As a graphic designer and photographer, I see aspects of design in everything around me and love to watch the ever changing design trends online and offline. But these trends come and go; some stick around for years; others seem to disappear almost overnight. It’s important to be able to distinguish between the trends that are great, and will stay fresh, and the ones to that will quickly look outdated and need to be ditched.
Why should you care about design trends if you’re not a designer? Well, if you own a business, have a website or use any print media to market your products or services, I’m sure you don’t want to look and feel outdated. People make very quick assumptions of your brand based on the first impression they have when they first see your website, your brochures and even your business cards.
You work hard every day on your business trying to attract more customers and rise above your competitors, wouldn’t you also like to stand apart visually as well? Here is my list of design trends to keep (and ditch) in 2016.
1. Responsive Design
We all know that having a responsive site is a necessity now. Google is clearly ditching sites that don’t have a mobile-friendly experience in favour of those that offer the user the ability to read your blog or website at their kid’s soccer game, on the bus on the way home from work or wherever they pull out their phones.
It isn’t only about Google though. I know for a fact that if I have to pinch and scroll around on a site to find what I’m looking for, I just leave. It’s that simple.
It has to be easy to find what you’re looking for, or you will be losing out on potential traffic.
If you don’t already have a mobile site, you are losing out on customers that will find what they need somewhere else. Read more on why you need to go responsive here.
You can have the coolest looking site in the world, but if it’s not offering a great user experience, it won’t get your business anywhere fast. It has to have fast load times, intuitive navigation and interesting content.
It’s like my mom always used to say, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”
Looking pretty isn’t enough. You have to offer value to your customers.
3. Minimalist Styling
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” said Leonardo Da Vinci.
By only including the essential elements and getting rid of the fluff, what’s left becomes more meaningful and powerful. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be. It only confuses the message.
In the past, web designers would show off their skills with flashy illustrations and or drop shadows and gradients. Thank goodness that trend has ended (along with the horrific starburst ‘buy now’ buttons). We’re now moving towards a simplified, classic digital aesthetic.
In good design, if an element doesn’t serve a purpose, it’s a distraction from the function of the illustration. However, minimalistic style doesn’t have to be boring. Implement bright, contrasting colours and fun illustrations that easily guide your eye to the intended purpose.
4. Visual Storytelling
I don’t know about you, but I’m a visual learner. Tell me something and I will likely forget it as soon as it’s gone in one ear and out the other, but if I see something, I remember it and learn it. If it’s something I thought was funny, socially important or helpful to my friends, I share it.
100 million people worldwide watch at least one video per day, and 92% of those watching a video on a mobile device share the content.
Creating visual storytelling for your brand is another great way to get your message across, quickly and efficiently.
I personally have about a bazillion infographics pinned on pinterest. They work amazingly well to convey your message and can be seen showing everything from colour theory to marketing to environmental issues.
There’s a really good reason designers and marketers alike love a good infographic. They’re fun, easy to get our message across and most of all they produce results.
Infographics are shared 3 times more than any other type of visual content!
6. Great Typography
One thing that drives us designers nuts is bad typography. However, when typography is done right, it can become a key element that takes your branding up a notch.
Add amazing typography, bright fun colours and flat design to an infographic and you have a winning combination.
Since Google Fonts has allowed more people to ditch Arial for cooler and newer fonts it gives us designers so much more to work with when creating a unique and distinguishable brand.
2016 will see more handwritten fonts, modern slab serifs and with any luck the death of comic sans.
7. Colours – Happy Zen
No trend list would be complete without the mention of the colour. Colour psychology is amazing, and a post for another time, but knowing it can make a huge difference in your branding efforts.
2016 will see happy, pastels that make us smile and feel a little zen in the uncertainty of today’s world.
“Colours this season transport us to a happier, sunnier place where we feel free to express a wittier version of our real selves,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Colour Institute. “With our culture still surrounded by so much uncertainty, we are continuing to yearn for those softer shades that offer a sense of calm and relaxation.”
The Top 10 2016 spring colours according to Pantone look like this:
Ditch Stock Photography
Drive down your main highway and you are likely to see the same smiling couple on a botox billboard as you saw on an ad for a real estate developer. It’s one of the most boring and unoriginal things you can include in a website.
Why would you use a stock photo that anyone else could have used for their business when you have so many other options? You have millions of alternatives.
2016 is the year to hire a professional photographer to create custom imagery that reflects your brand, your business and your message.
Using images custom made for your site by a professional illustrator, a custom infographic created by your designer or a professional video will put your business above your competition.
I don’t think this one needs a lot of explanation. If there’s anything that will make me curse at my screen is those annoying pop-ups… especially the ones that I can’t seem to figure out how to get rid of them. Half the time I just close the site I’m looking at because it irritates me so much. Please don’t ask me for a pop-up. The answer will be no.
Well that’s my list of keeps and kills for now. One last note… trends are great. They can be fun and if you’re in a hip, modern business that is focused on a young audience, they are essential. However, I’m a big believer in smart, simple, classic design that will still look good in 5 or 10 years. Of course you’ll need to update your website in that amount of time, but your brand should remain largely the same.
If you need help with a new website (or any other design) please keep me in mind. Feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected].
John is a tea-drinking, 43-year-old (not old, just well-seasoned) digital marketer who remains intensely curious about new ways to market online. He believes the best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing, it is about telling stories that resonate enough with people that they want to do business with you.