What to Expect in 2016: Predictions from Top Creatives

Images courtesy of My Design Shop10, 9, 8… Are you ready to ring in the new year?

If you’re still trying to figure out where 2015 went, well, we can’t help you there. (Though, if you stay organized in 2016 with this awesome design quotes calendar, we predict you’ll have a better idea of where your time is going.)

In celebration of the new year, we’ve reached out to some of today’s top designers and educators for their predictions on what we can expect in the world of design in 2016.

You’ll find a colorful array of thoughts below, on a multitude of subjects. Some talk trends, some offer perspective on what’s happening now that will continue into the new year, and some give us insight into changes we should expect and things we must consider moving forward. We won’t name names, but one of these creatives even sat by a fireplace and smoked a pipe while contemplating what the coming year may bring.

All that’s to say, read on for greatness.


photo from Shutterstock

Animation and Motion Graphics

Audiences have grown weary of flashy overly-rendered 3D CGI. The remedy: 3D/2D hybrids that aim for a more graphic, stylized, and illustrated look. When 3D CGI modeling and rendering are mixed at the right balance with 2D animated elements, a strange mix of dimensionality and flatness occur. That flatness can bring with it an earthy and familiar warmth that is poised to catch on in the year to come.
Liz Blazer, filmmaker, art director, visual artist, designer, animator and educator

Animation continues to play in integral role in both enhancing user experiences, as well adding a powerful options for visual story-telling. As interface and user-experience design continues to command more of a designer’s time, the need to to take more control over animating, or mocking-up transitions for interface design, will increase as well.
Chris Converse, partner, designer and developer at Codify Design Studio

We no longer design static logos—we’re thinking about how it will be animated, whether a brand needs a GIF, what it will look like as an icon, whether they need an emoji. Designers are thinking about these moments of brand expression right from the start. 
Connie Birdsall, senior partner and creative director at Lippincott

Animated documentary is especially important now with so many social and political issues swirling around social media that require visual explanation. The success of recent animated docs by StoryCorps, Vox and TED Ed have paved the road for more mainstream use of the genre. We should see much more of this in 2016.
Liz Blazer

I think that use of animation in web sites will increase dramatically in 2016 as agencies try to fill the void left by the death of Flash and the tools and workflows for complex HTML5/JS animation become more mature.  We’ll probably see a stream of sites that would have been at home in the heyday off Flash sites — complete with loading screens and intros. However, I think we’ll also see an marked increase in animation used thoughtfully in a way that helps communicate meaning in a UI.  Moving forward, web teams will increasingly need to consider the role of animation as an integral part of their Uis.
Bart Johnston, director of digital at Archrival

Twenty years before Vine and Snapchat, artists cooked up animated GIFs as bite-sized servings of content that could be looped, enjoyed and savored. As Facebook incorporated them into their feeds this year, we’ll be seeing a greater variety of animated GIFS everywhere, including in infographics and advertisements.
Liz Blazer

Business + Design

Business is annexing design in the way that it integrated marketing before it. As a result, our creative jobs will become even more essential to business than in the past. What exactly does this mean for our daily job responsibilities? Let’s start with what we weren’t taught. As creative people, designers, art directors, writers, and those studying to become creative professionals, we were taught how to solve the creative portion of the client’s problem. And we are good at it. So good in fact, that clients reason since you’ve come through for them so many times with the execution—you must know strategy!

The problem with this expectation is that it zeroes in on the very area that is outside the scope of what most of us were taught in design school: Strategy. In D-school, we were taught to focus on the tactical parts of strategic decisions without even knowing what these strategic decisions entail. So when posed with a client’s, “tell-me-what-to-do, this or that” question, we may feel pressure to give a tactical, this-or-that answer. Without any understanding of the marketing or business considerations that should shape this answer, any answer is at best incomplete.

