Some say 2020 is the beginning of new decade. Some say, it actually is the last year of previous decade. One way, or another, upcoming year will be for sure intense, and a little bit insane with US Elections, UK brexiting, planet Earth burning even more, and Tokyo Olympics streaming from everywhere.
Cutting through this mess will be tough job, but not impossible.
Here are three key trends, which we believe will shape visual trends in 2020.
A new creative year is starting to grow the rocketing speed, and it’s time for us to take a look back, remember and analyze what we are meeting it with. Perfect time for the traditional review of what’s been popular in design. This one will be devoted to graphics and illustrations and packed with tons of design examples. Let’s get started!
One of the trends in graphic design that really evolved this year is line art. Based on the popularity of clean and sophisticated outline graphics and typography, it moved to the next level, presented with more and more line illustrations and artworks integrated into branding, web design and printed stuff.
As for digital illustration, the year 2019 let the trend of broken proportions get even more solid positions. It started getting established last year, yet this year it achieved the amazing diversity of styles, plots, exaggeration or tinification, and visual metaphors. Such an approach is definitely effective in setting visual originality, wished so much by brands. Still, to be done harmonically and beautifully, it requires real artistic talent from the illustrator: to break the rules, you need to know them perfectly!
This year brought lots of graphic design examples and digital artworks based on dynamic compositions. Perhaps, the fact-pace modern world dictates that trend: we see more and more characters and graphic elements moving, running, flying, swimming, cycling, doing anything except standing still.
Illustration devoted to the theme of UX design instantly transfers the feeling of speed and races
3D Art and Animation
The trend of graphics in volume seems to reach more and more popularity this year, covering multiple design tasks and goals. No wonder: 3D art gives depth and realism where it’s needed, allows designers to step beyond the limits of two dimensions and sets solid connections to the objects of the physical world.
Visual noise seems to be one of the most popular visual effects in illustration this year. It instantly makes the digital artworks cozier and adds natural vibes to digital art.
The Winter Olympics illustration shows how visual noise effect changes the artwork style and performance (up – without noise, down – with noise)
This year digital art appears to step much closer to high arts than ever before. One of the ways to do it has been integrating the elements of surrealism into illustrations and branding. It definitely gives the outcome that is quite specific and out-of-the-box, so both artists and brands should be ready for all kinds of feedback. The comments and emotions on it can be either positive or super negative, yet there’s one thing for sure: nobody will stay indifferent. Isn’t that what people and brands strive to get?
Another popular way of adding classical art to graphic design is the primitivism direction. Yes, those illustrations that are referred to as “my kid can paint better”. Anyway, the ones that do understand that particular art direction, make fun and enjoy the best sides of primitivism integrated into digital art.
Digital illustration reflecting the creative approach with primitivism vibes
Artistic digital illustration with the vibes of primitivism and surrealism
Flat Lay Art
Although we can hear that flat lay has lost its positions in photography, graphic design and digital illustration seem to not care about that. It may be inspired by the best food-photographers that still make special art of flat lay evolution, elaborate and high-quality pictures of workspaces, and many other factors. Anyway, due to a variety of tools, brushes, and textures, flat lay has got a new breath in illustrators’ artworks this year.
Nothing seems to be more harmonic and clear to the human eye than geometric shapes and patterns. This year, geometry continued establishing itself as an integral part of digital art and branding. Creative combinations and lovely patterns based on it are also very effective in creating emotional background and mood, considering the psychology of shapes.
Geometric motifs used in title image for the blog article about visual dividers
One of the most debatable and popular themes of recent years is living with respect to nature and love for our planet. Sure, design and arts responded to it diversely. As a result, we observe the growing popularity of nature motifs and themes in identity design, artistic elements added to user interfaces for web and mobile, illustrations and animation.
Negative space has always had great artistic potential, but it’s not the skill that’s easy to tame. This year it got trendy in both logo design and illustration, making identity and visuals artistic, unique, and eye-catching.
This symbol has been designed for Aviar, the company that deals with flight rights protection. The designer created an elegant and bold symbol playing with visual metaphors of a plane and shield combined with the power of negative space.
Limited Color Palette
As well as in user interface design, the domain of graphics made a step to creative experiments withing limits and restrictions. Color as the most expressive and emotional factor of graphic design, for sure, took the top position in the rating of limits. So, more and more graphic designers and illustrators choose to provide their designs within a very limited color choice or even monochromatic palette.
The artwork performed in limited and muted color palette setting a particular mood and emotional background
Expressionist Shadows and Contrasts
Another popular trend in the digital illustration is visual expressionism achieved with high color contrast and exaggerated shadows. The artworks of this kind are always catchy and atmospheric. Perhaps, that’s the reason why such an approach is especially broadly presented in illustrations featuring landscapes, architecture, and interiors.
Deep shades, long shadows, and harmonic contrast accents in the digital illustration sharing the vibes of isolation and melancholy
Expressive color accents making the winter look even more white and fresh in the artwork
Pastel autumn vibes in the expressive illustration playing with light and shadows
Recently presented Procreate functionality for animation may amplify the presence of one more popular trend: animating some details of static illustration instead of making everything move. Animating only some details, designers draw viewers’ attention to the specific elements or zones, let us concentrate on something significant, make illustrations more playful and lovely.
Lovely winter illustration adding liveliness and mood with the animated snow, winking, and pattern on the sweater, yet leaving the background absolutely static
Glitches are still in fashion this year, so they are quite often presented in typography animation to catch even more attention to the most important detail or message.
Glitch effect applied to promo graphics by Tubik designers for Designmodo
Logo and Identity Motion
Motion applied to brand elements has been growing its presence for this year. Animated logos and identity details make brand UI-friendly, add more interactivity, and allow designers to add more emotion to the brand image.
Hypnotizing and futuristic logo animation for the platform producing and supporting AI-based conversational user interfaces and bots. Motion allows for making the smooth curves of the brand sign even more expressive for digital interactions.
Let’s open the new creative year hoping it will be even brighter, smarter, and obviously beautiful in the spheres of graphic design and digital art.
New year resolutions are everyone’s favorite thing I’m sure. But researching and knowing where to take a product’s creative direction should be on a to-do list before just going ahead and doing solely what has been done so far.
Trends take new turns often enough that a product can be rendered outdated pretty soon, and this is why we, at Imaginary Cloud, decided to go ahead and make a list. Yes, another one, but stick with us on this: we’ve selected only the most visually relevant and summed it down to the top 7 trends you need to watch in 2020.
1. 2D & 3D illustration
As mentioned in a previous blog post, illustration acquired a new weight in our digital products.Even the best looking stock photos won’t do anymore, and flat animations are counting their days too. This doesn’t mean one should go super complex to make it work, but consider all the incredible stylistic references an illustrator / designer has at their display. Hand-drawn, 2D, or even 3D are very viable styles to take into account today. As you can see from the website examples below, creatives had no fears when adopting styles that have definitely steered out of the normal day-to-day UI illustration, and it went very well for them.
