2017 Design Trends
Trends are an important part of web design in particular, but all design generally follows the ebb and flow of consumer demand. So while it is important to stay in touch with what consumers want, it is also important to remember that not all trends are essential to your brand’s success. Sometimes the best way forward is to look back. With that in mind, the first trend is:
There has been a lot of speculation about this trend which has been ongoing for at least 60 years. Yes, even in the 50s people looked back to simpler times. It could be argued that people of the Edwardian era, and even Victorian era styled their homes and lifestyles based on the past.
The difference between the two terms isn’t all that important in relation to design, but just for clarity’s sake I’ll explain. Vintage is a term that could be used to describe the difference between something that is old, and something that is an antique. It is necessary to distinguish the two terms because while a vintage item might have immense value, it is very common to define an antique as an item that is 100 years or older. If something is retro, it is usually a new object that imitates a style from the 20th Century. Be on the look out for the word “style” as a qualifier though, if something is “vintage style” it was probably made fairly recently.
Another term used for this is kitsch. Kitschy objects and design is usually over the top, garish, generally not very good design which has some sentimental value. A kitsch design will stick out for all the wrong reasons. It will hog the spotlight, and get in your way instead of fitting in.
Many people believe that this trend is an indication that there is nothing new under the sun. That we have exhausted all creative outputs, and the world cannot form any new associations. I don’t think this is true at all. In the 1950s, for instance, there was a huge revival of the Art Deco movement, but this same era also spawned one of the greatest revelations in culture and art to date – Pop.
It is also important to note that things are revived for a reason. Good design principals were a hallmark of 20th Century design, particularly in industrial design, advertising and branding. Unity, balance, hierarchy, scale, emphasis, and contrast and similarity – these design principles have been in practice for many years. The Bauhaus movement, William Morris, John Ruskin all talked about how design is essentially functional and if it simply does not function, then there is no use for it. Think of an ill fitting pair of shoes – they might look amazing, but if you can’t wear them, or if they don’t protect your feet whilst walking about, they might as well be junk. It’s for this reason putting this trend to use should be considered carefully before you leap into a brand new brand. Are you a company that’s been established for a long time? Do you produce a nostalgic product – like beer or confectionery? Then perhaps you should consider this trend.
Minimalism as a design and art movement has again been around for a considerable time. Almost always the butt of jokes about art and why people don’t get it, people are beginning to warm to minimalism in a big way. Without clutter, designs are allowed to breathe, products shine, branding stands out. It is for this reason minimalism has been “trendy” for some time in interior decorating, architecture, and design in general. I suppose this means it isn’t technically a trend, but rather a very strong ideal that has survived since it’s beginnings as an art movement in the 50s and 60s.
Minimalism isn’t just space and texture. Minimalism communicates all vital pieces of information and makes the path of the user as easy as possible. Imagine a home where you go in through the front door, to find an entire room just for the coat stand. You go through another door to find a key hook. You go through another, where there’s an intercom, then finally you go through a door to find a chair. But you only sit in this room. There are no windows, no TV, no art on the walls. To do anything else you need to move on to another room. Now imagine a shop design that makes you jump through this many hoops just to purchase a digital item. This is why minimalism is so popular. It takes a user experience and optimizes it, organizes, simplifies and streamlines it. Applied to the art movement, minimalism gives space for textures, forms, concepts and ideas. It isn’t just white paint on a canvas as the cliche goes, though that too is a concept that is worthy of examining.
And it isn’t easy. It takes real discipline to stop yourself from using every fancy font in your library. Like all design, researching the user experience is necessary in order to condense it down and create both a minimal and enjoyable experience. Minimalism is also responsible design. If form follows function, then it follows that a minimal form will function as a pleasant design for some time to come. So a minimalist design outlasts a cluttered one tenfold – and because minimalism is such a reliable ideal, it is likely to be “trendy” for quite some time because products that are built to last, (coats, cars or signage, just to name a few examples,) are not discarded simply because they look outdated. So it means less waste which is good for the environment.
I have a bit of a love hate relationship with flat design. It is beautiful but it lacks depth! (Apologies for the pun.) Flat design is a beautiful minimal aesthetic. It’s useful in simplifying complicated concepts – user interfaces, for instance. But it is a trend. Flat designs can make clickable areas difficult to find for users. And the web is full of flat icons and illustrations. It is skeuomorphic designs that are beginning to stand out.
Personally, I’ve found that flat design works best with infographics and web design. It simplifies a concept, and makes the information easier to digest. Where you have a lot of illustrations, and information to convey, this is also a good time to make use of flat design. There is honestly nothing wrong with flat design, and the proof of that is that it is building upon minimalism by cutting depth out of the design and freeing the user to move. But it is a trend, and it should not be the only pony in your design stable.
If you have a great idea that needs to be executed using flat design, go for it. Just be aware that every other designer has that yellow pencil icon as their logo, every other real estate app is using that little house icon, and paper thin love hearts beat gingerly around the world for all manner of things.
I wasn’t sure what to call this one, but I suppose this fits. I am excited for the next Marvel movie, but that isn’t what this is about. On a great number of websites, we are being confronted with huge hero images, galleries or even video backgrounds. I’ve used video as an example of more recent developments because hero images have been around for a while, but this trend is growing.
I’ve found this is quite effective with food and beverages and their use is akin to the same logic that goes into packaging. Bold colours and beautiful product shots are enticing. They draw the eye and invite the consumer into the picture. It is quite effective and makes me lament not studying photography when I had a chance.
