It certainly seems like 2018 will be an exciting year for digital design. Now, more than ever before, we have an abundance of data at our fingertips, processing power that was unthinkable only a few years ago, plus, technological advancements that have created whole new means of communication and digital interaction. And it all seems to be moving forward at an astonishing speed.
That sounds like a lot, and it is, so today I’m going to make this simple and touch on five high-level digital design trends that we can expect to see in 2018. I’ll cover some that never seem to fade away, some that, after years of hiding have returned to the spotlight shouting for attention, and brand-new ones that are breaking barriers, redefining how we think about digital design and user experience.
1. Designing for accessibility
Designing for universal content accessibility and brand consistency across all devices and touchpoints will remain prominent in 2018. This one may not come as a surprise since it’s been on almost every digital design trend list since the mobile-first movement kicked off almost 10 years ago. Yet, accessibility remains a top priority this year.
Mobile devices have become even more ubiquitous meanwhile, new gadgets and technology have emerged and been woven into almost every aspect of daily life. While these technological advancements have changed the way we live, they have also affected our behavior as consumers. We have evolved to include even more digital interactions on a daily basis. Additionally, our expectations for content accessibility and usability have increased while our attention span has decreased.
To address some of these behavioral changes, Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) will become more common as they easily respond to device size and are much faster on page-load time. We’ll see more companies utilizing responsive logos to ensure a tightly controlled and universal brand experience across the various platforms. Micro-interactions will also continue to grow in popularity providing positive digital feedback as users engage with your brand.
The key to successfully designing for accessibility in 2018 will require careful attention to these kinds of details across all digital touchpoints. Companies must provide a universally consistent and engaging brand experience, all while meeting this expectation of accessibility through a frictionless user experience.
2. Vibrant colors
The use of bold colors and vibrant gradients has been picking up momentum in recent years and will continue to increase. Brands like Spotify, Apple and Instagram have lead the way, ushering in bolder color transitions and departing from the flat and minimal design movements. Many color palettes even seem to be finding inspiration from ‘80s and ‘90s graphic design trends as seen in some Nike campaigns.
Furthermore, Pantone announced its “color of the year” for 2018 to be Ultra Violet which proves this vibrant color trend isn’t going away anytime soon. Lucky for us at AMPLEXOR, we were one step ahead on the purple movement!
3. Authentic imagery and on-brand graphics
The days of lifeless stock photography (e.g., generic businessmen smiling and shaking hands in an uncomfortably sterile office space) are coming to an end this year. As mentioned in trend one, companies need to consider every means possible to engage with their audience and the potential to lose an emotional connection with a brand increases greatly as human-computer interactions continue to rise. These days, people easily recognize the lack of humanity in lifeless stock photography and “same-old” iconography, so companies need to stand out and connect with their audience on an emotional level.
In 2018, we’re going to see more relatable, custom photography that will convey the company’s branded feeling. Illustrations and icons will also appear more human, brand-centric and unique to counter the sameness of design that’s been occurring in recent years. In the image below, MailChimp uses custom photography and adds its branded element of playfulness and color into its pricing page.
4. Bold typography
I’ve already mentioned that strong colors, responsiveness, plus the amount of time a company has to convey its message to its audiences’ ever-shrinking attention span are all going to be important digital design considerations in 2018. So, it only makes sense that bold, typographical styling will also gain prominence. Short, direct and on-brand messaging can get the point across quickly. An additional bonus is that type renders quickly and can easily be controlled for consistency across devices as opposed to heavy-loading images.
One industry change driving this trend is the creation of colored fonts which are technically called “SVG Open Type” fonts. Some modern web browsers, as well as design software such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, recently started supporting and then promoting colored fonts which creates a whole new tool for digital and print designers to take advantage of in 2018.
5. Deeper Human-Computer interactions—AR, VR and Voice
Quite recently, we’ve seen great technological leaps in the areas of Voice User Interfaces (VUI)—as seen in Siri and Alexa—to Virtual Reality (VR) capabilities of Occulus Rift and Augmented Reality (AR) functionality as in Google Glass and Pokémon Go. It’s safe to say this is only the tip of the iceberg. The rise and accessibility of these tech solutions will continue to grow as their application stretches far beyond entertainment value. It’s only going to become increasingly appealing, useful and interwoven into the larger digital experience.
Ikea recently released an AR app allowing you to virtually place its furniture into your own home. This opens up a whole new brand and user experience by empowering consumers to make more confident buying decisions.
As VUI, VR and AR enter into mainstream use, the user experience and digital design principles around them are still living in relatively uncharted territory. The possibilities here seem endless and it’s certainly an exciting time for digital design.