We should also take into account that illustration too is entering a period where the demand is high enough to the point where stock vector illustration is the fastest solution to an urgent design. But that too is falling into the same stylistic choices everyone else is making, meaning stock vector illustration’s most common style’s days are counted and it’s definitely not a longer term solution. Thinking outside the box is pretty much always the way to go, just notice how much of a difference it makes.
If you wish to take it one step further, animating those same illustrations will take you a long way too. It feels less like a placed “stamp” when even idle illustrations have their own flair of movement, nothing too major.
Of course nothing should stop a design from going all out when trying out something more dynamic, as the above examples have done so very well. But it should take into account the noise it might be creating that can distract the user from more important information, especially when talking about text-dense pages.
3. Fullscreen smartphones & mobile first
System and hardware changes on both IPhone and Android resulted in the disappearance of both on-screen buttons and screen borders.
Apps go all the way to the sides, top and bottom edges of the screen, considerably increasing the size of the interface.
The industry is so obsessed with it that new frontal cameras are pretty much obliged to disappear or be placed somewhere else, just not in the screen! And designers have been using that space in more and more interesting ways both on a UI and UX level too. Take a look at the following images.
Interesting, right? Thanks to this absence of buttons that take away screen space, gestures became crucial for the navigation within and outside our mobile apps. So consider having shorter on-boardings that won’t bore new users and force them to skip, so you can easily let them know where the hell they should swipe to get where they need to.
4. Longer color palettes
Your brand doesn’t need to be so restrictive concerning color palettes anymore. Two to three colours will prove to be too repetitive for the current taste. Dropbox, as you can see, for instance, has been doing it for a while, and Figma took follow too.
Of course there is a system and style guide to it, the colours are not picked at random, it’s just that now, what used to be a 4 or 5 colours palette, will give place to much more diverse color palettes that make sense and represent your brand in an established and harmonious way fashion. Depending on the subject or environment a specific screen is trying to convey, different colours taken from that big palette will be used.
5. Oversized fonts
Make it efficient – bold and huge text will go a long way when creating a first impact of a product, depending on how relevant the sentence is. And it doesn’t need to look aggressive or used solely for landing pages, one can go the extra mile and use it for menus too, if that’s a viable choice.
As you can see from the following examples, adopting huge font sizes gave them the graphical impact of urgent-looking posters.
Once again though, the pitfall is having text that is so large that obfuscates any other elements that guide the user deeper into the experience, and we don’t want that.
6. “Broken grid”, asymmetrical layouts
Remember how brutalism was becoming a viable style even for more commercial and established brands? This style has come to stay, at least for a while. Grids are flexible and don’t need to be super rigid as the user has become more and more proficient with the ins and outs of digital products. The truth is that pages become a bit less predictable and more interesting to read, as the following concepts exemplify.
The key is taking from the more “extreme” examples and adapting it to the products needs, when possible, unless the product is establishing itself as cutting edge – in which case, experiment and test – we don’t want anyone getting (too) lost.
7. Neuomorphism design
Material Design came along and brutalism was its counter-reaction. But those principles of material design were meanwhile also taken to the next level through pushing graphical objects to a whole other ambition of realism.
A button looks like a real-life button and minimalism helps to an aesthetic that is actually new and usable.
It’s not an easy style and does benefit from some spatial notions, but it doesn’t actually require the designer knowing 3D modelling.
The following artists decided to explore the come-back of skeuomorphism whilst fitting the current colours and ambience that are expected from certain types of products. The results were incredible.
Let’s address something though: this is not a quick style to make, highlights and shadows have to be on-point so that the elements actually look like how they’d be in real life. And it’s hardly one of those situations where one design element fits all, but surely designers will come up with quicker ways to achieve these effects.
To wrap things up
At ImaginaryCloud, we feel like there’s plenty of new stuff to be excited about in this coming year. Designers and product owners alike can start looking at their work with a new spirit of trying something new that stands out in the market, as new trends should always be a motivation to go further in what comes to stylistic choices. Who knows, maybe our explorations will build upon what’s being done and set the new trends for 2021. One can dream.
Welcome to 2020, the dawn of the new decade. and us designers need to stay on top of the latest design trends and be ready to adapt and evolve our style through time.
These are design trends curated for you by our Vectornator designers:
Create the trend, don’t follow it
First tip, make sure to always keep a twist of your style and art in your creations; don’t let any design trend distract your inner artist from creating what’s in your head.
After all, rules are made to be broken, so do not consider these trends as a necessity.
As 2020 signals a new decade, we can expect designers to start exploring new areas in design, breaking rules and reaching new grounds. Here is what we think the main trend will be in 2020: Thinking outside the box.
Future is now:
Although it feels like 2015 was yesterday, arriving to 2020 seems too hard to believe. Designers can overshoot the future is now theme and use forward thinking, complex designs that signal: “The future is today”.
For example: 3D designs, material rendering, Purposeful 3d animations are all going to be big trends this year. This will depict real life materials and objects in your art. And there’s nothing that screams future more than realistic materials, liquids, fabrics and crazy renders that feel so good to look at.
“This is the year where 3D objects will be stamped everywhere onto our 2D Designs”
With less time spent looking at images on average everyday and new design trends will aim to catch the user’s attention, to be more straightforward and eye-catchy to the user.
With that, hero images will again be present this year. Humans decode images faster than text and this will help direct the user’s short attention span to what’s important. It can also highlight and direct users to call to action buttons and increase overall engagement.
With hero images in the spotlight again, digital illustrations will be more popular than ever. So get Vectornator on your iPad and prepare to draw a lot of beautiful, modern illustrations for your next website or design project to catch eyes and get the retention you need.
To be more specific, Internet culture. Yes, Internet culture will impact design this year. your design decisions and next poster idea need to consider the current internet environment and see what’s trending. The rise of memes surely became a worldwide staple and many industries have jumped on the hype train and used Internet (meme) culture to their own benefit.
The concept of meme advertising has already been adopted by many brands across the internet. With each brand twitter account tweeting memes that get far more interaction than a regular ad or post they used to make. For example, Elon Musk or Netflix’s twitter account use memes to promote and push their social influence even further.
Memes can certainly be a designer’s nightmare as most of them break so many design rules that make my eyes burn.
Yes. They are cheap, streamlined and fast to make. However, these meme formats, the typography, and imagery got so familiar that it will start influencing today’s design.
So go ahead and duck-tape a banana to a wall and you got yourself a new poster for your next art gallery.
