year 2011, about 64 percent of people had access to faster Internet speeds with home broadband and that number continues a steady rise through today. Faster Internet speed frees designers up to add features such as videos and engage users when they land on a website. Users upload thousands of hours of videos online every day — this trend continues into the foreseeable future and impacts the ways people use videos in design.
NEApolitan Pizzeria & Birreria utilized video in the background to tell the story of the food they offer. Videos work particularly well for restaurants or real estate agents, highlighting the offerings available to consumers. Note the changing images and the words “Savor the Goodness,” which repeat throughout the video.
Even though flat design first appeared in the mid part of the 20th century, it made a comeback in the last couple of years, finding its way into more straightforward design work and icons.
Expect flat design elements to take on a more three-dimensional look while still retaining the basic premise of uncluttered design elements.
The Seattle Space Needle’s website uses some elements of flat design that create a simple, streamlined look. The simple elements put the focus on the rich image in the background. Note the logo and the use of a flat icon to pull the look together. The call-to-action button also appears flat.
One trend in the last couple of years is the use of environmental or experiential graphics to set the scene in stores, restaurants and office buildings. The images appear almost anywhere, but the common theme is creating a setting almost as though you’re on a movie set and stepped into another world.
The world trends toward easier access to augmented reality, so expect environmental graphics to rise in popularity and incorporate more three-dimensional elements in the coming years.
Westminster Academy uses immersive graphics to draw students into an active learning environment. Note the experiential graphics in the image above. This is an example from the school’s Allford Hall, located in London, England.
Skeuomorphism is a fancy word for a straightforward concept: making online elements look more realistic. For example, an icon for a telephone might include texture and some shadows and light to make it look more like a real phone.
Steve Jobs influenced skeuomorphism, but it fell out of favor when Jonathan Ive, Apple’s current chief design officer, took over after Jobs passed. Although the trend doesn’t seem to be on the forefront of Apple or anyone else’s radar at the moment, there is still a place for the elements of more realistic icons in design.
My Pizza Oven uses elements of skeuomorphism on its site with the accents of basil and pepper. When the user hovers over the basil, small lines appear around it to show it’s clickable. The basil looks realistic and three-dimensional. Note the light, shadows and textures on the leaves.
Cameras today take higher pixel resolution photos and are more accessible than ever before. The iPhone X and other advanced smartphones allow anyone to take creative pictures and use them in their designs. Designers such as Neville Brody take amazing photos and use them to develop magazine covers and other graphics that draw the reader in and keep them focused on the page. Brody drew inspiration from punk work and other modern elements.
Now that high-pixel cameras are available all day, every day, expect even more exciting and creative images in designs.
The Cliffs offers luxury communities inspired by what people love to do, such as golf, go hiking, see beautiful scenery and live in luxurious homes. Note the gorgeous full-width photos throughout different areas of the site, such as the communities page or real estate page.
Since 2016, we’ve seen more and more animated elements in designs. Motion graphics appear in logos, backgrounds and typography. Now that Flash is the persona non grata of design, designers need something to take it’s place and still create motion on a page, which captures the eye of site visitors and engages them.
Pogg is a shop that sells a Japanese sweet potato pie. Their websites starts moving from the minute it loads as elements wave in and out of focus and the image moves slightly showcasing a video of a pogg pie and the steps used creating one. In addition to the other moving elements on the page, news slides in from the left about store openings.
In the last couple of years, vintage designs made a real comeback. Companies in business for decades revamped their old logos and modernized them the slightest bit, while newer companies adopted a vintage look to their logos.
The trend became so popular that the New York Times called it modern retro and pointed to the revival of 90s looks.
Thrush Exhaust taps perfectly into their audience with vintage sounding mufflers and a vintage look to their website. The bright pink is straight out of a diner from the 1950s or 60s. Even the typography looks like something you’d see on a diner menu with the bubble numbers and straight letters. The logo has a vintage design that makes people think of cartoons of the time period.
Right behind flat design came eye-grabbing pops of color and combinations that aren’t typical in graphic design. One trend that has emerged today is combining electric-looking colors, rather than using them as accents. Although the page will feature light hues, the pops of color steal the show. Vivid colors have only recently begun gaining popularity, so are likely to remain in vogue at least through 2019.
Packwire uses bright colors that are almost harsh to the eyes but grabs the user’s attention. On their homepage, the background is brilliant coral orange with splashes of deep blue and purple. Click on their About page and you’ll see a softer, but still bright, blue background with more muted elements on the page. The designer uses vivid hues throughout the site in various combinations.
2017 and 2018 saw the rise of geometric patterns in backgrounds, typography and logos. The complicated but straightforward aesthetics of geometric patterns draw attention and create a modern look. Geometric patterns may not be as popular in the future, but it is a sleek look that shows the current side of design work.
Webey uses geometrical patterns throughout their landing page. Notice the subtle pattern in the background and the angles and simple lines in the other elements on the page. The overall result is simplicity and elegance at the same time.
Artificial intelligence (AI) impacts the very way people complete design work. Designers in the future will move more toward the side of creative genius, letting AI do much of the grunt work of design. In addition to changing the way designers work, AI’s impact is already evident in elements such as interactive videos for moviegoers via an app or websites that create an experience for the user.
Firedrop allows people to create a website using AI with their chatbot and AI website builder named Sacha. Sacha greets you and takes you through a series of questions. Your answers determine how your site looks at the end of the session.
Typography isn’t anything new — it’s been around before the Internet was ever a possibility and before the discovery of electricity. However, today’s typography is taking on new models such as cutouts that show images behind the words and unique animated elements. Expect typography to expand into uncharted territory.
Nurture Digital takes the letter N and makes it an animated feature that shows people working and also becomes navigation for the website. Expect to see new and fresh uses of typography similar to this, such as cutout letters with video playing in the negative space and animated logos that grab your attention.
Graphic Design Is Fluid
If there is one thing dependable about graphic design, it’s that it changes continuously. The trends appearing in the last two years will ebb and flow into new trends over time. Stay current by studying top designers and reading industry magazines. Pay attention, and your designs will be on point and become trends themselves.
Lexie Lu is a UX strategist and graphic designer. She enjoys covering topics related to UX design, web
design, social media and branding. In her spare time, she enjoys walking her dog and baking. Feel free
to subscribe to her design blog, Design Roast, or follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.
List of Top Design Books of 2018
Want to learn design in 2018? Here's a free hand-picked list of best design books to read.