By Extended Studies Team
It wasn’t that long ago when design trends stayed relatively static. Certainly, they were always evolving, but nothing like we’ve experienced in the last few years.
Yet the pandemic and many other societal changes have made the last couple of years a wild ride for all of us. Design usually exists as a reflection of the world around us, so this wider uncertainty has been evident in both the nature and churn of design trends.
What does this all mean for you as a designer? How do you incorporate all of these new trends into your work? Which trends will be a passing fad, and which are here to stay?
For this article, we’ll discuss the five most important design trends of 2022 and beyond. Some of these are obvious, but a couple of them might be a little more subtle too.
And while this article will focus on visual and graphic design, the implications and applications of these trends are evident in other aspects of popular design too.
Before getting into our top five, let’s start off with a general theme that unifies them all…
Creative pragmatism exists less as a definable design trend and more as an overarching theme that’s showing up in all designs. It’s a merging of two ideas that in many cases are diametrically opposed to each other; creativity and pragmatism.
The creative aspect allows designers to be bold, expressive, and inspiring in what they create. Yet there needs to be an acknowledgment of the pragmatic side too. Design serves a purpose, and so whatever is created needs to be in accordance with a practical intention too.
So with that understanding, let’s proceed to the trends.
Nostalgia (Especially ‘90s Nostalgia)
Nostalgia is always waxing and waning as a general design trend, but this time around it’s coming in hot. The latest trend for ‘90s nostalgia harkens back to a much more idealized version of the decade, when everything was more simple and fun.
The visuals are all about bold blocks of color, confetti-like patterns, hand-drawn shapes, and center-focused framing. Think rave culture, MTV, Trapper Keeper folders, or shows like “Double Dare” and “Saved by the Bell.”
Mix in some oozing slime, simple emojis, and thick sketchy outlines and you’re starting to get the full effect. (Google “Memphis design patterns” as a quintessential example.) [examples]
This trend is evident in everything from clothes, TV shows, and website design. It’s meant to be fun and escapist so that’s how you would use it in your design too.
The trend of experimental typography might be the most emblematic example of creative pragmatism on this list. It’s for when you need to legibly present pragmatic words, but a simple uncreative font will not suffice.
Elements of this trend in action can be mismatched letters, twisted shapes, shifting sizes, or exaggerated serifs. Sometimes letters even serve as more of a decorative element than text.
Two prominent examples of this trend are the logo designs for TV shows such as “Loki” and “Squid Game.”
To do this trend well, your words still need to be readable. Many examples will feature some letters taking a more conventional form while others will be almost unrecognizable. Yet the word still gets across.
The exciting aspect of this trend is the variety of uses. This can be incorporated into logo design, posters, expressive fonts, and more. [examples]
It also helps words and phrases cut through language barriers by the messages communicated in the design.
Ukiyo-e Flat Design
Ukiyo-e is a style of printed artwork from carved woodblocks that was popular in Japan from the 17th to the 19th century. The visual aspects of the style are experiencing a renaissance right now.
The term Ukiyo-e means “pictures of floating worlds,” and by looking at examples you can see what that means. When used to create landscapes it does give the impression that each layer of the landscape is floating.
The design is characterized by bold outlines, flat colors and limited ability for perspective. Things like shading and other details are left out in favor of the basic simplicity of the format.
What makes this design trend so popular today is how well it lends itself to vector design.
Using Ukiyo-e as inspiration, vector designers are finding ways to add more flair and appeal to what otherwise might have been flat and minimal illustrations. It means incorporating patterns for texture, juxtaposing colors, and finding creative ways to imply depth.
The simplicity of it all gives more options for where and how the design can be used and reproduced. You can see examples of it on websites, apps, logos, product labeling and more. [examples]
Also, while the original idea most obviously lends itself towards 2D design, many of the elements have also overlapped with ideas from the Japandi (Japanese/Scandinavian) interior design trend, incorporating the flat colors, patterned textures, and overall minimalism inherent in Ukiyo-e.
Ukiyo-e was popular enough to last as a trend for nearly 300 years in Japan. Will it have the same staying power in current design trends too?
Many of us have spent the better part of the last two years trapped at home, so is it any wonder that escapism has emerged as a popular design trend in 2022?
Escapism presents beautiful and fantastical scenes as a tantalizingly close reality to step into. The appeal is the sense of wonder it evokes. We dream about the places, the scenes, or the feeling that might emerge.
The trend can incorporate elements of the natural world, as well as fantasy and psychedelia. Color patterns can range accordingly, from muted natural hues to bright and evocative pastels.
Examples can range from depictions of an otherworldly idyllic vacation destination, futuristic outer space cities, or completely fantastical situations that defy the laws of physics–or reality!
Images can be illustrated or digitally designed. They can also show up just about anywhere, from marketing and visual design, to TV, movies, architecture, website backgrounds, video games, and more. [examples]
Escapism has been around for a long time, so while it might take on different forms, it’s doubtful that it will ever go away.
Anti-design is an emerging trend that’s bursting out of the design constraints of the 2010s. It’s all about pushing boundaries, defying expectations, and rejecting many conventional design principles.
This can look like busy patterns, color clashes, asymmetry, contrasting design styles, and bare interface elements that are not where you’d expect them to be.
A big part of this trend is borne out of reaction to what might be perceived as overly the standardized designs of the last decade. Design was focused on usability as we all adjusted to a more app-oriented world. Creativity in design often suffered. It’s evident once you think about how so many websites, applications, and interfaces have looked the same over the last ten years.
Anti-designers are pushing back on all that now to find more creative and expressive ways of representing the ideas while not conforming to the overly standardized conventions of usability.
Yet, while the boundaries are being pushed, all design still serves a purpose.
The best practitioners of anti-design are finding ways to break the rules while still eliciting the feelings or getting the end result that the design is looking for. This is another example of creative pragmatism in action. [examples]
These are what we see as the top design trends of 2022 and beyond, but this is by no way a comprehensive list. We’d like to hear what you think. Is there anything we’re missing? Are these designs you’ve already been incorporating into your own work? Will these design trends have staying power, or will they all go the way of Comic Sans before the new year rolls around?
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