With that, we predict fast, meme-inspired designs to start showing up in 2020. as they have proven to be effective in marketing. This also means that design trends will be fast, and ever-changing every few weeks. As most memes have short life spans than regular design trends.
Last year, Internet culture made its way to fashion design and dominated fashion week and it’s only a matter of time for memes to take over graphic design culture.
Dark themes started to prevail right after software companies started adapting dark UI modes last year, with Apple’s iOS13, macOS Mojave, and Google’s Android 10, most software platforms have joined the dark side. Giving the user the option to choose which side to take. Adaptive lighting modes started trending last year. But now with iOS13, expect dark-mode to be a default thing to include in your next user interface design.
Evolution in hardware can be the main factor in software evolution. If we look at the progress and product design trends of devices released in the past year, we notice that most phones have lost their borders and thick bezels. iPhones have no buttons anymore and android phones even lost the notch with cameras that pop up from behind.
Apple’s new 16inch Macbook gets one inch closer to a full-screen design by shredding the bezels and increasing real estate.
In result, on screen device designs and mockups should move towards full-screen smartphones that are bezel-free, edge to edge and future-looking. Hiding these borders and visuals like the notch will put more focus on the interface that is presented in the mockup and will have a cleaner, more minimal look.
This is a huge opportunity for your website to meet consumer expectations. Plus, it’ll help separate you from your competition. Your website exists for several reasons:
To attract qualified leads
To showcase your offer and position it in the market
Let your audience know how your offer is going to change their lives
It shouldn’t be something you threw up on the internet because someone said you have to have a website. If your content is good but the design is bad, your website is failing at its job.
First Impressions Only Happen Once (Surprise!)
Many times, your website is a potential customer’s first experience with your business. You have half a second to capture their attention. And 94% of that first impression is related to the design of your website.
Your website should instantaneously let them know they can trust you. Plus, good web design will encourage them to stick around. They’ll want to click through your site and see what you have to offer.
Awful Usability Pushes Potential Customers Away
When’s the last time you visited a website only to hit the back button a few seconds later? Maybe the text was too small to read or eight different popups bombarded your screen.
Consumers expect a website that’s clean and easy to navigate. If they can’t figure out how to close your opt-in popup, they’re going to click away.
Guides visitors through with clear calls to action
Is mobile and tablet responsive
And builds credibility with readers
Are You Falling Victim to an Outdated Website Design Trend?
New technology and consumer expectations drive changes to how websites look and operate. What worked in the past may not be the best practice today. Like fashion and consumer goods, website design trends change and evolve every day.
As you read, think about your website and how you can improve user experience. Because at the end of the day, that’s what website design is all about.
The need for mobile-first design becomes more vital as the world switches to browsing the web on the go. If your website isn’t designed for an excellent mobile experience, you’re not doing your business any favors.
Action item: Visit your website from different mobile devices. Make sure it looks good and is easy to navigate across the board. If it isn’t, update your design.
2. Opt-in Popups (Hint: They’re Annoying)
In reality, 70% of people think popups are annoying and intrusive. Think about the last time you were reading something online and a popup distracted you. Odds are, you didn’t enjoy the experience.
It’s no secret that popups are good for conversions and getting people on your list. But, are you willing to sacrifice user experience for the sake of increasing your conversion rate by fractions of a percentage?
The magic isn’t in the number of people on your list. It’s in the number of those people who read and care about what you send them. If someone wants to join your list, they’re going to find a way to do it.
They don’t need a popup covering their entire screen to convince them. And if they do, they aren’t the right people for your list.
Action item:Decide if having a popup is worth it. If it is, make sure it’s easy to close and doesn’t appear every 30 seconds. If not, remove it.
3. Missing an SSL Certificate
SSL certificates are a sign of trust. Whether you’re asking for personal information on your site or not, visitors expect to see an SSL certificate.
Firewall and virus protection programs show a warning before allowing users to view sites without a certificate. This isn’t good for user experience and will likely push visitors away before they take a step inside.
5 years ago, this didn’t matter. But today, SSL certificates are easy to get and install. Because of that, they’re an expectation and demand rather than a “nice to have”.
Action item: Make sure you have an SSL certificate installed. If you don’t, contact your hosting company and ask them to install one for you.
4. “Sticky” or Floating El
Sticky (floating) elements stay on screen as the user scrolls down the page. They usually appear as:
A menu bar at the top of the screen
Social media buttons along the sides or bottom
Before mobile became the most popular form of browsing the web, floating elements worked. Desktop and laptop screens are big enough that they didn’t diminish usability.
But, on small screens, they tend to get in the way.
Action item: Consider disabling floating elements on mobile devices.
5. “Above the Fold” Design
In the early 1990’s, scrolling was a new concept. Because of that, web designers needed to put ALL the important information above the fold. Today, scrolling is a learned behavior.
Most people expect to scroll. And because devices aren’t the same size, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all dimension to design for. It’s still good practice to include a call-to-action above the fold.
But, there’s no need to overload the space with information.
Action item: Make sure you have one clear call to action above the fold. Make it obvious what you want your reader to do. Move the rest of your information below the fold.
6. One-Page Design
One-page design means everything is on your home page. They work well for some businesses including brick-and-mortar shops, startups, and personal websites. But, they’re not a good idea for most.
It’s bad for SEO – there’s no internal linking between pages on your site
Your website analytics won’t actually tell you anything
Your sitemap is unclear and doesn’t make sense from a coding standpoint
Consumers expect to visit more than one page to find what they need
You’ll end up sacrificing content and important messages to save space
Action item: If you’re using a one-page design, consider changing it. Add important pages and move relevant content to them.
7. Bad Coding Practices
Coding for web design gets more complex every day. And if you’re not a coder, it’s hard to understand how everything works together. People spend years learning the in’s and out’s.
So, no one expects you to know it all. But, knowing the fundamentals of HTML, CSS, and web development is essential for:
Knowing how to optimize your site’s code
Improving site speed and removing irrelevant scripts
Moving code around to improve the user experience
Optimizing for the user experience
Altering your site layout without hiring a developer
Action item: If you don’t know how to code, consider hiring a web developer or taking a course. We recommend the Pluralsight Python course to help you get started.
Is Your Website Living up to Consumer Expectations?
Website design trends are changing as quickly as they come. Go back and make sure your website isn’t falling victim to any of these outdated practices. Your visitors will thank you and your business will flourish as a result.
Interested in learning more about web design? Browse our blog to learn more about optimizing your website, coding for the web, and growing your business, today!
We’ll start this story with a disclaimer: It’s hard (impossible, really) to encapsulate all of the aesthetic whims that happen over the course of the year. Yet, as design writers part of our job is to think about the stuff we see and make connections to figure out what it all means, as best we can, anyway. Trends occupy a particularly fraught place within that remit. For starters, what does a trend even mean? Must a critical mass be achieved before the anointing happens? Does it have to tie into culture at large? Who gets to decide what qualifies as a trend, anyway?
