Graphic Design Trends To Dread, Delight In and Feverishly Await

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What Will 2019 Bring in Terms of Graphic Design Trends?

The ball is soon to drop and then it will be all eyes on the horizon and what trends we are seeing, anticipating and, perhaps, won’t ever come to fruition. Enjoy this trend-watch piece from our panel of industry experts and leaders. They take on everything from what’s going to be out in the upcoming year, where branding is going, industry changes facing designers, tech innovations impacting how we experience design and more. 

graphic design trends 2019 predictions

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Tell Your (Real) Story

Consumers have reached a saturation point. Fatigued by an increasingly noisy, chaotic, and complex world, they will continue to invest in fewer brands. Constructed brand narratives will become less effective and outdated, as more informed consumers seek out labels and brands that bring real value to their lives. To be successful, brands will need to embrace authenticity, and commit to creating quality products that genuinely provide tangible benefits for their audience. — Joe Flory, Design Director – FINE

The Empowering Itch of the Creative Niche

To a zealous degree, curiosity is advertised as a cardinal quality to behold across design disciplines. A staple ingredient (in the steadfast portfolio of desired designerly traits) to generate creative ideas, tap into creative angles, embark on creative paths—all toward executing a creative vision.

On the job, curiosity is a designer’s intellectual edge. Beyond the job, curiosity is the compass pointing to new directions in the creative form of side projects.

Adjacent to their daytime roles, UX Designer, Liz Wells, collaborates with brand communications manager, Katie Puccio, to publish the newsletter “Desk Lunch,” issued to the communities of creative women and non-binary folks. Graphic designer, Matthew Wyne, seized his obsession with cocktails by illustrating the collection “Letters and Liquor,” where he dives into the history of lettering associated with cocktails, from the 1690s thru 1990s. Carissa Hempton, with her husband, Paul, co-launched “Print Prologue,” a series of tangible and web-based tools focused on the details of small-format printing.

Curiosity, paired with conviction, flows through these examples of designers exploring diverse interests. Along with scratching one’s itch, harvesting a creative niche helps keep one vital mission alive: to never stop learning and growing. For designers, side projects are not merely pet projects, they’re passion projects. Creative freedom maximized. — Nate Burgos, UX Designer & Content Strategist – 50000feet.com

Less Is Still More, But…

I see minimalism sticking around in print, packaging, and digital. It’s a classic design choice, and it’s not going anywhere, but I would like to see a resurgence of vivid color mixed in with minimalism. Typography is going in bolder directions with unexpected font pairings, and even messy typography looks are becoming the norm since they make people stop and pay attention in a world of waning attention spans. I also see more doodles and hand-drawn personal touches popping up in design, for a more friendly style (that I actually really like). — Ashley Milligan, Art Director – FINE

‘Fluid’ Brands

Is it just me or were we able to break more brands in 2018? I’d like to see this trend continue in 2019 as brands finally realize that they need to loosen up their rigid self-indulgence and become team players.

Consumers don’t buy a single brand anymore: they subscribe to a lifestyle, and a lifestyle will always demand more complexity than any single brand could ever provide. This means big brands need to rethink their traditional tactics and outdated campaign models (saying goodbye to the overpriced, overhyped ‘big ad’ moments), instead looking to interesting partnerships and curated collaborations that are born from the consumers integrated lifestyle.

graphic design trends 2019 predictions tauber

Courtesy Stefan Tauber – Set Creative.

Perfect example: Fendi’s collaboration with Fila. In the past, nobody would have expected an Italian high fashion house to collaborate with a sportswear brand like Fila. Yet “Fendi Mania” showed just how powerful a collaboration like this can be: this well-calculated move transcended hype by being anchored in the consumer’s lifestyle choice that sees them blend high fashion with streetwear seamlessly.

2019 will be all about curated brand partnerships, with agencies helping to define the best and most powerful ways to bring these curated partnerships to life through experiences like activations, pop-ups and live events. — Stefan Tauber – Set Creative.

Format Flurry

In the last couple of years, with more and more advertising opportunities across all digital platforms, we’ve naturally seen an increase in delivery formats for the content we create. As designers, we are going to need to be extremely aware of this since, when we create a spot, we are no longer locked into a 16:9 aspect ratio for TV broadcast.