Fashion, food and fun (entertainment) are probably going to get the most out of this trend. Remember that stock is fine as a placeholder or in prototypes, but no substitute for real product shots. Every business should aim to build their own library of photos (and/or video) relative to their products or services anyhow, but it is also worth remembering that stock is in use the world over, and your customers and clients might have seen them on a competitor site. Not a good look, for you or the competitor, so do yourself a favour and invest in your online presence.
The world of type is as diverse as our own world. There are quite literally thousands, perhaps even millions of fonts available to add a personal touch to your project. So it’s somewhat dismaying to see Helvetica or Papyrus still in use in logos or flyers. (Papyrus is a pet hate of mine, but I am not alone.) Don’t get me wrong, these are solid typefaces; they are popular with good reason. They could even be considered good typefaces. But they are overused and have become clichéd. So when the primary objective of branding is to stand out in a sea of similar products, then there is absolutely no excuse to reach for them. Let’s go through a few font styles that are popular, and why you should or should not use them.
A brush script has a lovely natural flow to the letterforms. These decorative typefaces are extremely popular with lady bosses around the web as they are feminine and flowing. You should not use this typeface if you want to be unique however, as these are exceedingly popular typefaces right now. If you are trying to express elegance, or add a sort of personal touch, then this is a good typeface choice for you. Be careful of using them at reduced sizes as they can be difficult for the eye to process.
I adore geometric typefaces. They are not a new trend, but they are very easy to look at. These typefaces have been very popular in signage and print since the early part of the 20th Century. One of the earliest examples is Futura which was designed by Paul Renner and released in 1927, though the Bauhaus school in Germany also made use of geometric lettering in their signage. With this context it is very easy to see how the typeface came to be synonymous with modern design. Compare any art deco building with Futura for instance, and you will see similar principles at play. While there is still a touch of nostalgia with Geometric fonts, you should use these for a modern, minimalist feel.
Sans Serif vs Serif
There is a misconception or a very vague and first pass kind of generalization that anything Sans Serif is automatically modern and that serifs are outdated and unfashionable. That if Sans Serif were an item of clothing, they would be the little black dress that, upon discovery in the 80s, has never gone out of style and always looks flattering and fits perfectly, whereas Serifs are jelly sandals and puffy shirts. (Sidebar: please never wear those together.) It’s a misconception because they are not trends. They are the two main typeface categories, and both have many variations, and each have their special uses. A number of designer fashion brands use serif typefaces in their logos. Dior, Tiffany & Co., and Kate Spade all make use of typefaces with serifs as part of their branding and these designer brands are all very fresh and modern. Conversely, Versace, Yves Saint Laurent, and Calvin Klein all use sans serif typefaces, and frankly they do look a little like they belong in an episode of Seinfeld, and while it was fresh and original at the time, the final episode of that show aired almost 20 years ago now. So when should you use each of them? Well, because these are such broad definitions, I wouldn’t use these terms to describe a typeface at all. Instead I would research the one that interests you, in relation to your brand and what you are trying to express. Some of my personal favourite serif typefaces are Cardo, Georgia and Clarendon. Some of my favourite sans serif typefaces are Futura, and of course, I created the geometric sans serif typeface Atlantic Neue which was inspired by Futura, Century Gothic and Gotham. These typefaces have different uses, but most of them are useful for both body copy and headings. They are all consistent in their design, and have multi-language support which is important if English is not the language your copy is in but also if you need to translate your site, so they make excellent jumping off points to begin your research.
Again, this is something that has always been around, but as a trend it has caught with the wide use of flat design. Color is so expressive and subjective and using it in excess can overwhelm your customers, so it can be a very difficult design choice.
Each year Pantone announces their own colour of the year, based upon their own experience. This year it is ‘Greenery’ which is a middle yellow green. Green is one of my personal favourite colours, though I don’t think this is a trend. Instead I am personally seeing more and more yellow around the web and in general. You’re free to follow Pantone’s lead, or try and stand out with all the other yellows, but I would suggest trying on your own colors. Bold splashes of red or blue, pink or orange, green, yellow, purple. Try a tertiary teal or salmon pink, and pair with a pastel sherbert or baby blue. Whatever your preference, try contrasting one with black, white, or grey. Be careful to use it consistently and sparingly though.
This is a very popular trend that creates a very natural and flowing type of feeling. Paired with uppercase and business like sans serif like Bebas Neue, and it yields a nice contrast. While it can be applied to type or illustrations, mostly this trend sees its use as a texture both digitally and in print. Best used on wedding invitations or social media, but because a texture should be subtle anyway, it is fairly easy to incorporate in most projects. Just make sure it’s appropriate.
Patterns are a staple in design, but this year you are likely to see plenty of geometric patterns, chevrons, stripes and checks. This is effective in black and white but also with complementary and contrasting colours. Be careful not to overuse it. If the pattern is too busy, or there are several patterns fighting for the user’s attention, the eye can get tired, or confused.
Gold foil is a very simple printing technique used to express elegance, glamour, opulence, and quality. But gold isn’t exclusive to the real world. Gold textures are very popular on the web. Rose gold is perhaps even more popular, particularly amongst female entrepreneurs. Not a substitute for the real thing, (gold foil, that is,) but not a terrible way to brand yourself. Gold foil will likely never fully expire. Rose gold is still growing. Do be careful not to go over the top. A touch of gold is classy, too much and it becomes tacky. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
We’ve covered a lot here today and I hope you’ve found something useful. The most important thing to remember is that good design is always on trend.
What are your favourite new fonts? Have you noticed any colour trends? Are you still hopelessly in love with flat design like me? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Let me know in the comments below.