Tastemaking: 2019 Design Trends

Whenever you write a design trend article, I think it’s required to mention how much you hate design trend articles, and how they’re always way behind the times, and how the trends are always stupid, and how Dropbox already did it last year, and how, simply by writing about it, you’ve either doomed it to never actually happen, or end it before it even had a chance.

So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are some design trends I’ve noticed cropping up lately, and my predictions for 2019 and beyond.

1. Cozy Design

Design has gotten so…cold. And sterile. And lifeless. Apps and entire brands have started to feel like hospitals and laboratories.

“Cozy Design” is all about a feeling of warmth, comfort, and relaxation. It’s about reintroducing humanity back into design. Think “hygge” (hoo-ga):

One Medical is doing a phenomenal job reinventing the sterile medical industry by injecting (we’re doing medical puns now) some coziness into the user experience. This is reflected throughout their brand: colors, typography, imagery, and messaging.

Coziness is one of those things that’s hard to describe, but you know it when you see it. You can feel it. It’s the way a film photograph looks, or a grain leather bag feels. It’s candid, charming, authentic, and approachable.

Photos by Charlie Gray. His style is cozy, candid, and approachable; a stark contrast to more traditional studio photographers like Platon.
Typeform is cozy.
Chobani literally has a section called “Cozy cooking”…which I didn’t find until after I wrote this piece. Too funny.

I think we’re going to see the return of warmer palettes — yellow-tinting instead of blue-tinting (more on this later). This has been making the rounds in fashion already with the resurgence of 70s retro.

Typography has already swung back toward serifs, and there’s something cozy about it. Maybe it’s that library, cuddled-by-the-fireplace feeling.

2. Analog Media Mimicry

Typeform and Mailchimp were early pioneers of the Return to Analog, and I think we’re going to see a lot more. The design world has cruised in Flatland for a while, and designers are itching to get back to…well…designing.

Design, fashion, and decor are very cyclical…it’s a swinging pendulum from clean and minimal (Mid-Century Modern, Scandinavian) to gaudy and maximal (Camp, Bohemian, Street, Brutalist).

As soon as it starts feeling a little too sterile…a little too perfect…the pendulum swings back in the other direction to inject some life back into design. There’s a nostalgia about it, too.

People pine for a little wistfulness, and they’re reaching for their record players, tube amps, straight razors, candle-making supplies, and paintbrushes. I, for one, welcome the analog return.

by Julia Shvyriova
by Nastia Smiyan
by Miranda
by Emergence Capital
Collage portraits by Ricky Linn

Oak Meditation by AJ&Smart is a stunning example of fine art intersecting with UI and product. The tranquil watercolor paintings are perfect for their meditation app, and I can’t get enough of how a single scene spans multiple meditation cards.

Design by AJ Smart

3. Analog Methods & Practical Design Techniques

To mimic analog effects, it only makes sense to (re)introduce some analog methods of creation: practical photography, painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, scanning, film, sewing, typewriters, etc.

This type of design and creation takes a considerable amount of time to do, but the results are unique and quite visually stunning.

Beautiful collages by Simon Paulson
Fantastic behind-the-scenes video of this tremendous ad campaign.

4. Fine Art

Reflecting on design visuals over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a MASSIVE swell in illustration. You know the style:

Meg for Shopify. In my opinion, she’s the OG for this long-legged, tiny-feet style. cc: Meg Robichaud

After everyone in the industry started c̶o̶p̶y̶i̶n̶g̶ producing art in this style, things started getting less “perfect”, and more freehand:

Kadi Miller perfectly showcases the evolution of illustration over the past couple years.

So how far will it go? I think pretty far. I’m excited to see a revival of fine art techniques, and a reawakening of the craft. Fine artists rejoice!

I urge you to dust off your paintbrushes, stretch some canvases, and sharpen your pencils. Really.

Throw & Co. by Trevor Basset. 3D Concrete Letter “G” by Letter Collective
Audrey Hepburn by BRUNI Sablan. Adrift by Sarah Stewart-Gaus.

If you’re not already convinced, check out these pieces from Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2019 menswear collection:

Bring out the paints.

5. Warmer, Softer Colors

Thanks to Windows Metro, Apple iOS 7, and Google Material Design collectively using up all available pigment in the universe, there won’t be much left for 2019.

But that’s okay.

Palettes are already getting softer, and like I said earlier, new color systems may shift toward the warmer end of the spectrum for a cozier, more human appeal.

Super-saturated, blue-shifted color palette of 2018:

Softer, yellow-shifted color palette of 2019:

Everything is just a little bit warmer. In UI, one of the more subtle changes will be warmer grays. Goodbye “frost”…hello “sand”.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Left: Cold, frosty gray. Right: Warm, sandy beige.

If you scroll back up through this article, you’ll start to see what I mean. Everything just feels…cozy.


Maybe there’s a theme in all of this:


Technology, social media, politics, traditional media…everything whizzes by faster than our brains can really even comprehend, and I think people are aching for some slow-down comfort. That is, reminders that the world is only as automated and robotic and sterile as you decide to make it.

Efficiency and complexity might be dazzling, but at what cost? Some of the best restaurants in the world have stripped their menus of all complexity, creating authentic dishes where ingredients simply speak for themselves.

There’s a certain humanity to it. Comfort. Coziness.

I think the world needs a little authenticity. So that we might be reminded that behind all of these pixels…are people.