2016 is finally coming to a close, and what an interesting year it has been. From surprising elections and terribly sad deaths, to incredible music and impressive changes in technology—it’s been a year that will definitely be written about in history books. The design world has seen its own changes and updates as well. And as we know, change is the only constant. We’ve asked some of the top creatives to share what 2017 design trends they think will be headed our way.
The trend of human-centric design, writing, and marketing will become even more niche, with consumer expectations trending toward hyper-personalized communications. And a mail merged form letter or including their name in the subject line of an email won’t cut it. Neither will those retargeted shoes that follow them across the Internet. Consumers are getting too smart for that. They continue to want authentic, human experiences, but they want them tailored to their wants, needs, and aspirations. Look for personalized digital experiences that learn and grow with consumers, tailoring messaging and design based on where they are on path to purchase. Look for interactive content that gathers information from consumers in a fun and unobtrusive way, which can then be used for tailored communications and experiences. Look for an increase in one-to-one communication, whether it’s person-to-person or person-to-Chatbot. Because the more sophisticated our consumers become, the more we have to know how to cut through the noise and market to them in a way that hits home.
—Sierra Swanson, Senior Writer, Ologie
“I predict that we’ll focus more on niche user experiences that provide more value to a specific group, rather than making experiences work for a general demographic.
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t believe that design should always be a race to simplicity. Simplicity can, at times, dilute your product, rather than distilling it. Design has become so prominent and fundamental within our lives that there is a standard of expectations for how things should work and be interacted with. It’s our job to continue to push these boundaries and continue to set new expectations.
Snapchat‘s a great example. They focused on their target demographic and designed a gesture-based language based off of them. Snapchat is tough to understand for older users, and they were able to leverage that design to appeal to teens. By creating a niche user experience, they were able to capitalize on bringing value to their product with their specific demographic in mind, rather than trying to appease everyone.”
—Chris Reath, Creative, Purple Rock Scissors
“I think we’ll see a rise in more exploratory experiences. Modern properties like Snapchat continue to show us users are excited to explore if the experience they get in return is worth the effort.
I think designers will lean into this with more experimental UX and non-traditional controls. Touch and the notion of a second screen are clearly established. What about an interface controlled with music? How can ubiquitous devices continue to suspend the boundaries of geography? How will device cameras and accelerometers and enable gestural interfaces? We will see design teams start to answer these questions and more in 2017.”
—Andrew Osborn, Associate Creative Director, Archival
“Mobile will dominate the world and will become (has already become?) the primary computer interface platform. Machine learning and artificial intelligence will power more and more UI’s, especially on mobile. Chatbots (powered by accessible AI) will take off in a way that is unimaginable by most. Messaging apps and assistants will become primary UI on mobile. For large numbers of people worldwide mobile will become the only computing device they know and ever need. Muti-screen/multi-device world will become a reality and a must for transactional experiences. eCommerce will explode and with it peripheral services and new trends. Chat commerce will enter mainstream. Connected devices will finally connect in meaningful ways, opening new opportunities (and problems). Full connectivity will come to cars opening a whole new world. Augmented reality (AR) will continue to evolve and push new trends and possibilities toward mass market acceptance, driven by eCommerce and gaming.”
—Mirek Nisenbaum, Partner (Digital), Base Design
Consumers are constantly facing unwanted distractions throughout their everyday interactions (fake news anyone?). Whether it’s in person, online, on social, or in our brick and mortar shopping. With that comes a sense of polarization that’s attached to brands. So much so that it can sometimes draw an “approval” line as to who can—or should—shop where, or what cereal we can put in our cart without people side-eyeing our choices. Brand messages need to dig deeper, prove their worth and credibility, and really do their homework when it comes to who they’re targeting. In 2017 brands will aim to become a refreshing unifier, verses staking stances. In all forms of communication, brands should integrate authentic messaging and reach consumers in more relatable and organic ways. To brand, without branding. To connect, without selling. To invite consumers to embrace ethos, over labels.