We like to think of trends as a snapshot of a visual moment that’s swelled to the point of semi-ubiquity—at least in our small corner of the world. It’s not always easy to define. Sometimes trends are limited in scope but expansive in significance. Other times they feel almost omnipresent. This year, we charted a handful of aesthetic moments that felt ripe for calling out. Dive into them below.
In the same way technology is inescapable, so too are these illustrations that populate so many of the digital interfaces we see on a daily basis. In this piece, Rachel Hawley explores the ubiquity of the Alegria illustration, which she aptly describes as follows: “The incessantly joyful cartoon people are never static. They’re always in motion, dancing, painting, running, or hugging one another with the expanse of their oversized limbs arching away from their bodies like giant wet noodles.” Hawley tracks the rise of the trend, which likely started with Facebook, to its current day prevalence as the common visual language amongst technology companies. She also digs into the why these flat illustrations are everywhere—is their popularity a byproduct of replicability? Is it about the “everyone welcome” nature that technology purports to promote? You’ll have to read the piece to find out.
Not every trend deserves a deep cultural analysis. Sometimes something is deemed a trend by its sheer aesthetic qualities and the number of people who deploy it. In our new series “Spotted,” we take a breezy look at some of the graphic trends we’ve been seeing everywhere. The first installation was on “liquid metal,” a distinctly computerized look adopted by everyone from Jessica Walsh to Jonathan Castro. The look’s origins are hard to trace, but it’s definitely part of the acid graphics scene (keep reading for more on that). We’re betting that liquid metal has already reached peak popularity—give a trend a name, and it’s bound to die—but log onto Instagram, and there’s no doubt you’ll stumble across the shiny metal effect that runs like water.
Speaking of Acid Graphics, our all-things-music-and-design editor Emily Gosling penned an eloquent ode to the genre in the “Distraction” issue of Eye on Design magazine. In it, she takes us through the cultural history and etymology of the word “acid,” tracing its visual lineage from the 1970s to rave culture to our current fascination with blending futurism and nostalgia. Emily notes that this new style, popularized by people like David Rudnick, is “tinged with irony and a darker sense of humor.” And indeed, the style does evoke a rave-like feel with all its bright colors, contrasting backgrounds, and illegible type. The style is found most often in the music world, on record sleeves and posters, but it lives just as naturally in editorial design, branding, and pretty much anywhere that wants to speak “youth culture.”
Graphic design’s aesthetic intent is often watered down by client concerns. You know, things like legibility, consistency, and other practical factors that determine its return on investment. This isn’t the case for design grad schools, where every so often the expressiveness alone is enough to validate a design’s existence. In this piece, Emily Gosling looks at how grad school show design often leads the way for a trend to break into the mainstream. Free from the grips of consumerism, students and faculty are allow to play with ideas and form. What comes out of those explorations is often visually exciting. In the case of Yale’s Open Studios event, students Bryant Wells, Julia Schäfer, and Orysia Zabeida hit a trifecta of on-trend design choices with their monochromatic identity that Emily describes as “blobby and kinetic.”
Pantone might say the color of the year is classic blue, but we’d wager otherwise. Lately, it seems like the neon green hue, dubbed “terminal green,” is everywhere—across books, posters, and editorial spreads. Once you see it, it’s hard to miss. To be perfectly honest, this trend is hard to miss period thanks to its eye-searing brightness. The acid shade of green has its roots in technology, though it feels utterly modern. As designer Sarah Boris told us of her choice to use the color on a recent book design: “If neon green helps us get the message across then it’s a winner.”
Design trends posts are like art directors — practically guiding your hands on the mouse. This year, we’re doing trends different, by focusing on what actually matters. From accessibility to truth, no-code to role, these are the web design trends to focus on if your definition of beauty includes functionality, accessibility, and psychological safety.
Each year, I share my take on the web design trends that will shape the coming year, often incorporating the opinions of my fellow designers at Webflow, as well as those of well-known names in the broader design community. I’ve always included a mix of concrete design details and interaction models as well as higher-level concepts, which helped fill out my self-imposed constraint of adding one more trend than the number of the year (19 web design trends for 2018, for example).
This year, I’m breaking the mold.
Because 2020 is going to be a different year for design, to my mind. A year when we’re all going to focus a little less on this layout, that color scheme, and whichever nifty animation mode caught our eye last week, and instead consider the deeper underlying concerns of design.
So I’m ditching the same ole design specifics we see year after year (broken grids, anyone?!) to focus on the bigger picture. To ask far more significant questions like:
How do we design to make information clear, while still making it easily consumable?
How do we make design universal, ensuring that no one feels excluded or erased by our decisions?
And, perhaps most significantly, how will a new generation of tools, built upon a paradigm that’s simultaneously brand-new, yet old as spreadsheets, change not only the way we work, but also what we produce?
But more on that last point later. Let’s dive into the 9 web design trends we’ll see in 2020:
1. Designing truth
It’s no secret that we’ve entered what many are calling the “post-truth” era, with myriad instances of deepfakes, misinformation campaigns, and outright lies popping up, gaining viral traction, and ultimately shaping the decision-making of millions — all too often driven by prominent individuals who will here go unnamed.
The major social media platforms have each come out with policies — and in some cases, designs — to account for this new flourishing of untruths.
Facebook has decided that it simply won’t intervene with political untruths. To support its stance, the platform has cited everything from the First Amendment to the FCC’s similar stance on political advertising on the TV. Conveniently forgetting that it is neither a) the government (the one that’s actually restricted from censorship by freedom of speech) nor b) the increasingly anachronistic technology that is television.
Facebook’s been (apparently) trying to combat fake news on its platform since 2015, doing so in classic Silicon Valley iterative design style. It first tried to encourage individual users to flag content as “false news” — an odd half-borrowing from President Trump — then by marking some stories as “disputed” — which, according to what it called “academic” research, backfired by reinforcing some users’ belief in the content — then, most recently overlaying the content with a straightforward notice reading:
Checked by independent fact-checkers.
The overlay also provides a prominent CTA to view the fact-checkers’s findings — as well as a secondary button to go ahead and view the false content.
At present, there’s still no plan to flag paid political posts as false.
One interesting thing to note is that Facebook started trying to remedy sharing of false information only after it was shared — the original poster was given no alerts to the fact that the content they wanted to share was disputed. They’ve amended this in subsequent designs to be more proactive in alerting the original sharer — but it’s still intriguing that the notifications focus on the fact that there’s “additional reporting” on the content.
