Design Trends of 2018


Running a business in the world of design means we have to keep our nose to the ground and stay on the innovative side of things.  If we're the ones chasing it, then we might be in trouble. I've learned that each year, some trends fall out of style, other new trends take over, and some others continue to trend strong for the next year. What remains constant is how consistently design trends change and I'm here to shed light on my perspective and predictions for this upcoming year.

1. Color Gradients

Design trends recycle themselves over time and color gradients were once the hottest look until flat designs came along and took over. 

Flat designs aren't going anywhere soon, but gradients are finding a way to re-integrate themselves as a complimenting element to use in conjunction with flat design. Gradients typically combine two complimenting colors and transition together to add an element of depth to what would have been a flat design.

In these examples you'll see some of the biggest companies like SpotifyLyft, and Stripe incorporating gradients into their designs and will continue to do so through the upcoming year. This trend translates from trendier youthful brands like Spotify to a more established financial institution like Stripe. 


2. Dual Tones

Two tone designs are effective in conveying a contrasting mood, message, or story. With trends swaying towards a more simplified approach, that simplicity can translate to color palettes used in a design. Creating a more simplified dual tone design helps us to refine our message and communicate it clearly to the viewer. 

In the example for Hulu's show Future Man, the banner ad uses a contrasting palette of red and blue to divide the banner in two halves. This is an effective way to visualize what we can predict is the contrast to the show's plot with past and present day. 

In the profile artwork for YNGCULT, the design blends the faces of the group's two main producers and visually contrasts the duo with dual tones.

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3. Cinemagraphs

GIFs are becoming more common as a tool in how we communicate with each other via text message, social media post, or website. Designers need to take advantage of this and realize how valuable it can be to utilize and incorporate this into their work. One step beyond GIFs are cinemagraphs, which are mostly a still picture with motion being incorporated into one portion of the image and it continuously loops in a way where you can't tell where it starts and ends. 

Since the majority of a cinemagraph composition is a still picture, cinemagraphs tend to look much more polished and higher resolution than a typical GIF, so it provides for a cleaner presentation as well. Looking ahead, we're going to see cinemagraphs incorporated more and more into ads, email newsletters, social media content, and even logos and icons. 


4. Double Exposure

Double exposures aren't a new cutting edge trend that we haven't seen before. However, it can easily come off as cheesy and tacky if not executed and composed in a tasteful way. Designers and photographers have put this one on the back burner for a few years, but new tools, apps, and software have emerged that make the execution of this much simpler than before and it's very likely we'll see a rise in designers utilizing this technique in 2018.


5. Photos With Typography

Design isn't and shouldn't be limited to graphics. We have so many more tools at our disposal and the most creative ones figure out how bring it all together to create something that will grab our attention. In 2018, we're going to see more and more content that blends together all the elements of typography, graphics, and photos so seamlessly that it all comes together to enhance the message.


6. Custom Illustrations

If there's one way to make your work stand out from the rest of the pack, create something that no one else has. Many designers utilize stock graphics for practical and affordable reasons. If there's a downside to having stock graphics, a lot of work starts to look repetitive.

When custom artwork is created, it's made specifically for that project, so the level of production value in the finished design will really speak for itself in comparison to utilizing generic visuals that simply get the job done.

Dirtybird, one of my favorite clients I've worked with in the past, really understands the impact custom illustrations make to their brand and have a long history of partnering with different artists to visually bring their music to life. This is an independent record label that understands it's not just about making great music, but being able to put it together to tell a visually compelling story.


7. Natural Photo Compositions

In 2018, we're going to see less of high production campaigns from brands and the introduction of grassroots photo campaigns with an authentic perspective and composition. Brands are realizing the value of looking and feeling relatable with their audience and we're going to see more brands partner with social media influencers to create content that engages with their audience rather than pushing an aesthetic that's so polished, perfect, and fictional.

Brands want to connect with their audience more than ever and companies like Hollister below are pushing content on their social media that's created by influencers and intended to connect and engage with their customers in a way that previous marketing campaigns couldn't.


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8. Negative Space

In a design landscape where simplicity is key, negative space has never been more important. Negative space is so powerful in helping to convey a specific emotion that it's almost become a necessity in the majority of designs and compositions. Negative space is technically "empty" space, but that empty space is meant to be left to the imagination to be shaped based on the context of the design.

Don't expect this trend to go anywhere soon. 


9. Bold Splashes of Color

How often have you heard someone tell you, "I just want it to pop more?" Well folks, the solution is here and we can make it pop with a bold splash of color! 

Flashy colors may not have been in style a few years ago, but the aesthetic landscape today really calls for strong colors combined with some of the other design trends in this list to really capture the viewer's attention. The iPhone X ad campaign is the latest example of how Apple chose to bring their new phones to life with bold splashes of color that practically jump out of the screen and into your imagination. 


10. Contrasting Fonts

We're living in a world where San Serif fonts reign supreme. They're bold, professional, and never let us down. So what do we do when every font out there starts to look more and more similar? We make things a little more interesting by contrasting it with a completely different looking font. In all the examples below, these fonts are contrasted with a hand-written looking type of font. This is effective because it adds a touch of personalization in contrast to the uniformity of a standard San Serif font. It gives the impression that this message wasn't intended for the masses, but created just for you. 

There you have it, these ten predictions sum up where I think the design world is headed for this upcoming year. I may be wrong on a few of these and I may be right on them as well, but as long as we're having the conversation about it, then we're in the right mindset to prioritize creativity and innovation. Cheers to another year of designing, creating, and doing what we love!

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DesignCP Phan