—Paul Davis, Creative Director, Ologie
“Brands will become less branded. Or to put another way: meticulously un-designed. This means haphazard layouts with clumsily overlapping elements. Coarse, honest typography mechanically set without any sensitivity to widows, alignment or proper quote characters. Candid photography catches models looking either unprepared, emotionless or ironically posed. Brands like American Apparel and Urban Outfitters pioneered this approach but it’s been embraced recently by everyone from Kanye to Glossier.”
—Sam Becker, Executive Creative Director, Brand Union
“We are in an age of transition, and a growing rise in entrepreneurship and startup culture. Branding and campaigns are finding their place in mainstream awareness as more individuals use leverage social media platforms to grow and develop personal brands and small businesses. As a result, designers will see more demand for multidisciplinary skills that lend themselves well to these types of clients, representing a growing market. Having a visual brand that translates well across social media, mobile experiences, print and web will be more valuable than ever as more people seek to grow their digital footprint and explore new opportunities.”
—Roberto Blake, Entrepreneur, Marketer, Author & Speaker
“Companies will increasingly focus on how their brands’ personalities will manifest more richly and coherently across various channels. Brands in the digital space will more emotionally connect with their consumers by becoming increasingly functional, knowing and dialing up what is appropriate to one’s tastes and needs. Physical experiences will become less and less transactional, heading increasingly toward the “store as theater” concept that we have been hypothesizing for years. I guess what I’m saying is that we are moving away from omni-channel and into flori-channel.”
—Geoff Cook, Partner, Base Design
“We’ve been hearing a ton about designing for VR. It’s a crazy cool realm, and a lot of hyper-talented teams and individuals are diving into it full force in attempts to create something great and useful. What’s interesting is that a platform doesn’t really exist yet to curate, showcase, or prototype designs in VR, so I predict that will begin to take shape and am curious to see who will be first to jump at the opportunity to build platforms for and around it.”
—Devin Jacoviello, Creative, Purple Rock Scissors
“Hardware often plays catch-up to software – in recent years we’ve seen a big push to close that gap and bring lightweight and consumer friendly devices allowing for more practical experimentation with VR, AR and MR. This along with the ongoing trend of mobile browsing over desktop browsing is hopefully going to lead to more weight on ideas that bring people together in their world, facilitated by the device, but as the silent partner. Case in point, look what Pokemon Go was able to do.”
—Will Buller, Digital Designer, Archival
“Next year will bring huge advances in the way designers fill in a blank canvas on the web. Much of the population is more willing—excited even—to try a new and unique experience. Couple that with a population accustomed to a digital lifestyle, new advances in CSS, and easily accessible design prototyping software, and you’ve set the stage for designers to become much more comfortable with non-traditional layouts. I’m really hoping to see sites that encourage more exploration of content.”
—Sam Bork, Creative, Purple Rock Scissors
Tools for Designers
“In 2017, we will most likely see an improvement in tools for designers and teams. Over the past couple of years, Sketch has done an excellent job at being a tool with digital responsive design in mind. With a focus on components (symbols) and artboards, Sketch allows designers to design with efficiency and flexibility for a multitude of screen sizes. A Kickstarter project called Subform looks really interesting with its emphasis on fluid design, and there have also been a number of recent announcements from companies like Google (through its Material Design tools) and Figma that put the emphasis on team collaboration.”
—Vince Pileggi, Creative, Purple Rock Scissors
Animation & Motion Graphics
“While it seems that such industry-standard tools as After Effects and Cinema 4D (among others) are still the go-to ways to create motion graphics, there are other means gaining steam. For example, gaming engines such as Unreal Engine 4 from Epic Games and Unity provide designers with incredible real-time 3D capabilities, for use in multiple scenarios such as interactive product demos and Virtual Reality environments. And Flash may be dead but HTML5 is quickly surpassing its ability to create smooth and professional AE-style motion for uses spanning from large screens to mobile displays. The common thread here, though, is interactivity: Motion design is no longer limited to pre-rendered video, and the real-time possibilities will really begin to show themselves going into the new year.”