This strategy focuses on encouraging what we call “curiosity clicks.” This encourages engagement with the information, but that’s also its flaw: you have to care enough that there’s “additional reporting” to click through. As a content designer, I have to wonder if it wouldn’t be more effective to name the fact checkers and pull a significant quote on the content. Snopes, for example, does a great job of highlighting what the specific claim is and giving it a straightforward “true” or “false” (with a range of fuzziness between) rating.
Twitter has taken a rather more straightforward (and cheerworthy) stance of simply disallowing political advertising on its platform. Though as many people have commented, it’s just not that easy. All kinds of misinformation “earns” its way into our feeds daily, a reality that Twitter seems to have done little to nothing to address.
We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought. Why? A few reasons…?
In the end, what really matters here is not so much what the major platforms are doing to bring clarity and trustworthiness to their platforms, but what you might do to bring more of that into your own work.
Here are a few thoughts on doing that:
Label more prominently and clearly
In a 2016 report on a Stanford study of students’ ability to determine the veracity of information found online, the Wall Street Journal stated:
Some 82% of middle-schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and a real news story on a website, according to a Stanford University study of 7,804 students from middle school through college.
Much of the “optimization” of ad formats like “sponsored content” has gone into … well, hiding the fact that they’re ads. Just look at the name: “sponsored content.” On a content-driven site, that simply implies that the content was “sponsored” by someone, much as race car drivers are sponsored by various corporations.
The reality, of course, is that these are ads, even if they’re not as direct as banners. And we should label them as such.
And it’s not just our language that could be clearer. Our design work could use some improvements too. Just look at the screenshot above (taken on Dec 3, 2019). Every single story in that shot is a piece of sponsored content, hosted on a different website, but seamlessly integrated into Slate’s own homepage.
The title font for the native news articles and the sponsored stories is the same. But note what’s quite different: the font size and location of the “author.” In the native stories, the author’s name is set reasonably large, above the title. You definitely still see the title first, but the author name cries out for your attention in these real stories.
The sponsored posts, on the other hand? The “author” — or brand, actually — is set much smaller. The fact that the “author” is listed as a brand, rather than as an individual writing for the brand, is telling as well: While we have someone to follow up with (or blame or praise) for real reporting, the sponsored stories are attributed to faceless brands.
Perhaps even more significantly: note that the real articles are practically emblazoned with a category title (e.g., News & Politics). The sponsored stories? Oddly lacking that prominent header.
Make sources more obvious
In the world of journalism, you’ll often hear the mantra:
Consider the source.
Which is not something most students do these days, according to the study:
Many students judged the credibility of newsy tweets based on how much detail they contained or whether a large photo was attached, rather than on the source.
And while that maxim is stressed to young and aspiring journos as a core practice, it could also help us designers help the rest of the world out. What if, for example, every organization’s Twitter profile included a link to their Wikipedia page, or a Google search of their name? What if publications featured an about page that clarified their political stance, history, management, and funding sources? One better: what if they linked to independent commentators on the publication?
These, of course, are just ideas — if nothing else, prompts to consider more deeply how we might encourage readers to act more like journalists and consider their sources in a more objective manner.
But we can also consider carefully the criteria young students are using to evaluate credibility, and encourage our social media teams to make updates information-dense, and pair them with large, engaging graphics.
Finally, and to bring this closer to home for web designers crafting publishing experiences (that is, any designer who works on a site with a blog, case studies, etc.): consider making your authors and their credentials much more obvious in your content-driven experiences. This can not only boost your site’s credibility and give readers a point of contact, but also arm readers to better evaluate your authors’ content. A thoughtfully curated list of contributors then becomes a marketing asset, akin to the list of blurbs on every mass-market book cover.
Use “related content” to provide context and contrast
Related content — a familiar content pattern often appearing in the middle or at the end of blog posts and news articles, often under a heading like “You might also like…” — gives designers a powerful tool for adding easily accessible nuance to a reader’s understanding of a topic.
How? By ensuring two things:
That opinion pieces are contextualized by the stories they comment on, or by contrasting opinions
That news stories get additional color through the opinion pieces through the pieces that comment on them
Using related content to provide extra context on fact- and opinion-based pieces helps work against our age’s increasingly obvious preference for “bite-sized” information. Bite-sized data helps us quickly get a basic understanding of issues in a world fraught with issues — but it also means that we often lack a nuanced understanding of said issues.
When we rely solely on our favorite “influencers’” hot-takes on Twitter, we start to look a lot like a pitchfork-and-torch wielding mob, all too ready to take one charismatic voice for the font of truth. But the more that content creators and designers can point readers to extra information and contrasting opinions, the more we can encourage nuanced understandings that rely more on information and reason than on emotion.
To sum up:
Label your content types clearly to help readers create a mental model of your content and better distinguish between organic and promotional materials
Contextualize and promote your sources so readers know where your content comes from and can better evaluate its credibility
Use related content to add context and promote nuanced understandings of topics
All the above said, it’s worth remembering that misinformation isn’t a fixed target, a fact captured beautifully by Tom Rosenstiel, director of the American Press Institute and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution:
Whatever changes platform companies make, and whatever innovations fact checkers and other journalists put in place, those who want to deceive will adapt to them. Misinformation is not like a plumbing problem you fix. It is a social condition, like crime, that you must constantly monitor and adjust to. Since as far back as the era of radio and before, as Winston Churchill said, ‘A lie can go around the world before the truth gets its pants on.’
Which is to say: if you want to play a role in fighting misinformation in 2020, prepare for the long haul, and be ready to update your strategies and tactics as the information landscape continues to change.
2. Accessibility is (finally) key
Before I dive in here, I have to offer a confession on behalf of Webflow: We did not build Webflow with accessibility in mind. But we’ve recently hired two accessibility specialists and formed a team around the effort to make accessibility a first-class citizen in Webflow. Stay tuned for more on that.
Web accessibility — the practice of ensuring that websites and web applications are usable by everyone, regardless of their abilities — has long been a vital part of the web design and development process in mature organizations. Particularly in governmental and publicly funded institutions, where Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance has long been a legal requirement.
But with high-profile cases like the Domino’s lawsuit and others gaining broad notice, the writing is on the wall: soon, all websites will be required to meet ADA requirements — making accessibility a compliance issue, not just a “nice to have.”
And while I don’t want to overplay the impact this will have on our profession — as numerous relatively minor interventions in our processes and skillsets will have significant impact on the accessibility of our products — I don’t think we can afford to underplay this fact either. Because while relatively small efforts will have significant impact, the changes required of us to make more accessible sites will affect literally every step of the design process, and the workflows of every participant in that process.
Don’t believe me? Check out Vox’s accessibility checklist, which outlines the ways every web professional, from designers to QAs to editors, can contribute to building more accessible websites and applications.
