5 Overall Design Trends for 2018

Since we took a look at how mobile apps might be changing in 2018 (see my last post), I thought it might be good to look at some overall trends I see happening in design, and how those might develop throughout the new year.

Designers have a love/hate relationship with trends. On the one hand, we’re always on the lookout for fresh new ideas, mostly because we’re easily bored (don’t judge … it’s part of our charm). On the other hand, there is constant pressure to anticipate those new styles before they go mainstream: you have to get in on trends at the start or it just looks like you’re copying everyone else.

So in the interest of keeping you, the reader, ahead of the pack, here are five movements I predict will come into general use over the next 12 months.

  1. More Augmented Reality (AR) - Virtual Reality gets all the good press, it seems, but it’s still not ready to break into the mainstream. Augmented Reality, on the other hand, is starting to gain traction. Major companies (including an I-don’t-get-it-but-it-works team-up between Marvel Comics and The Black Eyed Peas) have experimented with the format, with some very entertaining and successful results.The big advantage AR has over VR is that it’s OPTIONAL: VR is all or nothing … you either don the headset and get the whole experience, or you get nada. With AR, the tech is an enhancement to content that is perfectly enjoyable by itself. That takes away some of the fear-of-new-things factor for non-tech folks … hence I only see it getting more popular.
  2. Less WordPress – WordPress is powerful, no doubt about it. And it’s still a great option for blogs. But with the ever-increasing push toward the omnichannel experience (a trend in and of itself), WP can be limiting. Sure, setting up sites in WP can be fairly straight-forward for newbies … on the other hand, WordPress sites tend to all look like … well, WordPress sites. That’s not intrinsically bad, but it can water down your brand image, in the same way using stock business card designs from companies like Vistaprint can. And on a similar note …
  3. Fewer Stock Images - Once upon a time, using photography for advertising required either a pricey photo shoot, or even pricier pay-by-use stock photos. Then the internet introduced stock photography to the masses, and suddenly even people who didn’t know the first thing about design could get semi-professionally looking results for $5 a pop.But again, the problem was too much, too much the same. A major corporation can cut corners by using sites like iStockphoto.com … but if the kids from the local high school are using the same picture for their weekly class newsletter, it sort of dilutes the power of the image. I think we’ve hit a saturation point with cheap stock, and more clients will be moving away from it. Some will return to using commissioned photography, but I also predict …
  4. More Illustration – Between stock photography and homogenized type choices, logos, websites and apps have started all looking pretty much the same. 3D logos were declared passe, and flat design–all the rage, this time last year–has turned out to be pretty boring, especially since everyone else is doing it, too. Now, I’m not saying we’re going to devolve back to skeuomorphism (look it up; I gave you a link and everything), but I do think we’re going to see more illustrative techniques with user interfaces, titles, and graphics. It’s much easier to stand out from the crowd this way, but it’s also a lot more interesting for the user.
  5. The Internet of Things – The IoT is slowly infiltrating every part of our lives (not always to our benefit, as seen in this recent Today Show segment). With everything connecting to the net, advertisers have access to way more–and way more personal–data than ever before. Users plug in for our convenience, but it’s pure naivete to believe that marketers won’t be making use of the information to create data-driven, real-time, customer-specific advertising. To be perfectly honest, I don’t entirely know how the IoT will affect design, but I’m pretty sure it will.

As designers, the last couple decades or so have seen a lot of adaption–business card design had to change to accommodate fax numbers, then email addresses, then mobile phone numbers and websites and QR codes. Luckily, things also changed so that printing 2-sided, 4-color business cards was a cheap as the stoic old design we had in the 80’s and earlier.

Change is good, if at times frustrating. However things change, and we’ll adapt, and find a way to make it look good.

It’s part of our charm.