On the other side of the brain are the suits. As a member of business, marketing, brand, or account management, many B-school programs are adept at imparting analytical thinking, competitive strategy, and marketing tactics. And they’re good at it. Yet, none of this teaches the skill of how to communicate in a way that gets the most out of the creative team. Communication should be the common denominator among the creative and business players in the project, but this is where what we weren’t taught makes the process harder. So here’s what I’m proposing we do about it:

To be a successful, relevant or working designer in 2016, you’ll have to “think how they think, to do what we do.” Learning the language of business and marketing will become key to creating better creative work. Companies will look to designers to inject creativity into the beginning of a business problem instead of relegating creativity to the execution or the end of solving a problem. Though I can’t predict the future, I’m certain about this.
Douglas Davis, Author of Creative Strategy and the Business of Design, June 2016 from HOW Books


As more young designers graduate, it feels as though there’s been a shift in the way that designers think about not only their work, but also their belief in themselves. I’ve seen so many talented designers take the jump from working full time for a large company to working 100% for themselves. If you compare this to 10 or 20 years ago, I don’t believe that this was as common. Perhaps this is because the younger generation has grown up with an encouraging support system that has told them that they can accomplish anything that they can put their mind to. Or perhaps the younger generation is a little less patient and would rather work for themselves that try to conform to a corporate structure that might not be the best fit for them.

Whichever end of the spectrum, you can see that with the types of companies that are emerging, the industry is supporting this trend. Companies like Xero and Freshbooks are there so that the creative freelancer can stay on top of their finances and invoicing. Adobe Creative Cloud and its monthly subscription is a great affordable way to have the most up-to-date software. Conferences and meetups are tailoring their content to appeal to more of the freelance world. Podcasts and blogs echo this movement as well. Companies like Squarespace and Behance make it easy and affordable for non web designers to showcase their portfolio. Lynda.com, Skillshare and HOW University are an affordable way for freelancers to keep their skills polished. And social media allows us all to connect with each other for jobs, encouragement, education, and support.

I don’t have anything against working for a large company. There’s a lot to be said about working with a great team of people, not worrying about your paycheck, and honestly, you will probably work less hours with a full time gig. But for some designers, being able to be independent and work for yourself is something that now, more than ever, within reach. I predict a lot of designers will start working for themselves, and a lot of the job market will start opening itself up to remote work and relationships.
Wendy Lee Oldfield, designer and author


We’re seeing more and more use of RGB color. RGB provides a much more saturated, rich way of presenting color that brands are really having fun with.
Connie Birdsall

I think the biggest shift will be in the use of the color, where we’ll see more of a departure from the 60s era color palettes and evolve into the richer colors used in the last two decades of the 20th century.
Joel Kreutzer, head of design at Archrival

I have always tried to create designs that use no more than one or two primary colors. I think we’ll start to see more of this in 2016. Allowing the product, photography, video, etc. to carry the weight. Choosing one color that you’ll use for links allows for a consistent experience for the user. We shouldn’t overwhelm them with multiple colors and patterns. Since we are minimizing the colors, we can get bold with the one or two colors that we do use.
—A creative at Paramore Digital


Real attention to detail, not just in the traditional sense of drawing and making physical objects, but in the digital interfaces and digital services. Designers and engineers and paying attention to every facet of the user experience, including both visual and verbal language, but also experience … where is your Uber car and reciprocal review systems for digital services such as Uber and Airbnb.
Connie Birdsall


Today’s brands have embraced language in all its forms, from motion and sound, to words and images. Human Era brands are now engaging on a more emotional level, shifting from what they want their audiences to know to what they want their audiences to feel. Brand voice now helps to drive a more interactive relationship and embraces more adaptive and responsive design systems.
Connie Birdsall

Logos will continue to be diverse, user-centric, and malleable. We’ll see more and more logos become responsive, both on the web and in print.
Brian Smith, art director at Visual Arts Press, SVA

I am predicting that the vintage-craft logo design trend which has been widely used over the last few years will start to slow down and be implemented with selectiveness. We will see the transition to a timeless, modern logo design style that incorporates the best parts of the vintage-craft logo design trend—approachable marks with feeling. These design traits coming together in the next phase will make for elegant marks in which we will look back upon fondly in the years to come.
Jesse Conte, art director at Archrival

Learn more about brand and identity design in the HOW U course, Brand Building 101: How to Build, Manage and Market a Brand.