But the work of accessibility requires far more than checklists and automated checks via browser plugins. Because much of the work of accessible website design can’t be checked via software. And because web design, outside of web app development, is essentially all about publishing, accessible web design means reconsidering the ways we publish too. If we create videos for the web, we need to consider captioning, transcripts, and other non-visual equivalents we can offer. If we host podcasts, we’ll need to think about how we can make our content available to those with low or non-existent hearing. If we publish infographics and charts, we’ll need to think about how we can make the content of these mediums available to those who can’t see them.
And designers, long used to relying on visual formats and low-contrast aesthetics to do their work, will have to stretch to account for this more inclusive paradigm. We’ll have to think long and hard about the limitations of visual formats not only for the differently abled, but for those for whom visuals aren’t nearly as transparently legible as they are to designers (myself included!).
Blind spots abound in the design process, and these holes are often based on our disciplines. As a writer, I often find it difficult to account for those with a less broad vocabulary, as well as those who prefer visual formats. (Even the turn of phrase I opened this paragraph with could be seen as ableist.) Designers, similarly, tend to overlook the value and power of a single sentence, especially when paired with an equally powerful visual.
The reality is: we learned our skills in a context that assumed there was such a thing as a “normal.” That you could apply your skills to communicate to “everyone” in your preferred format because “most people” can process your preferred format just fine.
But the fact is that is much as 26% of the United States’ population experiences some form of disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And as Microsoft has so eloquently communicated via their inclusive design content, 100% of the population may experience temporary or situational disabilities. And the fact is that none of us are getting any younger, and the older we get, the higher the chance we’ll experience a more or less permanent disability becomes.
There is no health; physicians say that we At best enjoy but a neutrality.
–John Donne, “An Anatomy of the World,” 1611
The world (and its advertising) may turn around the healthy and young, but we can no longer afford to design solely for them.
3. Content gets its due in web and product design
That many designers (and therefor finished websites) can’t accept the fact content is more important than style.
Well written words in plain HTML w/ decent typography will always perform better than a pretty site with poorly written content.
I’ve been a content professional working on the web since 2006, and in those (almost) 14 years, one debate has defined my experience of the profession:
Does design or content come first?
This so-called debate has never failed to flummox me, for several reasons. And it’s incredibly relieving to me to see that designers are increasingly coming to understand what has always seemed obvious to me: that the “content,” or rather, the “message,” has to come before the design. Because, otherwise, there’s literally nothing to design.
On the other hand, this debate is confusing and frustrating because, in reality, it’s not even the real question. Neither content nor design come first. Because you really can’t create content or design till you have a strategy. And you can’t have a strategy until you have a goal: a purpose that the thing you want to publish should fulfill.
To clarify this, I like to point back to web design and publishing’s predecessor: print publishing. Before you can design a book, you need a book to design. And before you can write a book, you need a point: an idea or truth that you wish to convey to your audience.
It’s important to point out here that a website is not, in fact, a book. Its material expression, functionality, and distribution are vastly different than a book. But in terms of purpose, a book and a website are very much the same: they both exist to convey information to an audience. (No, I’m not talking about web apps here.*)
The core difference is that the website hopes to gather some information from its audience in exchange for the information (or functionality) it offers: typically, an email, that uniquely modern key to an individual’s identity, and to communication with that person.
But to get, you have to give. You need to offer some value, and even the teams behind the world’s most popular digital products realize that quality content makes for an incredible source of value, allowing you to draw the attention of even those your product (isn’t yet) for.
Of course, content isn’t just blog posts. (Nor is it just words, but that’s a whole other post.) Content also plays a key role in your product’s overall user experience, and increasingly, platforms are feeling the pain of getting content wrong.
Here’s an example I ran across just the other day, on LinkedIn (where I once worked, for transparency):
Notice anything? I sure do! And I could go on and on about the flaws of this interface, but I’ll restrict myself to the single most important one:
What the heck do I do if that’s not my “correct” or “active” email address?
I’m being asked to take action on this information if necessary, but there’s no obvious way for me to do anything but “remove” my phone number! The content and the interface are completely misaligned, ensuring that — at best — LinkedIn might get an accurate, current phone number from me.
But, ironically, what this UI does best for me, the user, is to remind me that LinkedIn has my phone number (why tho?!) and, better yet, give me a chance to dissociate it from my profile. (I originally wrote “delete it from their database,” but a colleague rightly pointed out … it almost certainly doesn’t do that.)
I’m just going to guess that wasn’t their goal.
But I’m not here to complain about LinkedIn’s content. I’m here to stress the centrality of content to the overall user experience of any digital environment. Hopefully the above does the trick, but to reinforce my point, here are a few content-related highs and lows from 2019:
Nothing has made me want to cancel @Dropbox more than the condescending, passive-aggressive use of “Oops!” to mean that *I* have to change something.
Most telling, perhaps, is the increasing prominence of content strategy and UX writing in the brands of some of today’s most recognizable brands. Just look to the design publications and publicly-shared design systems of brands like Facebook, Dropbox, Google, and Shopify and you’ll see the word content — and its dedicated creators — getting their fair share of name drops.
*But a content-first viewpoint still has dramatic effects on web apps: Just look at Twitter, where a single content decision — limiting character count — has done everything to define both the glory and horror of that platform.
4. Inclusivity matters
We designers, for all our focus on empathy, remain human beings. We aim relentlessly to take others’ views and experiences into account through user research, critique sessions, A/B testing, and myriad other methods. But at the end of the day, we’re all subject to a very human propensity: an unconscious assumption that what works for us will work for everyone else.
Just look at the language we use every day: Reach out. I see that. We hear you.
We assume these phrases are universal — equally meaningful to everyone who hears or reads them. We blithely conflate the concrete, sensory basis of these phrases with their emotional register and intent.
But it’s a faulty assumption. The blind cannot see that. The deaf do not hear you. Those with cerebral palsy may struggle to reach out.
Of course, inclusivity is about far more than accounting for disability. It’s about accounting for difference. It means that we can’t limit ourselves to “male” and “female” when we ask someone’s gender in a form. It means realizing that a “happy Father’s day!” email won’t mean the same thing to the child of a deadbeat dad as it does to one who grew up in a “normal” nuclear family. Hell, it means realizing that even the one from the “normal” family might have a bad relationship with their father — or have, not a father and a mother, but two mothers.
To enjoy and find value in a product, an individual needs to see themselves reflected within it. Without that glimpse of themselves, what a person sees instead is a refusal. The message is: you don’t belong here.
Designing for inclusivity — and ultimately, for UX — then means making space for our audience within the products we build.
I want to expand on that link between inclusive design and user experience design. Because I think that inclusivity — which is ultimately the idea that we should treat “others” not as others, but as part of us — is built right into the very notion of user experience design, and I want to take a moment to explain why.