People are consuming and creating vertical video content on their smartphones, and this format has become a new way to look at the world (a narrower, less cinematic one, in my opinion). Naturally, both the entertainment and advertising industries have started generating content that’s going to be viewed that way and, as designers, we need to be as flexible as ever in regard to aspect ratio or even framing and composition. TV spots need to be easily adaptable for viewing in the 1:1 square format of a social feed, or the longer vertical formats of stories on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. Also, as VR and AR (which give viewers control over the point of view) steadily become more mainstream, designing without ties to a specific container is becoming key.

I have found this to be a significant change that requires a new approach from a design standpoint. One that we need to consider and be aware of from the concepting stage…relying more on procedural graphic languages and guidelines rather than on individual frame compositions. — Duarte Elvas, Creative Lead – Sarofsky

The ‘New’ of Branding

Dynamic/animated typography systems will reach fever pitch and broader adoption in the more mainstream visual landscape.

The work pioneered by Dia in the last few years will expand to move past visual tests and into formalized branding systems. This is already happening within the traditional mediums of brand design and communication and leading brands are adopting the same visual language.

graphic design trends 2019 predictions schwarz3

Courtesy David Schwarz – HUSH

The notion of branding as an active, dynamic system that can morph and mutate fluidly from medium to medium, technology to technology, will become more mainstream. Dia’s demos of typography within the augmented reality space forecast the way in which our urban, retail and workplace environments will become a modern-day version of Brown and Venturi’s “Las Vegas,” in which signs and symbols permeate our (augmented) visual landscape in trade for valuable information (e.g. wayfinding), entertainment content (e.g. narrative storytelling), and communication (e.g. your Instagram feed within your augmented world). — David Schwarz – HUSH

No More Shoehorning

We’ve seen (yet) another year of brands shoehorning digital and technology tactics into creative experiences (or worse, defining the creative solution as a technology tactic), often at the cost of the originality of the idea itself.

graphic design trends 2019 predictions carter

Courtesy Dan Carter – Set Creative.

Younger audiences are drawn to immersive, tactile, high-quality experiences, often through a nostalgic lens; they don’t want the latest gimmick, especially when it creates a higher bar to entry (a headset, an app download, a tablet to hold). I’d like to see brands look inwards to either their own legacies or the younger interests of their audiences to define new places to open up meaningful experiences.

Authentic experiences trump digital tactics every time, simply because tactics shouldn’t lead creative thinking: they should serve it. — Dan Carter – Set Creative.

Design and New Tech Innovations

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the monolithic design identity. New technologies are forcing both the process of design and the outputs to be completely rethought. Practices taught in schools and businesses, the rigorous pathways of “Design Thinking,” and the formalized outputs of these traditions seem to be on the chopping block. Why?

Because modern companies move at a rate of change never before seen and thus, the design frameworks are breaking. Specifically, the static brand system, unaware of the changing environment around it, is rendered useless as new technology (and new technology companies) morphs, mutates and advances.

graphic design trends 2019 predictions schwarz

Courtesy David Schwarz – HUSH

Identities and visual design systems need to be treated more like molecular physics (yes!). In molecular physics, scientists can only predict where an electron is at any given moment in time. Why? Because it’s changing its position so fast, all the time. If designers thought about modern organizations like electrons, we’d see flexible, iterative, real-time design systems that reflect an organization at a moment in time, and in every instance into the future.

How might that come to life? Well, looking at Dia’s work above, or Zack Lieberman’s augmented reality tests, or even some branding and signage systems recently developed for conferences, means that brand identity can be more fluid – more like a lens that reveals what’s actually happening inside an organization  than an idealized monument. — David Schwarz – HUSH

More Illusion Fun, Please

Now more than ever, we’re seeing people shoot their own little Instagram stories of “blowing smoke” out of their mouth (but it actually just involves a crumpled piece of paper), and people tracking AR graphics onto their face with the latest improved two-camera smartphones. Watching the explosion of illusion fun that people have with their phones has proven that anyone has it in them to be super-creative with a camera.

It’s not a threatening development, but one that’s actually kind of beautiful. The things that I love to make that people seemed to love to watch, also appear to be things that people love to make themselves, too – which is awesome. So when it comes to video and filmmaking in the year ahead, I find myself thinking about how to make those mass creative abilities even more accessible.

