Every year there are a few design trends that fade, while new ones burst onto the scene. This will be especially true in 2018, with visual contrast dominating the digital landscape.
Designers will seek originality with both subtle and bold graphic design elements. That will make this a year of crazy designs, experimentation, and the time to let your imagination go wild.
To make that process much easier, I’ve summarized six of the most powerful graphic design trends we can expect to see more of in 2018. While you may find some of these a bit of a surprise, I’m sure most will have been anticipated.
Duotones and double exposure
The duotone look has been a recent favourite across many mediums, but it reached mass exposure with Spotify and their playlist images. 2017 was a multitude of colour, with graphic designers making big, bold choices; perhaps in an effort to inspire positivity during a difficult year.
What are duotones? They’re simply the combining of two colours on an image, usually using very bright or contrasting colours. It takes skill to create a really amazing duotone; they require a bit of design work, but it is most definitely worth it. Designers, however, are stepping up and taking advantage of this technique. More and more brands are using their primary colours as the basis for posters and supporting graphics.
Double exposure, on the other hand, has been a thing for several years now. Despite the fact that some designers have put this technique aside for a while, expect to see a rise in its use this year that will amaze viewers.
Finally, a twist on these two trends is a hybrid of double exposure and duotones; as well as colour channels: duotone double exposure. While some variations of this effect look like old-school red and blue 3D prints, double exposure duotones can be achieved digitally by doubling the image or using two different overlapping images in monochrome colours.
Either way, with plenty of bold colours and beautiful application possibilities, duotones and double exposure are predicted to be among the hottest trends of 2018.
Colour transitions (gradients)
Instagram, always ahead of the curve, has been using gradients in their branding and logos for the past few years. Now the rest of the world is starting to catch up. From flat colours in 2017, colour transitions and gradients will help flat design evolve this year.
While the terms colour transition and gradient seem to be used interchangeably, colour transition more often refers to the modern application which is vibrant, smooth and flatter. Either way, they’re making their modern-day comeback as a flat design enhancement; referred to as flat 2.0 or semi-flat design. So, expect to be seeing them in the form of vibrant UI, branding, backgrounds, illustrations and overlays.
Bold and creative typography
When it comes to typography in 2018 you’ll find that the bigger and bolder, the better. This trend has been taking the lead for several years now, and it’s not fading any time soon.
Bold typography helps the viewer focus on your content; whitespace makes it easier to read and skim through that content. Together, they’re a perfect complement—because people typically only spend less than a minute looking at your pages. Thus, the colours and fonts catch their attention.
When it comes to this trend, imagination is your strongest asset. Designers will be opting for artistic effects, extra-large font sizes and huge headlines. Type tightly interacting with other elements of the composition will allow the letters to turn into real-life objects. And while Helvetica-inspired sans serifs will continue to dominate digital spaces, they’re expected remain as fashionable as ever. However, you can expect more typeface variety in the coming year. In fact, serifs have been making a rapid reappearance on screens, especially when paired with sans serifs.
This year, you may also see fonts and colors taking the place of images. This makes sense for mobile especially. Unlike images, which slow pages down, scaling the size of your typography won’t impact performance. It also creates cleaner lines on your design that helps your calls-to-action pop. Therefore, expect to see large buttons, hero images, and clickable images going out-of-style.
Shadows are officially back in 2018. Like gradients, shadows were put aside as designers favoured extreme minimalism and two-dimensional design.
In hindsight, depth was a valuable tool for helping users determine visual hierarchy, input fields and calls to action on screen. Without it we were left wandering the page. Some designers had been experimenting with long-shadows as an acceptable means to add more dimension to their flat designs before Google Material Design reintroduced real shadows as an enhancement to their UI. The idea quickly spread outside of Material Design and designers began reintroducing shadows of their own. These shadows were large, soft, sometimes coloured, but they added subtle depth and dimension unlike their harsh, overused predecessors.
Flat design enthusiasts may not like it, but depth has proven that it can fit within the evolving climate of design by improving usability and simplicity; both of which are core principles of flat design. So, expect to see shadows become another staple of the semi-flat design movement.
Split Page Design
One screen divided in two. More and more websites are using design patterns that include two vertical panels placed side by side. As an evolution of the fading hero image concept, split design juxtaposes contrasting elements for a striking effect that shows multiplicity.
Much more than a simple graphic design trend, splitting the screen into two distinct parts provides an original way to guide the user into your site. You’re also able to give equal importance to both elements while, at the same time, allowing the user to choose between them quickly. This means that you can easily convey dual importance.
Split-screens don’t have to consist of two 50/50 components either. Bose makes use of this trend, although I did notice that they don’t even try to adapt to smaller screens, which makes a good point: regardless of how beautiful split page design looks, responsive design is something you have to consider.
More custom illustrations
Brands are looking for new ways to set themselves apart. They’ll keep moving away from cookie-cutter graphic design and towards custom icons and illustrations. Custom hand-drawn illustrations have always riden the wave of popularity. Every design is a piece of art created with a lot of talent and imagination. That’s why illustrations will never go out of style.
In 2018, illustrations will be presented in combination with other graphic design trends. One interesting variation of this trend is combining photos with digital drawing. This technique boosts the effect of the photo and gives the composition a new edgy look.
Another variation is paper-cut illustrations. Inspired by actual paper cutting art, this trend is quickly gaining speed. Paper-cut illustrations recreate compositions made of different layers of paper which means depth and specific textures are must-have elements.
Whether they are whimsical, practical, or purely artistic, the demand for custom graphic art and illustrations will continue to grow in 2018.
Are you ready for design in 2018?
It’s an intriguing time in graphic design. The year of graphic craziness brings mesmerizing, engaging, out-of-this world designs that we can only admire. With so many old and new styles on the table, now is the time to take risks and break patterns. So, make 2018 the year you release your creativity.
For more inspiration, take a look at graphic design trends from 2017; they don’t all go out of style.
Daniel is an Art Director and Graphic Designer with over a decade of experience in advertising and marketing in the Greater Toronto Area.