As part of the 2019 Design Census, a survey created by Google and AIGA, more than nine thousand people were asked about the most critical skills for designers in the future. Responses varied from communication and listening to storytelling and data analysis, but at the top of the list was adaptability to tech and to social change.
The phrase “graphic design” has been around for nearly a century; most agree it dates back to a 1922 essay by the American designer William Addison Dwiggins. But in that time, its meaning has undergone countless evolutions. In this field, the only constant is change; whether they’re learning new media or addressing complex social issues, designers are almost always in motion.
We asked thirteen design experts to tell us about some of the dominant trends they anticipate in 2020–and a few they hope to see. From 3D innovation to environmental sustainability, they covered the world of tech and society at large–confirming and reinforcing the findings of the 2019 Design Census. Start here, and consider adapting these trends to your own designs in the new year.
The 2020 – year of contradictions
- Minimalist vs maximalist
- Natural vs supernatural
- Physical vs digital
- Monochrome vs multicolor
- Bold vs subtle
Graphic Design Trends for 2020 are:
- Minimum of minimalism
- Maximalist design
- Serious beauty
- Multidimensional design
- Deliberate imperfections
- Synthwave Postmodern
- Comic art
- Subtle details
- Sustainable design
- More Art into Design
- Design you can touch
- Bold colors
- Isometric projections
- 3D meets 2D
- Line art
- Natural lines
- Abstract shapes
- Minimal shapes & gradients
- Kinetic typography
- Bold typography
Minimum of minimalism
Keeping minimalism to the necessary minimum and letting the imagination bloom over sounds like it was a road that led to the classic Greek architecture and Art Deco masterpieces. A road we’d definitely like to take in the new 20s.
Design has been moving towards a more minimalist aesthetic over the past few years, but that might change in 2020, and we will see a more maximalist approach, especially in typography and image-making.
“Design has been moving towards a more minimalist aesthetic over the past few years, but I do think that might change in 2020, and we will see a more maximalist approach in design, especially in typography and image-making,” Bristol-based illustrator and designer Eleanor Hardiman tells us. “I would love to see more of this after a period of what feels like more minimalist design. If this does happen to be a trend for next year, I think it will feel really fresh and experimental.”
“I feel we will go back to taking form very seriously,” New York City-based graphic designer and typographer Stefan Sagmeister predicts. “Most design-centric professions don’t take beauty very seriously, with many practitioners seeing it as superfluous while concentrating on function. I strongly believe that the sole pursuit of functionality often leads to work that does not function at all.
“Architects like Herzog and de Meuron or artists like James Turrell are clearly working on truly beautiful things that are also successful with experts as well as a mass audience. My strong feeling: in graphics too, we are on our way back to taking beauty seriously.”
Coming from the Augmented Reality, tools such as Gravity Sketch and others will unlock different abilities in the multidimensional design.
It’s a style where anything goes: letterpress, ink, paint, graphite, new twists on old favorites. A lot of the bigger brands already seem to be moving in this direction.
“I think graphic design has two large groups in particular: one that revels in technology and developments within it and the opposite of that–a more expression-led graphic design that breaks all the conventional ‘rules’ and is not reliant on new developments with software and hardware,” UK-based artist, designer, and letterer Rob Draper explains.
“This second group embraces imperfections and personality in a way that digital work struggles to replicate. It’s all about more texture, more feeling. It’s deliberately choosing imperfections across lettering rather than the uniformity of a typeface.
“It’s a style where anything goes: letterpress, ink, paint, graphite, new twists on old favorites. A lot of the bigger brands already seem to be moving in this direction. I think it makes them seem more ‘human’ and in touch with their audience.”
Hello, Blade Runner aesthetics and 80s games, we missed you. The Synthwave Postmodern, or Futuresynth, is a new trend in graphic design.
The whimsical patterns made of contrast dots, zigzags, waves, lines, and punctures, sprinkled across the contrast backgrounds, is a knock-knock from the 80s skiing costumes. Today, these distinguishable patterns are taking a bold step from the nursery designs and flood into the web outlets.
Month by month suprematism has been making its way into the high-end digital designs of the new decade. The global design community, namely design agencies and bureaus, have been winning prizes with this edgy style recently.
A son of Pop Art, Comic Art made its way to every Millenial kidult’s room with Disney, Marvel, and DC. The Hollywood keeps on blowing the comic sagas fan hard, so this newest graphic design trend will be definitely riding a high horse over the next year.