Let’s start by looking at Peter Morville’s “user experience honeycomb”:
The honeycomb aims to depict the interlinked characteristics that form a user experience — good or bad. The overall user experience is a gestalt — a sum total — of all these facets, arrived at via a kind of mental math we perform automatically and without deep consideration of the individual values we might assign to one or the other.
Note that each is a characteristic in the eye of the beholder. And who the beholder is, whether “us” or “other,” isn’t part of the graph. That is: the honeycomb doesn’t say who the product is credible, valuable, accessible, etc. for.
We can, of course, assume that the beholder is “our audience”: the group of people we most want to appeal to and turn into paying customers.*
Now, audiences may seem homogenous insofar as, for, say, a web design platform, all members of the audience are interested in designing websites. But that’s one, relatively minor, characteristic when we look at the whole of what makes up a human being.
Within that seemingly homogeneous crowd there’s a multitude of identities. Different races, creeds, religions, gender identities, gender expressions, socioeconomic classes, family backgrounds, cultures, and dozens of other facets of selfhood — they all want to build, manage, and grow websites.
Therefore, excluding people exhibiting any one particular flavor of any of those backgrounds poses a threat to the overall user experience. Which translates directly to a business risk — especially in the modern day, when a single tweet can mobilize massive numbers of people to either lionize or villainize a company. (Or, let’s face it: both.)
Exclusionary design, then, has a direct impact on not only the user experience, but also the bottom line.
Of course, you could argue that being inclusive poses its own business risk, in that it might alienate your more conservative users. But when you look at the size and prominence of companies that are now more than happy to take “progressive,” inclusive stances on any number of issues — from LGBTQ pride to toxic masculinity, it’s pretty easy to see the writing on the wall: These businesses have done the math, and they’ve come to the conclusion that the reward of inclusivity far outweighs the risk.
I would, then, posit that the definition of user experience design should be:
The practice of designing experiences to be as useful, usable, findable, credible, accessible, desirable, and valuable as possible for any user, regardless of their identity.
When we set out to design for others, we often end up designing for ourselves. (Especially when we do so without the constraints of a framework or design system.) We can, of course, make assumptions about who we’re designing for, and more specifically, who we want to design for — but our biases still lead the way.
It’s important to note that this isn’t a recrimination. We can’t avoid biased thinking because it’s been built into us from day 1 and become largely unconscious. What we can do is to work to consciously limit or overcome our biases. That’s what makes user research so fundamental. Without exploring the differing viewpoints, cognitive habits, and identities of our audiences, we end up designing to fit our expectations — and for every web professional, that’s a weakness.
Writers will tend to assume that written content is the most likely to be effective. Designers will lean heavily on the visual and/or interactive. And devs and engineers … well, my biases prevent me from easily filling in that blank.
Point is: when we stretch beyond our boundaries and defaults to incorporate others’ perspectives, we strengthen our work, making it more accessible and comprehensible to others. Which makes it that much more likely to work well for everyone.
*Because, of course, UX design is, as most commonly practiced, a capitalist discipline. Capitalism being, of course, a political philosophy.
5. The no-code revolution has arrived
No big deal. Just over 10 billion results.
When it comes to democratizing the power of software, it’s hard to think of an industry making more of an impact.
–Caleb Kaiser, Growth at AngelList
If you’re at all aware of Webflow, you know that we’re all-in on no-code, a new way of thinking about web and software development that’s ditching the traditional coding paradigm, in which code can only “properly” be produced in a text editor, written by hand, in favor of a new visual modality.
The reasons for our enthusiasm for no-code are many, but they’re ultimately driven by a desire to make coding accessible. Not simply so that “everyone can code,” of course, but so that everyone can enjoy the power to bring their ideas to life.
Instead of taking the coding bootcamp or early-childhood coding education route, we’re redesigning the very way that code is made.
In other words, we believe it’s time to refactor coding itself.
You don’t have to look far back in history to find analogous transformations. Just look back to the first graphical user interface (GUI) itself.
Before the first GUI, computing was keyboard-driven. The primary user interface (UI) was the terminal — a primitive text editor where computer users literally “told” the computer what to do through an arcane language of commands and responses. This interface model required a great deal of knowledge of its users, meaning that truly savvy computer users were few and far between. (And yes, those of you just returning from the Thanksgiving onslaught of IT support requests from computer-illiterate family members: it was worse back then.)
This also limited computers’ applicability to real-world problems. Sure, they sprang up in all sorts of high-knowledge environments, but they were anything but the ubiquitous engines of knowledge work they’ve become today.
Then came the mouse (along with almost a dozen other game-changing technologies), introduced in what’s now known as the “Mother of All Demos.”
As the demo’s Wikipedia page puts it, this demo sparked the revolution that would transform computers from mere “number-crunching” tools into “communication and information retrieval” hubs. And while it would take years for this demo to turn into a functional reality, that reality is what made computers sufficiently accessible to a sufficiently large population to make them the definitive technology of the 20th (and now 21st) century.
No-code now aims to take that sea-change a step further by empowering an even broader swath of people to not only use computers, but to build the software that makes computers so powerful, without coding it.
In 2015, we began to take that mission a step further with the launch of Webflow CMS, a GraphQL-powered database and publishing tool that gives designers and developers the power to create custom schema — then design around those data fields — visually.
Here in 2019, database management and publishing tools like Webflow CMS have become the core of all kinds of powerful web-based applications, and we couldn’t be more excited to lend our voice to the continued revolution that is no-code.
Of course, we’re far from the only no-code tool out there. So we’d like to take this opportunity to shout out to our fellow travelers in the no-code future:
6. The rise of the visual developer
Of course, technologies mean little without the human beings who use them.
And so, to parallel the wave of no-code tooling comes the rise of the no-code tool user, or, “visual developer.”
Just as the desktop publishers who used tools like Microsoft Word/Publisher, Adobe InDesign, and other tools may have known little to everything about picas and PostScript, visual developers may be anything from code experts to pure novices — but they’ve learned to master the machines of translation that turn design decisions into functional code.
At the time of writing (December 16, 2019 — a slow time in hiring), 135 jobs mention Webflow. And we’re just one visual web development tool!
In doing so, they act as force multipliers to the traditionally trained coders who have built websites and apps for decades, and continue to do so. They automate tasks that used to take tedious hours of manual work. They transform static wireframes and mockups into fully functional web experiences that not only present content to visitors, but then take in visitor’s data, pipe it into email service providers and customer databases, and nurture them into leads and, ultimately, paying customers.
And most concretely, in modern web design workflows, they enable brand, growth, and marketing teams to move much, much faster. In one dramatic example, they turn the website update cycle from an 8-year process into an 8-minute one, as car-sharing startup Getaround’s Camille Esposito told us in her No Code Conf talk, “Taking back your website.”
