Graphic Design Trends To Be Aware of In 2016
Graphic Design Trends are influenced by culture and media, past and present, technology and fashion.
Madeleine Morley from The American Institute for Graphic Arts (AIGA) says this:
“A trend never simply emerges for a single year and then disappears in a puff of smoke. Instead, an aesthetic becomes popular gradually, even mysteriously, over time before fizzling out slowly without much notice at all.”
The design trends we will be covering didn’t magically materialise at the end of 2015; trends take time, and you’ve likely seen many of them in one form or another during the last couple years.
But even if you’re not one to follow trends, as a designer it’s sensible to be aware of the shifts going on in the industry—if only to perhaps avoid them before they become overused, or just to have the opportunity to tweak them into something new.
While forecasting trends with any certainty is a tricky business, many members of the graphic design industry seem to have developed a consensus as to what styles and approaches are most likely to take off for 2016.
“Modern Retro Style
As opposed to vintage or “old” retro—styles that draw from the early 1900s through the 60s—“modern” retro takes its influences from more recent decades, the late 1970s through the 90s. Think early PCs and video games, pixel art, and space themes: nerdy is now the new cool.
This illustration and t-shirt design by Ralph Cifra has all kinds of nostalgia happening. The technology theme also ties in nicely with modern-retro influences.
This has a retro yet contemporary feel, complete with vinyl records and a solar system, we just love it.
80s style for a stationery brand
Some limited “pixel edition” packaging designed for Coke. It features space invaders from the arcade video game of the same name released in 1978. Pretty cool.
Google made quite a noise in the design world when it introduced its material design guidelines. This visual language is characterised by “deliberate color choices, edge-to-edge imagery, large-scale typography, and intentional white space” for a bold and graphic look.
Some designers are referring to material design as “Flat 2.0” because it’s an update to the flat design trend, adding light/shadow, depth, and movement for a more tactile sense of realism.
Though Google created it for web and mobile, you’ll see material design principles popping up in all kinds of design now.
This fluid website concept incorporates material design principles, including bold colors, large typography, and light and shadow effects. Card- or tile-based layouts (see the menu elements to the left of this image) are also part of material design.
Flat 2.0 illustrations for a weather app from Disky Chairiandy that integrates light and shadow for a sense of depth. Simple, but effective.
Another website, designed by Al Rayhan, that features contrasting, bright colors but with a more traditional design—a good compromise between conservative and trendy.
If you want to try out one material design’s vivid colour scheme, look out Material Palette. It’s a colour scheme generator that can help you quickly and easily choose a versatile selection of hues. Go on, give it a go!
Bright & Bold Colors
Fitting in with both 80’s/90’s styles and material design, vibrant hues should continue to prove popular into 2016.
This trend would be a move away from the more muted, 1960s-inspired palettes to favour bright, neons, pastels and richer, more saturated colors.Pantone’s Spring 2016 Color Report falls in line with this prediction for 2016.
Neon shade of green combined with a golden yellow really makes this poster pop out. It was designed by In the Pool. Very cool and trendy.
Here, some bright pastel gradients over the imagery in his landing web page design, it really makes the text stand out.
A clearly 80’s-inspired design from Tron Burgundy with electric colours and geometric shapes.
Geometric shapes and patterns are align with some of the 80’s trends we’ve already looked at. This one can be applied in all sorts of ways—as individual graphic elements, as backgrounds, as an illustrative technique.
Keep an eye out for a style known as “low poly,” which got its start as a 3D modelling technique for video games.
There are lots of helpful tutorials for creating a low-poly effect, either from scratch or taking a shortcut with a tool like this. Or just pick up a selection of free low-poly textures to try out the trend the easy way.
Another take on geometric shapes with shapes layered forming a colourful backdrop for some business cards.
Simple circular and rectangular shapes combine to form a versatile visual theme:
Negative space is an essential part of any logo design. We love it. Negative space can be a clever way to add deeper or double meaning to your designs. It can simply help give your composition a more minimal look.
In this design for a restaurant called “The Swan & Mallard,” has creatively managed to fit a swan, a mallard duck, and an ampersand all into one logo though positive and negative space.
In a different way, the negative space in this logo has movement and context to the word being spelled out:
Have a look closely at the shapes created by the violin. They form a series of numbers 1, 2, and 3—which are part of the event name. How clever!
Modular layouts have been adopted by some of the largest brands for their websites.
It’s the self-contained modules or cards used as the primary organisational principle that has created the twist of a new trend.
From Balraj Chana
Layouts don’t have to follow a grid where everything is aligned. They can be a little more freeform and still serve as an organisational tool. For example, this design below.
Typography isn’t just for reading—it’s for making a statement. Look out for big, bold type that’s the center of attention. You can create drama, fear, love through size, but also through colour and texture.
Look at this handcrafted a series of letters to create the cover art for a magazine.
This much more minimalistic freeform approach depends largely on colour and shape.
This poster features a more freeform arrangement of some of the letters plus textures.
It’s been said that stock images are dead. Stock photography and graphics are more frequently being replaced by custom illustrations.
No graphic designer wants their work to look the same, and no business wants elements of their branding to show up on another competitor’s website. So that is why designers have been putting in the extra work to create one-of-a-kind solutions.
As bigger brands continue to embrace designs, this tactic of making imagery more personalised should continue to grow in 2016.
From Vlad Shagov
Dropbox takes a personalised approach to its imagery with casual illustrations—more like doodles:
Beautiful watercolor illustrations:
Minimalistic & Abstract Style
In contrast to the more 80’s-inspired design styles we’ve seen, this design trend relies on minimalism and deconstructing or distorting recognisable shapes and forms.
For instance this identity for a music school picks apart some of the shapes associated with musical notes and puts them back together in a different way:
Following design trends just for the sake of being trendy usually isn’t a good solution. If you do decide to try a trend, make sure it fits your project and audience.