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The Design Trend Blend and where digital design is heading

A few years back I wrote an article about the “re-blanding” of logos and brands that was taking place at the time. In short, it was about the apparent shift towards geometric sans logos with a focus on brand experience. It was kickstarted by Google and went on to impact high fashion brands and other industry spaces, including design and tech. Some people were just jumping on a bandwagon, while others were diving deeper into their wider brand.

That was over 3 years ago now — we’ve endured a whole pandemic and massive shift in how the creative industry works since then. Remote working has become the norm, meaning things can move quicker and more efficiently.

I often draw a parallel between what’s happening in fashion and what’s happening in the wider design world, as they are reflective of each other, especially with the nature of the digital space and social media.

One big conversation recently is around the acceleration of fashion trends, off the back of fast fashion and instant access to buy things. Trends tend to go in loops and these have got shorter and shorter, which has resulted in there being so many trends happening simultaneously that there’s a huge crossover and less distinction between specific trends and more niches. We’re seeing a shift towards individuality and personal identity with people thrifting and upcycling over buying whole new outfits.

A big part of this has, of course, come off the back of the pandemic. People being isolated and having to become comfortable with themselves has given a lot of people the time to focus on themselves and what makes them who they are.

So how does that tie into what’s happening in digital design? These loops are apparent in the digital space too, but they have been slower — mostly due to the speed of the industry and the time it take to create brands and develop websites and apps. TikTok has been a key player in how the fashion world has accelerated and it has affected the digital space too. Attention spans are low and things that were trending in digital design for months and even years can feel old within weeks.

If you’ve ever been on any design news sites, “it looks like this” is the running joke comment that will likely show its face. While the majority of the time it’s a swing and miss — you can’t help but see it appearing more and more often.

We are in a strange period right now where if you want attention you really need to shout for it. Social media platforms aren’t delivering the reach and results they once were and people aren’t going out as much as they once did so traditional methods aren’t always as good as getting a response.

On the other end of the spectrum, user and brand experience is really shaping how brands communicate.

Predictions

Well, for starters, digital design definitely isn’t running at the same pace as the fashion industry, but its pace will still impact what is happening to trends within it. I think we still have space for the usual design trend round ups to be annual — but, I’m noticing them happening more regularly throughout the year already. Heck, I’m writing this in August myself because I’ve noticed a shift.

So where are we heading? If design trends are blending and there aren’t such stand out directions, what should be watching out for?

Adaptive Design

Adaptive design is not to be confused with responsive design, which is more of an expectation these days. Adaptive design is something we believe strongly about atMaya and is often overlooked. I think a fantastic example of this is the recent Rolling Stone rebrand.

This aligned with their new website and so a big focus was made on making this work in both print and digital spaces. 4 years ago they rebranded to a monochromatic version of the logo inline with the current trends of stripping back and simplifying (which looked great at the time)— but they have learnt where they lost equity in doing this.

The new logo and, importantly, variations of it are designed with their applications in mind, showing that sometimes one size doesn’t fit all. It’s about understanding how you are applying your brand and where. With the digital space not just becoming more prominent but actually having to balance a hand-in-hand relationship with physical applications moving forwards, we’re going to see more adaptive design.

Community First

Again, certainly not to be confused with design by committee. This sort of design focuses on the brand’s community—going back to brand experience and how we communicate to the audience.

Whilst Discord has predominantly been used for gaming in the past, more and more people are moving to the platform to create online communities.

Social media is a strange place at the moment and it feels like there’s a big shift about to happen where it’s less about sharing everything with everyone and more about focusing where we share and who we share with. There is a lot of value in that. Communities are going to become the heart of this and it’s going to be our job to build the foundations for them to grow.

Timeless Design

This feels pretty bold, but the reality of it is actually more about thinking long term over short. There is wealth in heritage and for new brands following or creating trends is expensive, especially if they’re lasting for shorter and shorter periods. Good brands age well and last. It’s interesting to see how many of the good “reblands” have actually been standing the test of time, because fundamentally they weren’t just about changing a logo.

That’s not to say change isn’t good. To raise the importance of it again, it’s about knowing the audience. If you approach things with a one-size-fits-all-attitude you’re going to box yourself in. You need to be able to leave room to be flexible to adapt.

I predicted that we’d see a resurgence of 1970s iconica and this is ringing true. Burger King unveiled one of the best examples of this last year.

LOOK AT ME

It’s going to be interesting to see how many brands that took the softer approach, didn’t think about their wider brand and have faded into the abyss, especially during the downtime of the pandemic, are going to react. You can bet many of them are deep in re-brands at the moment and they’re probably going to come back loud.

Brand New’s 2022 Conference. Gorgeous and ever so in-your-face.

As we come out the other side of the pandemic, everyone is fighting for a voice.

Delightful workings of Fried Cactus

I think we’re going to see more personality injected back into logos in particular as people fight to stand out. The return of the mascot is already strong and this will only continue.

Move it!

Nothing new to see here — motion is every more prevalent in the digital space. TikTok > Reels > Interactive Web Design. Print is not dead, but motion design is king of the parties. Motion is now an expectation for the digital space and this will only grow.

Glow Festival Social Assets

Millenium Bug

While everyone was talking about Web 2.0 and the Metaverse, the Millenium Bug is back and Y2K aesthetic is peaking, web kitsch is a thing and it’s time to get weird again. If you want something to hit the youth right now, this is it. Kids from the noughties are now taking up junior and mid-weight design positions and they’re bringing through all of the nostalgia from their childhood for the next generation.

Eat your heart out GeoCities. Work of Ryan Haskins

This is super current but it also doesn’t feel like it has a lot of substance and there are some hellish user experiences out there, so what’s going to be interesting is seeing how this trend grows and blends in with other directions. I think this is probably the strongest example of a clear visual trend right now. When you look at the visual trends over the last few years, a lot of them are still floating about and and blended into others.

Final words

I think this blending of trends is a good thing. Some might think it waters everything down, but I think it has the potential to strengthen directions. The best of trends is what sticks — and if we end up with loads of strong elements merging together, well, I think that just sounds really exciting.

I’m here for it. There’s going to be a lot of colour and movement going on in the digital space over the next couple of years and the focus is going to shift more to our needs. Accessibility will become more standardised and so how we interact with brands in the digital space is going to get easier and more intuitive.

I think the one big conscious thing to be aware of in the digital space is to not focus on just the digital space. More and more people are looking to step away and spend less time online. This means it’s more important than ever for us to create good digital experiences for when people are committing that time to it, but also to not lose sight of what’s outside in the real world. We need to create a balance for the world on our screens and what’s beyond them.

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Maya means magic, and magic is what we do.

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