What 2016 Holds for Graphic Design of Brand Communications
It is common knowledge that companies work to develop marketing communications that are simultaneously compelling to their target audience as well as differentiated from the competition. What is rarely discussed is that these communications are not developed in a vacuum, but within a given design era or zeitgeist.
Just as bell-bottoms, plaid jackets, avocado shag carpeting and the Beatles were once all the rage, so too were cursive script, dramatic drop shadows, and high-gloss, beveled and embossed buttons in marketing design. Like all forms of design – from haute couture to industrial and product design – the design of marketing communications is subject to the vagaries and vacillations of taste. Brands whose marketing communications are designed according to passing (or worse, passé) aesthetic sensitivities will cast perceptions of “old” and “tired” on their imagery in the marketplace.
It is important for a brand to stay current with how these trends are evolving if they hope to be perceived as contemporary or cutting-edge. Let’s consider some of the design trends that will influence marketing communications in the upcoming year.
1. Large images. Humans are visual creatures. About 90 percent of our brain is dedicated to processing visual information, and images allow us to convey so much more information than words. It’s no surprise that as technical barriers are reduced – such as camera resolution, processor speeds and communications bandwidth – the use of large-scale images and photographic backgrounds continues to increase. This trend encompasses video and animation as well.
2. 2016 Pantone Color of the Year. Color has the ability to affect our immediate perception of a product or communications piece more than any other single design element. According to some estimates, color accounts for up 90 percent of our initial perception of a product or communication. Particular cultures assign specific meanings to different colors, and these preferences and associations are constantly changing. Download International Color Symbolism Chart here.
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For the first time, the Pantone Color of the Year is a pairing of two colors: Rose Quartz and Serenity. Both are pastel hues – one a warmer rose tone and the other a cooler tranquil blue. According to Pantone: “Strong, yet calming, romantic yet subtle, consumers are immediately drawn to this combination, making it an enticing shade for a variety of products from food and beverage to cosmetics and accessories. With packaging becoming increasingly more tied into lifestyle color trends, the combination of Serenity and Rose Quartz is a natural fit for many kinds of packaging materials.”
Here is the color guide for Rose Quartz and Serenity:
3. Typography. Typography is a major creative element in both print and Web design that can aid or hinder marketing communications. Large blocks of copy have become fashionable to attract attention and lend importance to brand messaging. Hand-drawn lettering, as opposed to digitally perfect lettering, is becoming more popular while conveying an intimate touch. The use of stronger typographic hierarchies is also gaining momentum.
4. Flat design. Flat design has exploded onto the scene over the past two years and is being driven largely by technology. It seems destined to stay for the foreseeable future and affects multiple design variables – flat colors, flat shapes, minimalism, low-gloss buttons and the absence of depth. Flat design emphasizes uncomplicated creations with simpler lines and colors, as well as an absence of shadows, strokes, gradients and textures. Flat design styles prevail over three-dimensional interfaces as they improve the readability of text on display devices and are faster to load.
5. Visual storytelling. As video increases in popularity – enabled by technological advances such as easier recording techniques and higher bandwidths, as well as a growing preference for immediacy and authenticity over high production values – visual storytelling is continuing its rise in marketing communications. On YouTube alone, 300 hours of video are uploaded every minute, and 4 billion videos are viewed each day. Live streaming of video on social media channels, such as Twitter’s Periscope, is becoming ever more popular. The reason is simple: It is easier and often faster than reading and provides more information per unit of time. As the old saying goes, “Seeing is believing.” What’s more, content that is consumed through a combination of visual and auditory modalities is remembered much more accurately than information that is merely seen or heard. As the ability of mobile devices to effectively play video increases, so will the popularity of visual storytelling.
6. Cinemagraphs. Old-school animated GIFs are being superseded by a hybrid of still images and videography known as cinemagraphs. Cinemagraphs are essentially still images where one or more elements move repeatedly against a motionless background. More sophisticated and difficult to create than a standard photograph or video recording, cinemagraphs are unique, compelling and imaginative visual assets that will play an important role in interactive multimedia and visual storytelling.
7. Responsive design. Responsive design will remain a dominant theme for designers as communications devices evolve and proliferate. While some may rightfully argue that the need to be responsive limits our creativity, those of us who have worked in sectors with regulatory controls and other limitations recognize that it simply forces us to be creative in different ways. For example, replacing classic fonts like Arial or Verdana with Google Fonts or Web-compatible Typekit fonts can bypass the constraints of traditional fonts to create beautiful text and custom typefaces. Three-dimensional videos and 3-D graphics are an exciting development that will open new avenues for creativity. The use of mobile devices and the growth of touch screen technology is making us comfortable with scrolling, swiping and pinching – all relatively untapped opportunities for designers.
These are the dominant design trends that will affect marketing communications in 2016. Design should be a strategic element, rather than an afterthought, in the marketing of any brand. Knowing and understanding which new trends to implement is just as important as knowing the brand’s promise, values and pillars when crafting effective creative communications.