Breaking away from the every-day and creating an outstanding campaign is far more achievable when graphic designers and brand managers are in the loop with current trends, argues DesignCrowd’s Jo Sabin.
A close look at the most successful ad and web designs since the start of the year reveal five key trends to embrace now: real-life photography, motion video graphics, flat page designs, soft colour schemes and bold, textured fonts.
1. Photo: Real-Life Imagery
Instagram filters have taken the social media world by storm and are leaking over into all areas of visual design. Posters, magazine ads, email ads, landing pages and website designs often include photographs of both people and food that have instagram’s vintage/retro look to them. For example Burt’s Bees Baby, as seen below, uses light and colour filters in the majority of their web advertisements and even crowdsources banner ads through Instagram contests.
Another interesting visual design trend is the depiction of real people in real-life scenarios. Companies like Xero, the accounting software platform, and Google Analytics present real, mostly untouched, images of customers on their home pages and these often resonate with users in a more meaningful way than stock images of flawless models pitching products.
This is not new in the sense that Dove’s famous ‘Real Beauty’ campaign and many other consumer brands have adopted real-life images in their packaging and brand advertising campaigns since then. Advertisers are adopting imagery that is more believable and realistic. In January, Aerie, American Eagle’s sister brand, launched an “Aerie Real” campaign featuring ‘un-retouched’ photos of ordinary women – with fantastic results:
2. Video: Motion Graphics
The combination of smartphones and video sharing through YouTube and Vimeo has made online video especially popular. Many landing pages, ads and website designs are now incorporating some form of motion graphics. Trends in motion graphics include full screen video backgrounds, flat designs, gifs, compositing and real-object stop-motion graphics.
In March, Yahoo! Launched Yahoo Motion Ads, a new ad format that couples high-quality brand images with subtle animation to create ‘high-impact’ experiences on their login page. Google introduced a similar landing page with the launch of Google Now and AriZona Beverage Company followed suit by incorporating motion graphics on its homepage.
3. Illustration: Flat Design
The flat design trend that took off last year is still going strong in 2014, especially in illustrated visuals, such as full-screen backgrounds and videos as mentioned above. Flat designs take the minimalist approach by dropping many of the traditional and often extraneous interface design techniques that give objects a three-dimensional appearance including drop shadows, gradients and textures, which at its height was symbolised by Apple’s skeuomorphic iOS user interface design.
Havaianas Sandals and Oreo both use flat design to place all of the attention on their products:
4. Colour: Soft Pastels
Radiant Orchid (18-3224) is Pantone’s colour of the year and leads the pastel colour trend for 2014. Even many flat designs, which usually incorporate bold colours, seem to be transitioning to a softer palette this year.
Backgrounds, videos, photographs, fonts and other graphic elements in web and print design alike seem to be sporting subtle colours. This strategy ‘pops’ when combined with HTML 5 interface design that differentiate between content blocks by colour, enabling easy navigation for users and reducing scroll fatigue.
Pantone is prominent across the colour schemes of big brands like Cadbury and Crest:
5. Typography: Textured Fonts
Print designs have always had the advantage of dynamic, textured fonts over flat fonts found in web design. Now, typography design can be as influential in conveying identity as the photography, video and illustration techniques outlined above. Textured fonts — inspired by food or anything really — can push the boundaries on normal, two-dimensional designs and give new meaning to brands, as they did for Chipotle and Triscuit:
From magazine ads to website design, these are the visual design trends of 2014 that you should embrace now. The next time you take on a new design project, consider how real-life imagery, motion graphics, flat illustrations, pastel colours and textured typography can elevate your brand to stand out from the crowd.
Jo Sabin is community manager at DesignCrowd, an online graphic design marketplace.