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It’s the New Year, and in the spirit of radical transparency, we’re going to just come out and say it: we can’t predict the future. But design trends develop more slowly than you think and generally, the design world is immune to sudden shifts. The introduction of a new type or grid system is not exactly breaking news.

So, at the very least, we can look to the recent past for cues as to what the future will bring. And so, in the waning moments of 2019, we took stock of the design trends that were on the upswing and made some educated predictions about what we’ll be seeing more of in 2020. 

Here are a few design trends that we don’t think will go away.

Bespoke Type

Free fonts have never been more available and easy to access—thanks, Google—which may explain why we’re seeing more custom fonts. Is it a reaction to design uniformity, the overuse of the ubiquitous Monserrat, or is it just that new illustration tools are making bespoke type easier to create? Whatever the root cause, bespoke type is here, and we’ll be seeing more of it. We dig Jessica Walsh’s Cairo-inspired type for Egyptian restaurant Zooba and Atkinson Hyper Legible, the easy-to-read font that the Braille Institute created for low vision readers.

Animation everywhere

All of a sudden, everything is moving. In big ways and in small, our screens are getting a lot more animated. In some cases, the underwhelming approach is more effective than a full-screen takeover. You see it in a pulsing logo, or a slight graphic diversion while you’re waiting for something to load, or in a clever CTA. We like the rotating motion on Slack’s icon and adaptive logos like the W in the Whitney Museum. Hover states are still other opportunities to add a little motion. In 2019, there was something always happening, even if it was subtle, and that’s a trend that will continue, for sure.

Illustrators Working on Tablets

The career trajectory of the iPad is developing in ways few of us could have predicted when it debuted as the biggest threat to your mom’s all-time favorite Kindle. Now, iPads moonlight as cash registers and, perhaps more predictably, and have become the mobile work space of choice for designers and illustrators. Procreate’s updated sketching software and Apple’s new pencil make for an irresistible combination for mobile creators.

3D Rendering

If you need any further evidence that 3D photography will soon be the new normal for commercial photo shoots, here it is: in 2019, Tommy Hilfiger started using a 3D design platform to design their line of clothes. In fact, the whole process, from design to  showroom presentation, is now completely digitized. And Tommy Hilfiger is not alone. If you need more reasons to take 3D classes click here or just look at this reel from the 3D animation studio Spectacle. It’s the future. 

Photo Illustrations

If you think you’ve been seeing slightly fewer photos lately—in ads and editorials and on social media—it’s because you have been. Less budget-busting than photo shoots and far more distinctive than stock photos, illustrations are all the rage these days. Vogue Italia, for example, is doing an entire issue with no photographs. It claims that the issue is a way to address sustainability—all those air miles and that catering truck waste avoided—but it’s also probably saving them a bundle. Two illustrators you’ll be seeing plenty of in the years to come: Mike McQuate and Franziska Barczyk.    

The No-Screen Meeting

Ask anyone what’s the biggest obstacle to a productive meeting—they’ll tell you that it’s looking up and seeing everyone in the meeting on a laptop or an iPhone 11 Pro. Even if they’re focusing, and not, like, scrolling through Instagram, it’s a distraction. The smart team leaders we know are increasingly demanding screen-free meetings. From these meetings, those leaders are reporting increased focus, greater resolution, stronger idea generation, and shorter meeting times. And can’t we all get with that?

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