There is a need for thoughtful details. This upcoming year will be challenging socially, politically, and emotionally. Designers need to dim the room to see the spotlights.
“The world seems to be spinning quicker these days, and everything seems to be bigger, brighter, and louder,” motion designer El Ogorodova, who is based in Los Angeles and Lugano, explains. “But being loud is not the same as having a voice. It’s no longer enough to be big and loud. It’s time to be smart.
“2020 needs to take creativity to a new level. People are overwhelmed and crave dialogue, meaning, and solutions. These appetites will be reflected in design trends. It’s awfully noisy and bright out there, and people are begging for a chance to focus.
“There is a need for thoughtful details: a surprising choice of paper, a font picked for its history instead of solely aesthetic, or a photograph that at a second glance turns out to mean the absolute opposite of what you’d expect. This upcoming year will be challenging socially, politically, and emotionally. The issues are many, and all are important. As designers, we need to dim the room to see the spotlights.”
Working hand-in-hand with paper manufacturers, printers, and all other suppliers, designers have a role to play in choosing the most environmentally-friendly solutions.
“One of the biggest trends in design that I can envision for 2020 is work with the environment at its heart,” London-based graphic designer and creative director Sarah Boris says. “Designers will be looking at ways to produce design work, whether it is printed or digital, in a more sustainable way.
“Working hand-in-hand with paper manufacturers, printers, and all other suppliers, designers have a role to play in choosing the most environmentally-friendly solutions. We also need to look at ways to produce locally wherever possible to avoid huge carbon footprints, and we can also work to avoid waste and look into print-on-demand solutions to produce only what is needed.
“Younger generations will play a huge role in all this, as it’s their future that is being impacted. I hope older generations too will make a shift. It’s time to act and to put the wellbeing of the planet, nature, and all living creatures (people and animals) first.”
Physical into digital art
More Art into Design
Animation and virtual design with its endless interaction opportunities will open new possibilities for inputting more art into the daily designs. You can utilize this trend more every day by replacing the elements of your design with the handmade options instead of computer graphics.
Image copyright hint:
The classic art pieces older than 80 years old are usually Public Domain—free to use. How about a piece by Michelangelo for your quick and beautiful design?
Good-old collage seems to never leave its rooted position of the forever timely trend. Hand-cut or digital, collage articles are true role models of the mastership of combining the uncombinable. Next year, collage art will gain momentum anew.
Collage artists to inspire you:
- Sophie Louter
- Nydia Hartono
- Jessie Craig
- Bri Lamkin
- Renée Mathews
- Elizabeth Zvonar
- Ben Lewis Giles
- Michelle Thompson
The future is neon. This calls for a celebration! From the repeatable flashing in modern art, neon made its way back on top of the modern design trends hierarchy.
Design you can touch
Expect to see designs with distinct textures, raw materials that make us experience with our senses.
“I can see two trends getting more intense,” London-based designer Catherine Stolarski tells us. “On the one hand, motion design will develop itself to fit the growing virtual and augmented reality expansion. But on the other hand, we will see more tactile experiences with hyper-materialized objects with a texture or made out of raw materials that make us experience with our senses.
“I think these trends express the ambivalence of our modern society–on one side, the digital boom we are living in and on the other, our will to reconnect with nature on a more visceral and genuine level.”
The bling of metallic elements used on a minimalistic surface immediately takes your current design from zero to a hundred. For the extra hook, combine shiny highlights with the luxurious curves of the handmade typography.
Bold saturated colors
Led by Pantone’s recommended Color of the year 2020, Classic Blue, the designers are choosing bold and saturated colors
Major color combinations of 2020:
Monochrome color palettes
For the last year, we have surely seen an increase in the use of monochrome color in the fashion industry. Next year will bring more monochrome palettes to all design domains.
“In recent months, I have seen an increase in the use of monochrome color,” NYC-based art director and designer Amera Lulu tells us. “I have used these color palettes to bring color unity to my work and simplify the color story I’m telling, and I have seen fellow designers doing the same.”
This trend started off a while ago but will continue to blow the web in 2020. Isometric designs are about 3D objects in a 2D universe, all intersecting at a 120-degree angle.
3D meets 2D
Over the last few years, there was a real push for stylized 3D work that blends seamlessly into 2D projects. It not only opens up layouts for more interesting compositions, but it’s also becoming a very functional option to have.
