What's up with design trends anyway?
Let’s start with novelty. It turns out, we're wired to seek out new experiences. A chemical reaction takes place in the brain when it encounters something new. The brain releases dopamine, which prompts us to seek more new experiences. Thus, novelty is not only pleasurable, but actually pushes us to learn and grow.
On the flip side, we also tend to follow trends for less sincere reasons. For some, the need to keep up with the "Joneses" (or at least appear to be keeping with the times) is paramount. And like it or not, we’re also motivated by the need to fit in and conform to the group.
So what does this mean for design trends? Are they making our brains grow, or just appeasing our pride? Probably both. Advances in technology, the predominance of mobile and a voracious appetite for content have pushed design to change and grow. And there are a couple of possible reactions. Ride the waves of trend, keep it traditional and solid, or innovate. At the end of the day, a designer who understands the needs of her client will get it right.
1. Material Design
Although not a trend itself, Material Design cannot be ignored in a discussion of design trends. Pioneered by Google as a visual language, Material Design uses graphics and motion to cue viewer responses.
The basic idea is that visuals and motion should have predictable behavior that is based on reality. Material Design employs deliberate color choices, edge-to-edge imagery, large-scale typography and intentional white space. It also plays heavily with grid, and employs "cards" to serve as entry points to larger groups of information. And where Google leads, everyone follows.
2. Semi Flat
Skeuomorphism: a digital object that demonstrates the attributes of it's real world counterpart. Drop shadows! Gradients! Textures! Everyone loved it.
Then everyone hated it. And designers reacted by introducing flat design. Flat design took the world by storm. No more shading or gradients or textures. It felt more...authentic.
Skip ahead. Flat Design became Flat 2.0, then Semi Flat. Don't get me wrong, it is still flat design, the goal is not to create illustrations that appear to be photographs. But for the sake of dimension and movement, a bit of light has been added back in, as well as subtle shadows. Even gradients are sneaking back in, along with subtle complexity (think pattern and print).
And yes, Google Material Design has the full set of "rules".
3. Bold Colors
Color trends are being affected primarily by two factors. The first is the move to mobile. We're interacting with technology in every environment now, and designs on those screens need to pop. This is leading to a rise in brighter, bolder colors. You probably wore it in the '80s and '90s. So look out for vibrant duotones and color transitions everywhere.
Secondly, we're all facing technology burnout. The more we surround and immerse ourselves in technology, the more we want to pull away. Pantone nailed it when they named the 2017 color of the year: Greenery.
4. Geometric Shapes, Patterns, and Lines
Oh the '80s. Squiggly lines, geometric patterns, and shape confetti. A resurgence of this trend started in 2016 and looks to continue.
5. Dramatic Typography
At this point, it should be no surprise that bold typography is also on the rise. In a realm that is increasingly saturated with graphic input, any small advantage is sought. Daring type treatments can be achieved through size, color, texture and arrangement. With small screens and even smaller attention spans, viewers have come to depend on bold fonts in high-contrast bold colors.
And while the strictly hand-lettered trend has probably peaked, we'll still be seeing traces of organic influence on type.
6. Custom illustration
Brands are no longer just looking to have their own fonts and colors, but their own illustrative style. And the less corporate, the better. We're seeing organic and hand-drawn custom illustration everywhere as companies try to make themselves appear fun and make their products more accessible.
7. Original Narrative Photos
As consumers encounter the constant barrage of new content, our desire for truth increases. And photos that appear candid, unfiltered, spontaneous and gritty feel more original and genuine. Anything viewed as stock has come to represent what is wrong with the corporate world.
The perception is that anyone with an iPhone can take a great shot. Viewers are looking for cues like simplicity, movement, flash to convey reality, raw emotion and the ordinary. So while professional photography will not be going away, we will seeing a more subtle use of post-production tools.
8. Integrated Motion
We'll be seeing motion everywhere: paralax scrolling, animation, looped video headers, cinemagraphs and a predominance of GIFs.
Whether subtle or complex, they not only capture interest, but quickly convey emotion. And they help tell stories.