The film we made for Rag & Bone this year is a testament to that, being tricky with the camera, but also showing how the rigs work within the film. This isn’t about UGC. This is about feeding this creative urge that people have as much as possible. Did you know you can do a Hitchcock dolly zoom yourself with your smartphone? You can. And your friends and followers will love it. More of that in 2019, please. — Aaron Duffy – Special Guest

Courtesy Andrew Geller – 1st Ave Machine

Stories to Make Them Engage

We are in such an exciting time for storytelling, there are new platforms popping up all the time and new ways to leverage them for entertainment. One 2018 trend that I hope continues is the experimentation with storytelling that is happening across these new platforms.

This year has seen a surge in experimental storytelling projects, such as SKAM on Facebook Watch that actually distributes the content at times that are relevant to the story (AM vs PM, etc), or the narrative project we produced with James Patterson for his upcoming book called The Chef where viewers actually experience a novel on Messenger, and read/watch/interact with the narrative.

People are currently embracing these new stories and I don’t see this stopping. I’m also encouraged by the openness of viewers to engage with something totally new. 2019 will see a lot more of this, I’m sure.  Andrew Geller – 1stAveMachine

Brands, You Are Being Watched

As a result of social media, brands are more directly engaging with their audiences. In prior decades, consumer groups were polled. But brands now have unsolicited direct and immediate lines of communication and feedback loops via comments, shares, and likes.

This proximity is creating a heightened-level of accountability, as brands no longer have as much leeway for missteps. It also challenges the way brands interact with audiences. With targeted marketing now flooding feeds, the initial curiosity of online ads has been swiftly replaced with skepticism and scrutiny, so to be genuine now involves stepping beyond the saturated social marketing norm and moving instead toward immersive experiences. — Mehran Azma, Art Director – FINE

Bring It In-House?

Brands face more marketing decisions than ever before. One is the constant pressure to find cost efficiencies, which begs the question, should clients depend less on the capabilities of outside agency partners and more on the depth of knowledge that an in-house team can bring?

While the trend of expanding in-house capabilities is not new, 2019 will be a year where we see a true growth period for this trend. As a response to this titanic shift in the industry, agencies should consider new, sustainable models of the client-agency relationship. How can agencies play a supporting role to these in-house teams? What do brands’ in-house departments need in order to deliver the thinking that agencies have historically provided? These are all questions that will be addressed more directly in 2019, though what works and what doesn’t may not be determined for years to come.

What is clear is that agencies can still serve a valuable role for clients. They can bridge gaps that in-house agencies have and bring diversity of thinking, so that internal teams aren’t just grading their own papers. While many see it as a threatening time for agencies, it is also a time of huge opportunity to shift the focus back on clients’ needs and away from hidden agendas that can ultimately damage the client-agency relationship. — Jason Henderson, Founder and Chief Creative Officer – Secret Fort

Attention-Getters

In an increasingly busy world, graphic design of all types must work hard to catch the eye. Thus, many upcoming graphic trends are about ways in which you can quickly grab attention.  My top three for the coming year are:

Vivid colour
Even in fashion the little black dress has become the little coloured dress because of the need to be spotted on Instagram.  Vibrant colour is a great way of being seen and standing out from the crowd.

Less is more
With so much visual clutter, whether on shelf or on screen, minimalistic design simply draws the eye.

The human touch
In spite the rise of the computer, there is an increasing desire for authenticity and originality. In a sea of digital icons and mass production hand-crafted words and illustrations instantly connect with people on a human level.However, grabbing attention is only one element of creating an amazing design. Be aware of the latest trends but don’t just mindlessly follow them for the sake of it. — Sue Bicknell, designer – Brown&co

Healthy Benefits of Creative Retreats

To borrow the concept from media theorist Steven Johnson’s 1997 self-entitled book, “interface culture” readily characterizes our era. It especially consumes the designer’s workflow. As screens morph in scale and scope, the need to fulfill a healthy break from clicks and gestures will sharpen in urgency.

To counter work fatigue, typeface designer, Dyana Weissman, co-leads hiking trips at a state park, the Middlesex Fells Reservation, outside of Boston. Between important tasks, graphic-turned-civic designer, Megan Trischler, shuts herself out of her email inbox to satisfy a seamless, concentrated-thinking zone. Designer and web developer, Kim Goulbourne, maintains her creative fitness by working out, which includes kickboxing, to cope with stress.