—Chad Hutson, President and Executive Producer, Leviathan
“Over the past few years it seems like fully animated commercials have become an endangered species. The work that has been selling has been mostly live-action storytelling, punctuated with motion graphics here and there to get some specific messaging across. I am thinking that work that focuses on real life situations, even if it has a comedic bend, has a different feel after the last year. From Brexit to Drumpf, even watching The Daily Show is a bummer. Things just aren’t the same. I think that the work we produce will start becoming a form of escapism. Hopefully we will get to produce more work like our main title sequence for “Doctor Strange,” which is all about creating an abstract, surreal world. Maybe if we focus on making aspirational, beautiful things, then aspirational, beautiful things will happen.”
—Erin Sarofsky, Principal, Executive Creative Director and Director, Sarofsky Corp.
Business + Design
“I would love to see more concept, and in less content. The Instagram mindset makes it so tempting to fall into the trap of oversharing work in the quest for likes, that basic thought and creative can easily be forgotten. Take your time. Do it for yourself.”
—Jeffrey Welk, Art Director, Brand New School
“What we are seeing is that various trends and styles seem to play out much more quickly than they used to. For example, the flat vector style remains a concise communication tool, and simplicity will always be in vogue. But still, I envision that the tactile approach will soon return to wide use… where it will be integrated into design, for example, as 3D interjected more subtly into 2D. What remains in constant demand is clever integration, so nuanced sophistication will continue to set apart the very best design work. Another way of making this point is to say that, these days, by the time a trend becomes recognized, key influencers are already turning in new directions. And since design is essentially communication, our best opportunities for success will continue to focus on expressing things in novel ways. What’s more constant than change?”
—Thom Blackburn, Creative Director, Wondersmith
Data + Design
“For better or for worse, data is playing a larger role than ever in how we approach design, in large part because clients themselves have a much deeper understanding of digital than they did only a couple of years ago. As a result, sensibility and intuition are no longer support enough for a given argument — more often than not, designers are asked to test their own hypotheses, demonstrating via data and analytics how their thinking translates to results.
This can influence traditional media as well. Having trained clients to think about the sources of their own traffic and sales, we’re essentially ruling out our own non-digital efforts — billboards, wheat pastings, print — unless we can somehow tie them back to some form of data. We’re forced to add a huge call-to-action, hashtags, or unique URLs with the hope that a passerby or reader will notice and follow through. This is a direct translation — a digital element on a physical asset.”
—Brady Donnelly, Managing Director, Hungry
Elevation of design
“I’ve been surprised the past year watching how quickly design is being elevated across all channels. Commodity design and design platforms have become quite good. Services like Squarespace and 99 Designs continue to make giant leaps at bringing “good” design to those who previously might have gone without. On the flip side, design thinking and design first business strategies continue to advance into major sectors that have traditionally been stodgy and slow to adapt. I think we are in a design golden age and will continue to see vast improvements to not only aesthetics but customer empathy, user experience and design thought leadership.”
—David Mitchell, Creative Director, Hungry
“My Trend 2017 prediction would be:
- More and more minimal design, maybe another line of geometric solid shape logos
- Typography on the other hand I can see a rise of serif and retro
- Maybe more muted dark tone with a spot bright color
- Pattern would be more dimensional I think”
—Zipeng Zhu, Art Director & Designer, Dazzle
Gone are the days of expecting all of your work to come from advertising agencies. More and more we are seeing motion driven content requested from all over. Just this week we worked with Facebook which commissioned us to produce a series of hybrid live-action and animation spots for a Johnson & Johnson brand. Different outlets are going to really affect our process, too. The 30-second commercial where you can take 20 seconds to build a narrative is increasingly rare. We now have to get to the point very quickly, then if the audience decides to not continue scrolling, we have the opportunity to support the initial point with story and all that fun stuff. But marketers will be focusing way more on getting audiences hooked in the first 2 seconds and having the brand/product integrated immediately.
—Erin Sarofsky, Principal, Executive Creative Director and Director, Sarofsky Corp.