“I think the biggest trend will be further integration of 3D within 2D work and vice versa,” UK-based illustrator and motion designer Peter Henderson explains. “Over the last few years, I’ve seen a real push for stylized 3D work that blends seamlessly into 2D projects; it not only opens up layouts for more interesting compositions, but it’s also becoming a very functional option to have. I think increasing AR [augmented reality] work is the most obvious use for this mix over the next few years; however, motion design and animation are really benefiting.”
AR art, VR design solutions and video animations will be driving new design trends in the next year. Expect hundreds of stunning design works made in C4D, After Effects, and Houdini to blow up your social media.
As simple as it is, line art is all about drawing solely with lines. Directly supporting minimalism as a ubiquitous trend, line art seems to never get old. Dublin-based artist, Nester Formentera, is globally recognized initially with his unique ‘line artwork’ technique.
The returning influence of the hand via new digital tools seems to be just getting started, creating more organic-looking artwork.
“I think looser, more natural–if still flat–styles will continue to develop in illustration and design,” Melbourne-based illustrator and designer Jason Solo tells us. “The returning influence of the hand via new digital tools seems to be just getting started, creating more organic-looking artwork.
“I think the prevalence of drawing-based apps and powerful tablets and pens is at least one driver for this trend. Also, as screens get a little bigger and resolutions improve, you can see texture and natural line begin to surge back into the aesthetic of a lot of the illustration that is being made right now.”
The abstract trend is especially effective because it can pair well with other design trends. Adding some colorful shapes and patterns around a clean and simple mark can freshen it up and make it more approachable and interesting.
“We’re seeing designers embrace more imaginative abstract designs to stand out from more simple illustrations,” Portland-based designer Jordan Wilson tells us. “That means flowing shapes and lines, injected color palettes, and dreamy compositions.
“We’re also seeing a pivot from the extreme flat/minimal designs we’re used to. More designers are stepping out from the perfect geometric shapes in a structured grid in favor of a loose and colorful design–less simple and clean, more art-driven and real.
“The abstract trend is especially effective because it can pair well with other design trends. Adding some colorful shapes and patterns around a clean and simple mark can freshen it up and make it more approachable and interesting.”
Minimal shapes & color gradients
Minimal shapes and color gradients communicate ideas effectively, and they’re popular because they make for simple, beautiful, eye-catching, and time-saving designs.
“I believe the biggest trend in graphic design in 2020 will continue to be minimalism, along with abstract shapes and color gradients,” illustrator and logo designer Carlos Puentes explains.
“These trends communicate ideas effectively, and they’re popular because they make for simple, beautiful, eye-catching, and time-saving designs. I believe that the need to simplify the design process is what has led to this aesthetic.”
Probably the best tool out there—the human hand—holds head high. Thousands of designers join online courses to hone their skills in calligraphy. Good handwriting is a nice thing to see and it gives a human-made feeling wherever on the web it is being applied.
In 2020 we will see a reaction from certain brands trying to use variable and unique fonts to distinguish themselves and be different.
“We have seen in recent years how the majority of the brands have used bold and clean sans serif fonts for their logos and brand fonts,” Manchester-based graphic designer and illustrator Anastasiia Vinnichenko says. “I believe that in 2020 we will see a reaction from certain brands trying to use variable and unique fonts to distinguish themselves and be different.
“In 2019, we have also seen more and more brands bringing their messages to life using typography in movement, and that’s something I think will continue. It’s a bold and interesting way of engaging with an audience, and it’s amazing to see these looped gifs again and again. In my opinion, in 2020, we will see more designers experimenting with typography–especially typography in motion–because it’s an easy way to engage people on social media and in digital ads.”
The art has definitely moved towards a simpler, fashion-forward look focusing on bold typography and simple iconography.
“As a graphic designer who mainly works within the realm of band/artist merchandise, the art has definitely moved towards a simpler, fashion-forward look focusing on bold typography and simple iconography,” Chicago-based designer Cameron Latham tells us. “We live in a
content-heavy world, so I would expect 2020 to continue the trend of that ‘message first’ aesthetic.”
Design in numbers
Design Census tells us about the practical side of such a multiform domain so that we can understand the state of design and the people who make it better.
Who said your home can’t be a gallery? Here are the top online galleries to explore and buy art from without extra efforts.
- Adobe Colors
- Cinema 4D
Design trends change over the course of time. Some of them evolve into something bigger and more influential. Some of them slip away.
All our predictions can be dispelled in a moment when someone super-talented throws in a new trend. Let’s see what 2020 will become: a year of new discoveries or a year of good-old classics.