If you’re managing a small or medium-sized company, chances are you’re handling the design aspects of the business yourself. So, before we get into design trends for 2018, our first tip is a timeless one: be proactive about design. Logos, website design, merchandise, packaging — each is an opportunity to communicate and strengthen your brand values. And if you’re not taking the initiative on these, they’re missed opportunities.
But staying on top of design trends doesn’t always come easy, especially when you’re preoccupied with a million other business decisions. So we thought we’d help out by diving into 7 design trends to watch out for in 2018. Take advantage of these early to give your company a head start and to stay up-to-date with the latest customer expectations.
1. Grids and geometric patterns
Grids and geometric patterns are becoming more popular. Their application can be subtle, such as aligning your text or logo design with strict edges, or more overt, such as showing an abundance of straight lines.
When your emblem is a pineapple, you can take it in any number of directions: cartoony, circular, colorful, realistic, you name it. Northhampton stays congruent with the times by rendering their pineapple emblem in a geometric style, lending their brand a modern, even futuristic, feel. Utilizing grids and geometric patterns doesn’t have to be as overt as that, though. Even the perfectly aligned, angular typography of Getrude Contempory (designed by Fabio Ongarato) fits the bill.
How entrepreneurs can use this trend: Visual patterns are important for any company to maintain a current look, but doubly so for new and young companies since they’re expected to be the most current.
But this doesn’t mean you have to give your logo an overhaul everytime a new trend emerges. Entrepreneurs and SMB owners can utilize the geometric pattern trend anywhere they have a visual presence — websites, apps, merchandise, etc. You can even create a geometric variation of your logo without the scrapping the original; this variation might fit better in campaigns targeting younger audiences or more modern campaigns.
2. Hints of retro 80s and 90s
Nostalgia for the 80s and 90s has never been stronger. This resurgence has found its way out of the entertainment industry into more general business aesthetics, leading to more common usage of retro-inspired patterns.
But the key word here is “hints.” The important distinction is that modern designs aren’t duplicating the 80s/90s style directly, but rather picking-and-choosing individual elements.
For example, Pikababy’s packaging for a baby bib uses heavy 80s/90s patterns for the typography of “bib,” but combines it with contemporary design choices for the rest of the elements so it doesn’t feel completely retro.
How entrepreneurs can use this trend: As with geometric patterns, business owners can implement the 80s/90s style in their visuals to stay current. Rather than diving head first into the retro look, though, you can instead choose individual components of the trend to add on top of your existing visual style. Independent components can be:
- Pastel color palettes
- Geometric patterns (as mentioned above)
- Dot and confetti patterns
- Pixel art
- Graffiti fonts
- Abstract shapes
Be careful not to go “full retro,” as that will have the adverse effect by making your business appear too dated.
3. Animated microinteractions
Thanks to recent tech advancements, websites, apps, and other digital assets are able to handle more complex visuals, namely animations. While animated interfaces are a standard best practice in all digital design at this point, for 2018 the trend is shifting its focus more on microinteractions; the “spaces in between.”
What makes these interactions “micro” is their subtlety. That’s not to say they go unnoticed — actually they draw attention. But microinteractions are closer to decoration than a necessity, so they shouldn’t interrupt the user’s flow. For example, Zendesk’s animated scroll (above) and Digital Asset’s animated text (below) don’t help users navigate their sites, but they do make using the site a little more fun, improving the user experience.
How entrepreneurs can use this trend: The more sites and apps to adopt animated microinteractions, the more noticeable it is when yours don’t. Entrepreneurs should start adding these elements soon or by the end of 2018 they will appear late to the game.
If you’re unfamiliar with microinteractions in digital design, here’s a list of their most common applications:
- Confirmation that an action has been completed (i.e., login successful)
- Adjusting preferences or ongoing states (i.e., switching from mute to sound)
- Pull-down and hidden interface menus
- Highlighting calls-to-action
Business owners can use the above bullet points as a checklist. Can you add an animated microinteraction in any of these spots?
One last note for entrepreneurs is that motion captures attention, making it a powerful tool in setting up your platform’s visual hierarchy. A quick, animated microinteraction around your call-to-action could be a shortcut to more conversions.
4. Contextual (responsive) logos
Nowadays, companies need to think beyond just pens with your name on them. A global trend for every industry is the multitude of new avenues now open for marketing: social media, merchandise, meeting leave-behinds, apparel, apps, etc. Each of these should have its own customized logo appropriate for its size, material, and context.
Contextual logos is a trend even the big brands are adopting. The more of a variety of products and merchandise with your logo on it, the more need you’ll have for a stable of logo variations.
