With each new year, freelancers strive to evolve with the changing digital landscape. Keeping current on the latest graphic design trends is essential to remain competitive in an always-changing marketplace.
With that in mind, we thought we’d give you a headstart for 2019. We’ve analyzed and collected emerging design trends across the board—graphic design, logo design, web design, and more—to showcase what we predict to be the next big trends in branding.
Whether you’re building your own brand or making these decisions for a client, use them today to show you’re on the cutting edge of your industry.
The recent rise of serifs shows that minimalism’s domination of the digital realm is starting to crack. That’s not to say that minimalism is going away any time soon—as you can see in some trends below, it still remains highly influential. But recently we’re seeing more tolerance for designs that are far from minimal, including ornamental serifs.
Serifs refer to those little tags on letters, and the fonts that use them. Their opposition are the sans serif fonts—letters with no tags—which until recently have been crowding web design as part of the minimalism movement.
But now serifs are making a comeback as a font trend for 2019, perhaps as part of a larger pull towards more traditional times (we talk about the popularity of vintage logos below). Whatever the reason, you won’t be alone if you choose an elegant serif font to add a little sophistication and class to your brand.
And as part of the serif trend, a sub-trend has developed using high-contrast weights. If you’re not a typographile, that means a combination of stick-thin lines and bold, fat lines—typically the upstroke is thinner than the downstroke. This makes the visuals of your text more dynamic and noticeable, but can be distracting if used with other “loud” elements.
2. Thumb-friendly mobile navigation
It’s been a couple of years since mobile devices beat out desktop for browsing the internet, but design trends are now starting to catch up. The first of our “mobile-friendly” web design trends involves something that, in retrospect, seems so obvious: designing navigation for thumbs.
In the past, navigation menus like hamburger icons were usually situated in the top left or right corners to coincide with desktop sites. But since research shows how nearly all (94%) of mobile users prefer their thumbs over their fingers, designers are rethinking that setup.
Via tubik on Dribbble
The trend now is placing navigation elements at the bottom of mobile sites and apps to facilitate thumb navigation. Users no longer have to change how they hold their phones to open menus, allowing for more intuitive usability. It’s because of this practical benefit to UX that we’ll see more and more of this navigation in 2019.
This is a trend you can apply to your own brand just as much as that of your clients. Statistically speaking, chances are the majority of visitors to your portfolio site are viewing it on mobile. Giving those visitors a better user experience can only improve your first impression.
3. Vertical Videos
Our second “mobile-friendly” trend is part of the larger movement around videos, one of the most popular types of content for all things online. With tech advancements and better data packages for mobile devices, demand for video content continues to grow with no sign of slowing down.
As a result, people are starting to film and post more mobile-friendly videos, in particular vertical video. While shooting vertical (portrait) videos was once considered an online faux pas, the powerful shift to mobile has since changed people’s perspective.
The trend was likely started by social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram Stories (and later IGTV), but has now infiltrated more mainstream channels: pop-star musicians are now shooting vertical music videos and even ESPN adapted SportsCenter to fit vertically on Snapchat. The beauty of this trend is that it can used by big brands and individuals alike—keep it in mind the next time you’re recording something for social media.
4. “Friendlier” Geometrics
In the last couple of years, we started seeing more geometric shapes all over the design world: shapes with sharp corners and rigid lines, large grids extending out into the distance, repeated patterns of intermingling shapes for backgrounds, etc. While that trend itself is still growing, it’s also learning from its mistakes and changing its trajectory for “friendlier” territory.
While their structure and order are appealing, the problem with geometric shapes is that they can come off as cold and impersonal, even oppressive at extremes. Designers have learned to temper this drawback using two tactics in particular: warm colors and curves.
Via BrioRom on 99designs
Warm colors like pastels are inherently more comforting and inviting than darker shades, so using them makes geometric designs less intimidating. Adding more curves and waves to otherwise straight lines also makes the images more playful and less threatening. Play with the degrees of each until you reach the perfect balance between structure and whimsy that represents your brand identity.
Especially in web design, asymmetrical layouts are starting to pop up everywhere. Some say it’s a way for professionally designed sites to differentiate themselves from the template-builder sites like Squarespace or Canva; others say the trend is a rebellion against the structure of the geometrics trend above. Regardless, if you want to market yourself as edgy or as someone who thinks outside of the box, asymmetry is a good way to do it.
Via Mila Jones Cann on 99designs
When done well, asymmetrical layouts perfectly break the mold with stimulating and memorable visuals. But the key is doing them right—because there’s no built-in structure, designers have to balance compositions on their own.
6. 3D imagery
The better tech gets, the higher users’ expectations rise. With HD visuals, faster loading times, and more advanced design tools, people today demand visuals that wow and impress, which paves the way for our next trend: 3D imagery.
Via EFL on 99designs
Not to be confused with actual 3D in movies, or with AR and VR trends that are still on the horizon, the trend we’re describing here involves using ultra-realistic, thoroughly rendered visuals. The 3D imagery of 2019 will incorporate highly polished graphics to bring abstract shapes to life—even typography. Part art and part tech, 3D imagery perfectly represents modern design’s craving for next-level futurism.
Via Diêgo Soou on Behance.
7. Custom Fonts
It’s not just images and photographs that are getting a makeover. Fonts are also updating their standards based on what’s popular.
We already mentioned the return of serifs, but another typographic trend for 2019 is custom fonts, original or rare fonts with telltale looks. After all, typography is just another opportunity to showcase your brand identity.
Via Yokaona on 99designs
Handwritten fonts, in particular, are on the rise, as are loopy cursive fonts. We’re also seeing more blocky outline fonts. Rather than the big and bold letters we’ve seen since the mid-2010s, these fonts simply outline the letters with transparent insides. This trend makes big blocky letters less oppressive, and also allows better visibility for background hero images.
Via simplest™ on 99designs
Those who don’t fit well with minimalistic styles are going for the polar opposite: elaborate detailing. While other sites are stripping away the details from the visuals, this school of design is adding as many as they can.
Via Brian Steely on Dribbble
You can recognize this style easily by advanced techniques like line shading and photorealism. This trend goes perfectly with hand-drawn illustrations, allowing artists to flex their muscles to the fullest with images that could fit just as well in an art museum as they do a website background.
9. Vintage Logos
No industry is immune from fierce competition anymore. With new companies popping up every day and every one claiming to be the best, brands and freelancers alike are looking for ways to prove their authenticity amidst a sea of pretenders.
One shortcut many brands take is using a vintage logo. Because the visuals are reminiscent of decades past, simply using this style is enough to suggest your company has a successful history, even if it just launched yesterday.
Via Jeegy™ on 99designs
Characteristics of this trend include a circular frame, “established” year, and textured overlays that make the logo look weathered by time. Of course, you can personalize your approach depending on how you want to come off by mixing and matching elements of vintage logos with modern logos.
10. Duotone gradients
Last, we end with the merging of two trends from years past to create a wholly new trend for the future. The duotone trend, reducing an image to just two contrasting colors, became popular a few years ago thanks to Spotify. But now, and more-so in 2019, the duotone trend is seeing a resurgence thanks to the help of gradients, or “color transitions,” which fade into one another.
Via Bruno Pego on Dribbble
On paper the two don’t seem like they’d mesh together, but in practice they actually work well for creating an interesting and unique look that can set your brand apart. Because it’s one of the more experimental trends on this list, it won’t accommodate a lot of freelancers. But if you find the style suits your brand, strike now while the iron’s hot.