The world of graphic design is one that constantly shifts, and runs in cycles, so what will the design trends of 2017 be? As always, to look forward, it helps to have a little look back, so what did we see in 2016?
The one that really stands out is the return of the gradient. The first big company to start using this again was Instagram, changing their logo from the older style, to a clean, modern design with a purple/yellow/red gradient. It split opinion, of course, but it certainly stands out. After this, more companies started to use gradients in their own designs, but in a more sophisticated way than when gradients were first used (usually alongside ClipArt).
So, how will the web look in 2017? Let’s take a look at some of the emerging trends…
Atomic design and modular design
Atomic design is a concept which was originally thought up by Brad Frost, and he wrote an entire book on it. It’s been a few years since he came up with the concept, but with each year it seems to gain more and more traction in the design community, and it makes perfect sense when you break it down.
We won’t go through the whole theory here, as you can read the entire book online, but fundamentally, it’s about taking a different approach to your web design. Rather than designing pages, it’s all about using an efficient design system, which is broken down into ‘atoms’, the basic components of a page, then ‘molecules’, which are groups of ‘atoms’ clustered together, which make up simple functions from basic elements.
From there, the theory moves on to ‘organisms’, more complex combinations of the initial building blocks. Then it’s onto ‘templates’, and finally fully working ‘pages’. So each stage use the previous building blocks, and combines them to make more complex functionality and more detailed designs, but the key is that they all share the same foundations, and that the building blocks can be used in a flexible way.
The purpose of this concept is to provide a clear methodology to work from. It’s true that many designers work this way already, maybe without realising it, but in 2017 we should see more and more companies adopt it as a concrete way of working.
It will certainly make it easier for companies with a number of designers working on the same project, and should lead to websites looking fantastic, with a consistent feel throughout every single page. Simplicity can be beautiful too.
Big and bold
2016 saw more and more companies shift their focus to producing amazing content and copy, and the trend in design for 2017 will likely be to draw attention to that.
This means getting big and bold with typefaces. It’s already starting, as you can see with a few of these.
It makes sense. If you’re spending the time to craft great copy, you need to really make it sing, and big, bold fonts are perfect for this. Expect to see it much more in 2017.
Bots are the next big thing on websites. In fact, they’re already a big thing. They’re going to be a MASSIVE thing in the coming months and years.
For those unfamiliar with bots, they are AI scripts which can chat to you, giving the illusion that you’re communicating with an actual person. Chances are, you’ve already spoken to one without realising at some point.
So what’s going to change in terms of design? Firstly, the bots will only get more complex and realistic from here on in, which will impact the way they’re designed and presented to users. Whether that’s them being presented as humans, or whether sites make it perfectly clear it’s a bot, the increased levels of AI mean that without clear signs it wouldn’t be obvious who or what the user is talking to.
Another trend related to bot design involves the process of designing the actual bots themselves. As they are going to become commonplace, more people will want to develop their own. This means more software to facilitate this. What we are likely to see are a lot of flow-chart systems, where the responses are designed by humans, but there is a clear pathway that’s stuck to by the bot. So designing your very own AI will be as simple as creating a flow-chart.
In the design world, bots may not have a huge impact in terms of visuals, but they will certainly give designers more to think about when it comes to creating websites.
More black and white
Fashion often influences the world of graphic design. In turn, the state of the world around us influences fashion.
As mentioned, 2016 has left a lot to be desired. We won’t get too political here, but the state of the world, and the people within it, seems to have changed somewhat. Fear rules over hope. Individual concerns are prioritised over the collective. It seems to be a running theme, sadly not isolated to one country or even continent, but something that’s happening the world over.
To see how this could affect fashion, you can look back to other times where the world has felt some sort of turmoil. Trends tend to veer more towards black and white. If you look at the times immediately after the war, or during the Great Depression, fashion seemed to be dominated by various shades of grey, and that’s not just because all of the photos are in black and white.
It’s likely that this will become a dominating trend once again, so expect that to bleed into graphic design too. However, just because the influencing factors are not ideal, it doesn’t mean the designs won’t be beautiful. Quite the opposite in fact - there’s something extremely elegant and rare about a monochrome approach in this modern age.
Design trends in 2017 may not all be immediately apparent in the visuals you come across, but instead will be more about making the user experience more of a delight, and this is no bad thing. Look forward to beautiful, elegant designs, and simplicity that will make the web an absolute pleasure for the users.
There may not be a huge shift in the way things look, but then maybe 2017 will be all about the way things feel, which is just as important.