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Five Visual Design Trends to Inspire You

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Creating stand-out campaigns are much easier done when graphic designers and brand managers are in the loop on current trends.

A close look at the most successful ad and Web designs of the past year reveal five key trends to embrace now: real-life photography, motion video graphics, flat page designs, soft color schemes, and bold, textured fonts.

Below we explore in detail 2014's top visual design trends in photo, video, color, illustration, and typography and why they make the accompanying examples so memorable.

1. Photo: Real-Life Imagery

Instagram filters have taken the social media world by storm and have expanded into all areas of visual design. Posters, magazine ads, email ads, landing pages, and even website design often include photographs of both people and food that have an Instagram-like look to them in an attempt to appear authentic and trustworthy.

For example, Burt's Bees Baby uses light and color filters in the majority of its Web advertisements and even crowdsources banner ads through Instagram contests.

Another interesting visual design trend is the depiction of real people in real-life scenarios, including women of all walks of life, not just the petite, flawless model-types. When designs do include models, they represent all ethnicities, ages, and body types. Designers are looking to make ads and even art much more believable and realistic.

Here's another example... In January, Aerie, American Eagle's sister brand, launched an "Aerie Real" campaign featuring unretouched photos of everyday women.

2. Video: Motion Graphics

The combination of smartphones and video sharing through YouTube and Vimeo has made online video popular. Landing pages, ads, and website designs are all incorporating some form of motion graphics. Trends in motion graphics include full-screen video backgrounds, flat design, GIFs, compositing, and real-object stop-motion graphics.

In March, Yahoo! Launched Yahoo Motion Ads, a new ad format that couples high-quality brand images with subtle animation to create "high-impact" experiences on Yahoo's login page.

Google introduced a similar landing page with the launch of Google Now. Even AriZona Beverage Company incorporated motion graphics on its homepage.

3. Illustration: Flat Design

The flat design trend that took off last year is still going strong in 2014, especially in illustrated visuals, such as full-screen backgrounds and video as mentioned above. Flat designs take the minimalist approach by dropping many of the traditional interface design techniques that give objects a 3-D appearance, including drop shadows, gradients, and textures.

Havaianas Sandals and Oreo both use flat design to place all the attention on their products.

4. Color: Soft Pastels

Radiant Orchid (18-3224) is Pantone's color of the year and leads the pastel color trend for 2014. Even many flat designs, which usually incorporate bold colors, seem to be transitioning to a softer palette this year.

Backgrounds, videos, photographs, fonts, and other graphic elements in Web and print design alike seem to be sporting not-so-loud colors.

Pantone is prominent across the color schemes of big brands, such as Cadbury and Crest.


5. Typography: Textured Fonts

Print designs have always had the advantage of dynamic, textured fonts over flat fonts found in Web design.

Now, though, typography design can be as influential in conveying identity as the photography, video, and illustration techniques outlined above. Textured fonts can push the boundaries on normal, 2-D designs and give new meaning to brands, as they did for Chipotle and Triscuit.

* * *

From magazine ads to website design, these are the visual design trends of 2014 that marketers should embrace now. The next time you take on a new design project, consider how real-life imagery, motion graphics, flat illustrations, pastel colors, and textured typography can elevate your brand.

Consumers are constantly being stimulated with exposure to hundreds of different advertisements daily. To break through the clutter, marketers need to focus on trends that resonate with customers.

By using these popular design strategies that we've seen emerge thus far in 2014, brands will more easily catch the eyes of their target audiences. Variations of these concepts are continuing to seep into the marketing plans of more and more brands, which will have an impact on where the trends head next. Marketers need to stay on top of the industry to predict how to be successful.

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Josephine Sabin is a marketing communications manager at DesignCrowd, a global marketplace for design services.

LinkedIn: Josephine Sabin

Twitter: @roneo

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  • by Krystal Rush Tue Sep 9, 2014 via web

    I love graphic design as well as digital marketing so this article was extremely interesting and insightful for me. I'm looking forward to using some of these tips in print and digital marketing projects that I am working on!

  • by Josephine Sabin Wed Sep 10, 2014 via web

    Thanks for the comment, Krystal. Glad those 5 design trends inspired some fresh thinking for your projects. Good luck!

  • by mushroom cloud Wed Sep 10, 2014 via web

    wow! i really dint noe "radiant orchid " existed!..thanks for d info :)

  • by srirang Thu Sep 11, 2014 via web

    Great article, it helped me a lot to design a landing page. Thank you very much.

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