One thing’s for sure, 2018 has delivered designs that are anything but boring. It’s been a year dominated by imagery that’s funky, wild, fanciful and even absurd—perhaps reflecting the increasingly nutty world we live in. So sit up, take notice and see how you can incorporate some of these electrifying graphic design trends into your images.
Mistakes, imperfections, blemishes. Rather than rushing to erase or correct what’s gone wrong, we’re embracing the accidental and finding the beauty in the flawed. In a world where technology touches every aspect of our lives, it makes sense that we’d incorporate the inevitable glitch into our imagery. Weird color surges happen, as do file corruptions and crooked lines, disorienting compositions and blurry photos. While our initial tendency is to make things neat and tidy for the viewer, it’s time to consider the joys of awkward discomfort.
80s and 90s Retro
Who came of age in the 80s and 90s? Millennials. Who are businesses trying to woo? Millennials. And who are the creative leaders deciding what’s in and what’s out? Um, yeah, you guessed it: Millennials. So if you want to know why we’re being inundated by color palettes full of turquoises and teals and peaches and pinks, randomly placed geometric shapes and patterns, squiggly lines and retro illustrations, it’s because we’re resurrecting that golden age when hair was big, Pokemon could only be found on cards and videos, and everyone was watching “Friends.” (Oh, wait, they’re still watching “Friends.”)
Another popular trend from the past (this time the early aughts) that’s making a major comeback is the gradient, sometimes known as “color transition.” You can’t look at your iPhone’s app display without seeing a gradient or seven, but this time around, the style is getting an update. Instead of sticking with linear transitions going horizontally or vertically, the new gradients can be radial (starting at a single point and emanating out) or even have different starting points, creating a more swirling, spirally effect.
Designers are having the time of their lives playing with fonts, text and typography. They’re erasing key parts of letters while still maintaining their readability. They’re flouting conventional lines and placing letters haphazardly across the page or screen. They’re allowing text to interact directly with photographs and illustrations in imaginative ways. There are handmade fonts, layered letters, abstract forms, sliced and diced and dripping text that will make the viewer dizzy with delight. And most incredible? The return of the serif font, which is making a welcome comeback after a too-long absence from our digital screens.
Authenticity has been a buzzword not just in design, but in advertising, branding, business, social media, arts, entertainment, politics—pretty much every sector of society. One of the easiest and most effective ways to tap into an authentic vibe is through photography. Photos offer a realness that can’t be matched, especially pics that aren’t staged or arranged but rather have a documentary feel to them. While stock photography has been flooding the internet for a while, those canned images seem to be phasing out and are being replaced by messier imagery with imperfect lighting, lots of action, interesting compositions and deeper emotions.
Sometimes less is more—as in the case of the duotone. You don’t always need lots of colors to make a statement. Two contrasting or complementary colors used just right can offer either a stark or subtle impact. Duotones can be used to create a retro or vintage feel, or to create something modern and minimalistic. Using bright neon colors in a duotone image is particularly hot this year.
Here’s another dual design to get excited about: the double exposure. Superimposing one image on top of another can create an ethereal effect that intrigues the viewer and sometimes boggles the mind. The ability to use multiple images in a single design can help tell a more complex, deeper story about the subject, whether it’s a movie poster, advertisement, book cover or any other type of design. Combining double exposure with duotone is also an emerging trend, heightening the drama and emphasizing the other-worldliness of the image.
Deeper Flat Design
Flat design has been all the rage for quite some time. The idea is to get rid of touches like shadows, gradients and texture that are meant to add more realism to a design and instead embrace a 2D style that focuses on clean lines, bold color and simple typography. The problem with flat design is that it isn’t always easy for the viewer to figure out how to engage with it or decipher a hierarchy for the information presented. So designers are finding ways to hold onto the sleek flat design while also adding in some elements such as subtle highlights, soft drop shadows and multiple tints. Flat design purists might not like it, but this evolved style is a win-win for viewers and designers alike.
Design isn’t just about pretty imagery and artsy graphics. Design can also be about making a statement. Sometimes those statements are bold and powerful, and sometimes they’re understated and subtle. One trend that we’re seeing a lot of is using design to promote inclusivity. While some groups and politicians are using divisive language to separate people from each other, the design world is highlighting our differences and celebrating our uniqueness. More and more, we get to see images of people from all walks of life, all shapes and sizes, all colors and backgrounds. We get to imagine a world without borders and aspire to a society without discrimination.
Masking is a powerful design technique that allows you to cover or uncover specific parts of your image so you can create layered effects, apply various colors and textures to different portions of your design, experiment with collage and composition, and so much more. Masking is great way to create fanciful, surreal and whimsical designs—images that push boundaries and attract attention. Imagine wild and colorful shapes on top of black and white photographs, bits of wallpaper plastered onto faces, and weird combinations that challenge our conceptions of beauty.