In the digital workspace (wherever this takes place), the intensive, even chaotic, effort to realize good design more than welcomes a good reprieve, it demands it. A creative retreat, from a planned escapade to a process adjustment, is a scalable gift to oneself. — Nate Burgos, UX Designer & Content Strategist – 50000feet.com

What’s Out: All Those Hands

Uncommon interfaces without purpose – or as I like to say: people waving their hands to make things move around a screen.

Gestural, human-scale interfaces and visualizations can have an amazing place in experience design. They often get audiences active across distance – which is a huge sensorial and experiential change from the minute micrometers of finger swiping that we do daily.

graphic design trends 2019 predictions schwarz2

Courtesy David Schwarz – HUSH

This scale change, alone, has value in certain experiential contexts. That being said, there is a ubiquity of gestural interfaces implemented for no reason other than the technological gag itself (“mom, look what happens when I wave my hands…”). Those remaining will be relegated to the lowest fidelity design contexts.

As more nuanced technologies are invented, and we see broader audience adoption for these modes of interaction, we’ll see a set of refined design interfaces and tools at our command. — David Schwarz – HUSH

What’s Also Out

Chatbots for marketing campaigns
There were a number of marketing campaigns that have used chatbots and AI to generate buzz and attention. But as AI continues to be more intelligent and efficient, we can expect to see less use of chatbots for buzz, and more for customer services and utilities. In addition, we should also expect to see chatbots to be designed in brighter, bolder colors, which greater represents a brand’s voice and tones and gives the bots personalities.

Large, full-screen images
Leveraging immersive, relevant, and engaging images to tell stories has been one of the most used design styles. But on the flipside, it often slows down the performance of the page. Instead of bold images, we can expect to see bold fonts and typography continue to dominate to achieve similar results.

PNG, GIF and JPG
These graphic formats have been used extensively but they are still in pixels, giving them some disadvantages against vector images like Scalable Vector Graphics (SVGs), which won’t affect speed and we can expect to see more of in 2019. — Ming Chan – The1stMovement

Master It All

An aesthetic trend we saw a lot of in 2018 that shows no signs of slowing down is a look we’ve dubbed: “Internet-y.” Does the internet have an aesthetic? Sort of, in the sense that it encompasses ALL aesthetics, swapping from second to second. From the time you unlock your phone and swipe around to the time you put it down, think of how many different design styles you see. Your Instagram feed, your Google searches, your digital news service of choice. Bright saturated poppy illustrations are next to street fashion photography, and real time game engine renders, and a clip from that Netflix show you’ve really been meaning to start. On the internet, beautifully considered images taking hours of art direction to compose are shuffled next to intentionally crude meme-style aesthetics, and smartphone camera photography, #nofilter.

 

Brands have taken notice. Designers need to stretch their creativity in 2019 beyond a single look or style, as many brands look to embrace a curated cacophony of styles in an explosion of colors and forms. It will pay to be a jack of all trades in 2019. Or better yet, split a project up among a few designers, each bringing their own flavor to one slice of the piece, as we did for our March Madness spot for Google Cloud, or our sponsor reel for the AICP. That way, each snippet can be dripping with the passion of an artist, one concentrated dose of style after another. Let the mind meld begin. –Sean Martin, Creative Director/Director – Gentleman Scholar

Altered Space

I feel the demand for new spatial experiences is on the rise. Increasingly, brands are coming to us, looking to create digital environments that alter perceptions and really get people talking … and I feel designers should take note of this shift.

The good news is that current software and hardware solutions are putting accessible tools in designers’ hands. For example, recent advances in computer vision hardware are now making it possible for almost anyone to scan a room and project graphics, instantaneously.

Leviathan

Leviathan’s 2018 “Metamorphosis” audiovisual odyssey exclusively for the Dolby® Gallery in San Francisco.

This is going to enable more artists and designers to push the boundaries of their work, delivering dimensionally-augmented spaces. Additionally, with the rise of advanced 3D animation and computing power, real-time, generative visuals can become an integral part of creating interactive spaces that resonate with people to create both individual and shared experiences. The beauty of generative design is that it can forever evolve–which adds digital life to each new space. Jump in, you won’t regret it. — Jason White, Chief Creative Officer – Leviathan



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