All the versions of the Atomic logo above are each distinct and unique, and yet persistent themes and colors tie them together. A bystander who sees two different variations can still tell they represent the same company. That’s the goal of contextual logos: different logos in different formats that are still easily identified as the same brand.
How entrepreneurs can use this trend: For each new item your brand releases, you need an appropriate logo. First and foremost, this means responsive digital logos that change on desktop, tablet, or mobile. But contextual logos also entail different versions for different materials — for example, using a monochrome version of your logo for a t-shirt could save you a bundle on printing.
You may be thinking, “one logo is hard enough, now I have to design multiples!” We never said designing a logo was easy, and that’s why a lot of companies — especially smaller ones — prefer to outsource their logo design. Hiring a professional designer takes away a lot of the headaches that comes with design work, including the creation of multiple versions of your logo.
5. Custom graphics & illustrations
We’re seeing a lot more illustrations, both digital and by hand, as part of companies’ new marketing strategies. This is not a new phenomenon; more companies are just catching on to all the benefits customized illustrations offer.
The style of your custom illustration — flat design, angular, cartoony, ultra-realistic, etc. — provides another opportunity to communicate your brand values. A cutesy teddy bear mascot and a frightening grim reaper appeal to different audiences, so custom illustrations can help you narrow in on your target customer base.
Moreover, custom illustrations do wonders for brand recognition. A well-designed illustration can be more memorable than a slogan, color scheme, or other branding elements. When done right, illustrations can even become cornerstones for your entire brand identity.
How entrepreneurs can use this trend: Text-based websites can get boring fast, but fun illustrations (as in the CraterLabs example above) liven things up, even when you’re talking about dry business topics. If any page of your website or portion of your packaging seems too text-heavy, adding a custom illustration could be the cure.
Illustrations also fit when you don’t have enough elements in general. If your product packaging seems empty, illustrations could turn it around. Imagine the Cat Cookies bag without any drawings, only words. Would you buy a product with that kind of blank packaging?
The key to remember is targeting the right audience. Different art styles appeal to different customers, so you can even use illustration styles strategically to break into new markets or solidify a presence. Talk to your designer about this directly; tell them whom you want to reach, and they’ll suggest the appropriate style.
6. Bold and blocky typography
With the exception of microinteractions, 2018 isn’t the year for subtlety. Just look to branding typography, where bigger and bolder are better.
It’s obvious which flavor the bottle above is, don’t you think? When done right, bold typography is more convenient for the customer by drawing attention to the need-to-know elements first. It’s worth noting that the company name Cool Fresh Juice also uses a blocky typography, but toned down to keep attention on the flavor foremost.
Alternatively, you can use bold typography to draw attention to your brand. Eboost does this really well; by consistently using the same bold typography on all of their products (coupled with the “Your _____” format), the company essentially turns a common typeface into their own unique calling card. Customers familiar with the Eboost product line will also associate this typography with the brand, even when it’s on a product that’s not from Eboost.
How entrepreneurs can use this trend: Many companies rely on bold, blocky typography to grab people’s attention. This style is identifiable by:
- All caps
- Single or a small number of words in a big lettering
- Bold typeface
- Rectangular blocks of text
One key concern to implementing this trend is moderation; it only works when certain key words are highlighted, not the entire text. This gives you the chance to emphasize certain words over others, so choose which ones you want to represent your brand.
7. High-detail vintage
Last but not least, we have another retro design trend that goes back a lot farther than the 80s. Vintage logos — think tonic and medicine bottles from the Wild West era — are cropping up all over the place, and will be everywhere once 2018 is in full swing.
Side-by-side to more modern styles, vintage branding can be a lot of fun. Adept designer Martis Lupus knows precisely how to handle this style. As you can see by her work with C.R.M.B.S, she checks all the right boxes for the logo, packaging, and label text. C.R.M.B.S even takes it to the next level with an old-fashioned burlap sack packaging — perhaps that will turn into a design trend for 2019.
It doesn’t matter what your industry is, you can still take advantage of this style.
How entrepreneurs can use this trend: This type of branding is one of those “you know when it you see it” styles, but its individual components can allude you unless you know what to look for. This newest resurgence of high-detail vintage labelling has the following characteristics:
- Wavy text (similar to a 70s psychedelic style, but more formal)
- A circular border
- Serif or semi-serif fonts
- Hand-drawn illustrations
- Grainy, faded texture
- Elaborate embellishments and details
- “Established” date
As we mentioned above, visual trends are important for companies to appear modern, even if the trend is a vintage one like this. It’s best to combine the vintage elements in our list above with other, non-traditional elements to give your logo a look that’s wholly unique, but still seems up to date with the times.
What design trends are you excited for in 2018? Have you noticed anything that didn’t make our list? Tweet us @99designs with your thoughts.