7 key graphic design trends of 2016

Trends go up, trends go down and graphic design trends are definitely no exception to this. But what exactly is a trend and how does it influence what we do as designers? Defined as “a general tendency or direction”- they take a while to emerge and are influenced by fashion, culture, media and history. Some stay with us for a while, others disappear in the blink of an eye. Then there are those that seemingly emerge each generation, albeit in slightly different forms.

Our graphic design team highlight some of the trends that are peaking right now. Although we are already half way through 2016, these trends are still going strong with no sign of abating just yet…

1. FLAT 2.0
The flat or material design trend can be identified by its clean, boldly graphic look. Deliberate colours, big typography and white spaces are enhanced by subtle gradients, shadow and depth to create movement and visual impact. Influenced by Minimalism, Bauhaus and Swiss style – it was originally intended for web and mobile use, though is transgressing into other design formats such as surface pattern design and illustration. This is one trend that can bridge the gap between traditional and modern and has been embraced by powerhouses such as Google and Apple with impressive results. We think this one could be around for a while yet…

Everyone can confess a love for typography, right? Even if it’s just a small one? Big, bold, creative type is everywhere right now, and it’s more than just an enabler, it’s making an impression in all forms of design (typographic wall art or cushion anyone?). You can create great impact through the use of scale, colour, arrangement and handcrafted typefaces, without the need for imagery or fancy effects. No need to stick with the generic anymore, incorporating playful typography into design certainly makes a statement.

This is one trend that has been with us for a while now, but is still hugely popular. The geometric shapes and patterns may have their roots in the 1980’s, but “low-poly” style is shifting it into a more angular, faceted, 3D look. Keep an eye out as it spreads its wings across packaging, print and web design.

“Retro isn’t a new trend” I hear you say, “it’s been with us for years!”. Well, yes – but the new influence on retro style is drawn from a much more recent time – the 1970’s through to the 90’s. Illustration has a more technological and contemporary feel, referencing arcade and video games, early PC’s and space themes. Bold block colours, patterns and a playful air are bringing a new lease of life to this highly visual style.

As brands continue to search for that unique identity, one that will help them stand out from the crowd –the trend for custom illustration and graphics is growing. Whilst there is still demand for stock imagery, designers are more frequently creating bespoke solutions that bring a cheerful, sometimes playful aesthetic to their work. Graphic lines, brushwork and other illustrative techniques are increasingly being seen –Dropbox’s humanistic, lighthearted sketches are a shining example of how this trend embraces individuality and shuns the generic.

Modular or card-based layouts provide an organised and structured appearance, which has been widely adopted throughout websites and mobile apps. While grid-based layouts are nothing new, the use of individual cards as a dominant organisational principle has given the trend a new perspective. Modular layouts don’t necessarily have to be in perfect alignment either, a looser more freeform approach can be assumed and still provide an effective, systematic design that appeals to all.

Minimalist logotypes are big in 2016 – think flat design, negative space and crisp lines. This works well with Flat 2.0, and also fits nicely into the pocket of the more abstract style that is developing in contrast to the modular layout trend and other 80’s inspired styles (think the playful colourful and geometric aesthetic of the new retro). Deconstructed elements, distortion and a seemingly random approach all are hallmarks of this rebellious trend.

As designers, we may not always believe in following trends and following trends just for the sake of it is not usually recommended. But some styles may have elements that could be the perfect fit your brand, and there’s no harm in combining some of these design principles with others to develop a unique identity. In fact, that could be the ideal approach for us as designers, and you as a client. Why not ask us if any of these trends could infuse your brand with a fresh new lease on life…