[There will] be a resurgence in traditional illustration, with more artists drawing and painting on paper.
Ryan Durinick, senior designer at SVA, and Declan Van Welie, web designer and developer at SVA


We are in an age where everything is at our fingertips. Thanks to faster computers, servers, and internet connection speeds, we can watch cinematic 4k video in seconds. So, don’t shy away from using large photography or even video on your site. Especially if it helps communicate your service or brand.
Paramore Digital

In 2016 I believe that designers can see a large demand for minimalism and even retro design. The increased attention on mobile, and social will be a driving factor in design trends going forward. These platforms are well suited to clean minimalist design and the consumer base is interested in things that look unique and eye catching. Mobile and social media will heavily influence print and other facets of design in 2016, due to the frequency people engage there.
Roberto Blake, senior designer, marketer, educator and author

Thankfully, we’ve moved past the days of designing sites 800 x 600 pixels to make sure everything is visible to the user. I’m not going to go so far to say that the fold is dead, or that we shouldn’t give it any attention. Making sure your main CTA (call to action) is above the fold is still a good practice. But trying to cram everything above 600 pixels isn’t necessary, and doesn’t lend itself to good design. Scrolling isn’t a bad thing, and people would rather scroll than click. Also, take advantage of some cool scrolling features, such as parallax. It adds movement to the page and makes the user want to scroll with the content.
Paramore Digital

Today’s expanded design toolkit gives brands the flexibility they need to communicate across a diverse, and ever-growing, number of touch points. Designers are thinking not just about color and type, but also voice, motion, shape, sound, behavior, ritual … and how they can use these to create differentiation, even in digital’s small, fleeting moments.
Connie Birdsall

This should go without saying since most people are visiting your website on a mobile device, but for the sake of those who still don’t have a responsive site, this should be a top priority for 2016.
Paramore Digital

Design will become “bigger” in response to high-quality retina displays. 
Eric Corriel, lead web designer and developer at SVA

Since websites are becoming more simplistic in design, the subtle interactions can make it unique. Hover effects, button animations, menu takeovers can create a more interactive experience for the user. Making it more engaging that just a simple brochure website.
Paramore Digital

As more web content is being consumed on mobile devices, interactive experiences will need to be optimized for these devices. User interactions will need to make use of touch events and gestures as a means of navigating through content. Web content will become increasingly aware of a user’s location, allowing designers to tailor design and messaging based on proximity. And as we create more intricate experiences, the Local Storage of HTML5 will allow us to “remember” things users do on our pages, allowing us to create more useful, app-like tools, with standard web technologies.
Chris Converse

Flat design is good, which is why it’s not going anywhere. There’s no reason to over-design a tool. It needs to be functional, and not confuse the user. However, there are some new design elements that Google has introduced, called Material Design. It still keeps the design flat, but adds some dimension. Using perspectives, shadows, and movement, it creates a more realistic environment. I really love what they are doing and would love to see more of this in 2016.
Paramore Digital

UX design is about to get interesting! The practice has gained maturity, and customers now have high expectations for their product interactions. While many obvious user-experience problems could once be solved by applying a veneer of UX design to an existing product, there is a growing understanding that our next generation of products and services must have experience placed at the forefront of their development. For designers willing to leave behind aging UX patterns and paradigms, 2016 will provide design new challenges that are increasingly unique and unexplored. 

Startups and big business alike now view strong UX as a key differentiator. In 2016 expect to see increased demand for UX design from government and social services. While this complex work might be seen as less glamorous, the need is essential and the impact will be substantial.

2016 will bring increased scrutiny and criticism towards the values and viewpoints that our products put into the world. This includes a growing awareness of the subtle ways that interfaces and designed interactions modify or manipulate personal, social and civic behavior.

2016 will continue the trend of established corporations buying independent user-experience design and consulting agencies and putting them to work on in-house products.

In 2015 smartphones and tablets represented roughly 50% of the web’s traffic. In 2016 mobile will surpass the desktop as the primary way we access web services. A mobile-first mindset will be a requirement for web projects starting in 2016.

Obsessive mobile use means that our model of web behavior must change. While we use the web more, the time we spend per visit is declining. A user’s journey to find the information needed to make key decisions is now made up of a series of small, quick bursts of browsing behavior. Understanding how a collection of non-linear interactions define a user’s path will be essential for UX designers in 2016. 

