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Digital Design Trends 2020

Digital design drives user behaviour and can significantly influence the quality of our online and offline decisions. This year, we’ve seen a shift from a design world dominated by bold and bright colours and futuristic designs to a refreshing, amicable and more natural face of digital design. Could this change reflect an attempt at creating a more harmonious online world, particularly as we spend more time online than ever before? Whatever the cause of this shift, these contemporary design trends are revitalising and worth knowing to keep your marketing materials fresh and up to date.

Colour

Muted colour palettes

One of the most distinct changes to design in 2020 is the colour palette. In 2019 we saw vivid and vibrant colours across all channels, but 2020 sees a step back to more muted, less abrasive tones.

This doesn’t mean using any less colour: they are still based on the vivid colours of 2019, but with the edge taken off.  Muted colours don’t mean your brand’s designs will be any less interesting. These toned down colours offer endless combinations which are easier on the eye and more relaxed, whilst also allowing simple text and content to be read easier. Muted colours work really well with neutral colours due to their infusion as well as being paired with darker tones. These softer colours enable you brand to stand out, without being shouty.

Whilst we certainly wouldn’t recommend you completely change your brand colour palette every time a new colour trend comes around, introducing a secondary palette, which includes tinted or muted versions of your core brand colours can really help give you more flexibility for your designs.

Colour Gradients

For the third year running, colour gradients are yet again trendy in 2020. It looks like not only are they here to stay, but that they’re back with a vengeance. Colour gradients are powerful and versatile as they allow you to add depth to any image or illustration. Traditionally used for the background of other images, colour gradients are now maturing with designers opting to use them in different ways, for example as a way to accentuate key words or headlines, or within logos, such as Instagram.

Pantone colour of the year

We couldn’t mention colour trends without mentioning, of course, the ‘Pantone Colour of the Year 2020’. Each year the Pantone’s selected colour influences all elements of design, product development, and purchase decisions across many industries, so it’s a good one to keep on top of. This year Pantone’s Colour of the Year is described as ‘Instilling calm, confidence, and connection, this enduring blue hue highlights our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.’

PANTONE 19-4052

Typography

The big one. Not just there for visual appearance, typography guides and informs user experience. In 2020, typography looks like heavy and simple fonts. A big move from handwritten, minimalist fonts, heavy fonts are usually bold or extra bold, ‘heavy’ in appearance. ‘Bold is the new black’ - using simple and bold fonts can help create a contemporary feel and also allow for a lot of contrast. Simpler fonts, that have several weight classes provides designers with more opportunities for contrast and flexibility with designs while staying on brand.  You can also use them to create interesting graphics by combining a striking statement with an inspiring image, or simple coloured background. They can also work as a stand-alone main focal point of a graphic if you have a message you want to get across quickly and effectively, making shorter phrases more powerful.

Be careful not to overuse them though, as it can make it heavy on the eye for a reader. Using it on only some parts of text can help guide a reader to which part they should be reading first.

Art Deco

Reflecting our entry into the ‘roaring 20s’, an overarching design style is the return of Art Deco. The design world loves a vintage style, reworked, and this trend is no different. It’s Art Deco but updated, with a future modern twist, providing the decorative elements of Art Deco like its bold and precise geometric shapes, and blocky layouts notably in household object and architecture, but with a modern, sophisticated feel.

Abstract & Dreamy Illustrations

Something that isn’t toning down is brand illustrations. Abstract and dreamy illustrations are cartoon-feeling illustrations that can convey a brand's message and engage a user in a visually interesting format. Custom-brand illustrations are increasingly popular and can create a brand's unique style differentiating it and its communications from those of its competitors. The flowy, out-there imagery can communicate brand friendliness and accessibility. (Notice the following examples using the on-trend muted palette!)

Google Calendar are even using illustrations to help people achieve their goals, visually nudging users to build a routine through logging their activities and goals. Although they can be quite abstract, it is important to remember to make sure they still need to create a meaning. The focus is on the message, not the art itself.

As you can see from Dropbox’s Spotify playlist examples, they are very abstract, but they still generate meaning, connecting the art with the name of the playlists.

Handmaid Humanism

To tie in with a more approachable design world, digital art also sees a turn to handmade humanism. Like abstract and dreamy illustrations, using handmade digital art can make a brand feel fresh and fun. DIY digital art can help brands who are striving towards a more personal touch to their digital work in a highly digitalised world and can communicate authenticity.

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