2016 will begin a transition from mobile apps that focus upon a single purpose or transaction towards a WeChat “everything at once” paradigm. Apps will function as platforms for a broad range of customer-defined interactions.

Products like Amazon Echo and Dash brought spoken and tangible user experiences to a mass market in 2015. Computing in 2016 will continue to become more invisible, embedded and ubiquitous. Designers will be challenged to shape product experiences that extend beyond far beyond desktop and mobile.

Designers will stop looking to Apple as a model of good user experience. Recent releases from Apple have focused upon style and appearance at the expense of understandability and ease-of-use. 2016 will provide the opportunity for a new company to take on the mantle of UX design leadership.

Hiring for UX designers and researchers in large and mid-sized companies has been on the increase and looks to remain strong throughout 2016. Skilled UX professionals will remain in short supply. Opportunity breeds selectiveness, and those in the highest demand will be drawn toward institutions that are design-led, projects that have real-world impact, and product development processes that allow designers to see, measure, and learn from the results of their work.
Brian Lucid, associate professor, College of Creative Arts, Massey University

There are mixed reviews about using the three-lined menu icon we call a hamburger, but regardless, it’s here to stay. Since more users are browsing your site on their smartphone, it helps simplify the menu. There are some creative ways to interact with it on desktop as well. Obviously every site shouldn’t collapse their entire menu into a hamburger, but for some, it’s a good solution.
Paramore Digital


Welcome to 2016: The Year of the Creative. We’ve seen it happening for a long time, less specialization, more Swiss Army knife. Do our client partners want to be told what you can’t do as an agency? When I started Tether almost eight years ago I didn’t want to be defined by what we couldn’t do. Hence, I built a multi-disciplined creative playground where strategy, video, design, digital, advertising and industrial design all sit at an interwoven table. At Tether, we even changed our titles recently to better reflect who we are. Because we do both design and advertising, do we call a designer an art director (when they also do design)? Or do we call an art director a designer (when they also do art direction)? Our interactive designers also design identities. Our graphic designers design interactive experiences. Our video producers also create advertising concepts. Our industrial designers do branding. And so, we now call everyone a Creative. Or a Senior Creative. We span disciplines. Our titles need to reflect that. 2016 is the year of the Creative.
Stanley Hainsworth, chief creative officer, Tether


Some say print is dead. Well, it’s not, and it will never be, but how we design for it has changed. It used to be that we would start with print and eventually get to digital. Now it’s the exact opposite. Digital should be first, and then carry that same approach and strategy to print. It’s always exciting to have nice printed branded materials, but if you’re not spending most of your marketing efforts online, then you’re living in the past. 
Paramore Digital


I’m not sure if it’s going to happen this year or not, but machine learning and computer vision are going to change design in significant ways before too long. This means that designers will less and less determine exactly how a solution looks and more and more we’ll focus on how it behaves, defining the rules by which automated systems lay out pages, screens etc.
Khoi Vinh, principal designer at Adobe, design chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost.


I wrote a book about hand-drawn packaging called Outside the Box that was released this past November by Princeton Architectural Press. I believe even more firmly than I did a year ago when I began the project that hand-drawn typography will continue to flourish in 2016. While I rolled my eyes at a McDonald’s shopping bag I saw on Saturday that embraced the genre, I think there’ll still be a place for typography that feels homespun. Consumers relish what they perceive as handcrafted or artisanal, so we’ll keep drawing those letterforms!
Gail Anderson, director of design and digital media at Visual Arts Press, SVA

3D Objects

With more affordable 3D printers hitting the market, and new consumer-level 3D laser cutters/printers coming out in 2016, there will an even greater demand for 3D models with more of a “designer’s touch.”

While there many 3D modeling tools on the market, the learning curve remains fairly steep. I think we’ll continue to see software developers add features to 3D software that will make it more designer-focused, lessening the learning curve. This will help designers apply their skills to this medium, and make use of the amazing printers and cutters on the market today.
Chris Converse

And a couple of predictions that make us smile:

I predict an incredible book by the Draplin Design Co. (May 17th on Abrams Books!)
Aaron Draplin

 More James Victore.
James Victore, graphic artist, author and activist, James Victore Inc.