As the no-code landscape becomes more and more mature and powerful, we expect to see “visual developer” becoming as common a sight in job postings as “web developer” and “web designer” are now — and in the latter case, we can honestly see “visual developer” taking their place entirely.
7. Design has its seat at the table. Now what?
Sometimes the UX/design industry is so focused on fighting for a seat at the table that when they get it, they don’t know what to do. A seat means little without a vision and plan. Getting the seat isn’t the win. The win is in getting to do the hard work that comes next.
Ever heard the phrase “careful what you wish for”?
Design has been pushing for a so-called “seat at the table” — that is, a voice in higher-level decision-making at companies — for years now. And increasingly, we’re seeing that happen. At least, according to the zeitgeist. Every day, more and more articles suggest that design is the key differentiator at [insert hot startup name here]. Design-focused content seems to be gaining more and more prominence in popular culture, with documentary series like Abstract popping up in watercooler conversations almost as often as [insert whatever the kids are watching these days here]. Every time I grab a seat in a cafe, the word “UX” resounds around the room at least half a dozen times every hour — granted, I live in the heart of UX country, but still.
And yet, how much traction has design really gained in the top echelons of businesses? The question wells up in me every time I see another Facebook scandal grabbing headlines, or hear the latest on the Domino’s accessibility lawsuit. I wonder about it every time the question or Uber or Airbnb’s impact on communities pops back up in the Twittersphere.
The thing is: it’s a false question. Design has always and already been at every table in “The Business.”
Thing is, the *real* design decisions, the ones like, say, allowing lies in advertising — they aren’t being made by people who call themselves designers.
They just don’t call themselves designers. Or, in some cases, value the things we’ve come to expect designers to value. They aren’t necessarily fighting for users, or even trying to balance user goals and experience with business value. In many cases, the business value — i.e., shareholder gains — is what’s truly paramount in their minds.
Now, this isn’t meant as an excoriation of these folks. Without wading into the morass of ethics, I get why they’re focused on shareholder value, and why evocations of “freedom of speech” tend to crop up in their arguments (misplaced as they are).
It’s merely intended as a corrective. “Design” as such doesn’t need a previously unassigned seat at the table. What we’re often arguing for is instead a different view of design. A principled and conscious approach to the design of systems (i.e., businesses) that takes into account the myriad other systems each business impacts, from the political landscape to the local housing market.
So, to return to Amy’s point above: the thing to focus on while you’re fighting for your seat at the table is the development of your strategy for making use of that seat. And to my mind, a key starting point for the development of that strategy is the acknowledgement that design is very much happening at that seat. It’s up to you to, in the words of Mad Men’s Don Draper, change the conversation about design that’s already happening there.
Because, like it or not, everyone truly is a designer. (Yep!) But more on that in the next section.
Or course, as Maxim Leyzerovich notes here:
Only organizations that have real and deliberate strategies for the challenges of:
• remote/distributed work • diversity & inclusion • product-driven design • manager vs IC roles • experience leveling • ethical practice
will be the best-positioned companies to work for.
Design’s gaining of a seat at the table isn’t purely a one-sided affair. Both brands that want to give design a seat at the table and the designers who want to give it one need to be thinking about how design will thrive within an organization if it wants to attract and keep talent.
And, in confirmation of design’s potential to positively influence “from the table,” each of these things aren’t design-specific — they’re necessities for any modern org, which will shape perception of a brand for any professional, but also for the broader public.
So, if you’ve been fighting for a seat at the table, it’s past time to be asking yourself: What are you going to do with that seat?
Speaking with the voice of experience here: org design is an incredible — and fun — challenge. Working in the media of identities and careers is far more dynamic than pixels.
8. Role is not identity
Is everyone a designer? Yes, just as everyone is a writer.
(Trust me: I’m a professional writer. And the more I try to deny others that role, the higher my stress levels and the harder my work gets. The more I include other writers’ perspectives, regardless of their individual skill levels, the better my work tends to get. Though it sure does make line edits more complicated.)
The difference between you, titled designer, and any other person who designs without the title, is not one of kind, but of degree. Writing and design are skills, not identities, so “being” a writer or designer is more like occupying a spot on a spectrum. (A lot like gender, ya know?).
The difference is in skill level, primarily, but also in education and context. Just because we all design doesn’t mean we’re all good at it.
The important thing to realize, however, is that your role is not your identity. Not who you are. The claim that a writer, lawyer, or product manager designs shouldn’t feel like a threat to your identity not only because it’s simply a skill, but because it’s not your identity.
The problem with overidentifying with a skill — with considering it a part of your identity — is that your identity can then be threatened by all sorts of small attacks. Whenever your work is criticized, you become the subject of that criticism. Whenever a “non-designer” (or non-whatever) applies their skill better than you did, you were outdone not in skill, but in identity. Makes you wonder if this sort of overidentification has a part to play in our industry’s ongoing struggle with impostor syndrome …
But actor Sam Neill says all this much better than I. So, over to you, Sam:
The wonderful Sam Neill talks openly about mental health in the acting profession and how the constant rejection combined with ‘imposter syndrome’ can be completely crippling.
You are not alone. We’re all in this together. Be supportive. Be kind.
And I know we’re all excited by excited by excited by that.
A vision for web design we can all (hopefully) get behind
When I read back over this post, I for one can’t help but feel a stirring of hope. Because these 9 trends all suggest a future for website design that I can’t help but love.
A web design devoted to helping people understand what’s true and what isn’t. A web design for all, regardless of ability, or identity. A web design that’s inclusive of creators who do things a little differently — that is, code visually.
None of this is going to be easy. There will be pushback. There will be those who don’t want to sacrifice numbers for the sake of making principled stands.
We bet you’re curious to know what turn the logo industry will take next year! We’ve put together a short yet insightful overview of the most relevant logo design trends that are expected to reign supreme in 2020. An exciting trip to the future design is about to begin.
Out of an ordinary trend, simplification has developed into an established philosophy. It’s as clear as day that this artistic approach is here to stay. A clean composition renders the logo more versatile and practical. As a result, a minimalist design remains perfectly legible across all kinds of backgrounds, even the most challenging ones. Note how major brands are gravitating towards minimalism, stripping their designs of excessive words, lines, and colors. This is a sure sign that simplification is a logo design trend #1 – and by a big margin.
Fresh Take on Geometry
Chances are that you’re fed up with rigid geometric forms like squares and rectangles. Rejoice because the year 2020 is about to bring you some relief! Designers will be shifting focus from angular geometry to delicate circles, ovals, ellipses, and other similar forms. If you’re passionate about mosaics, you’re sure to like the experiments inspired by the low poly style.
With each coming year, it’s getting increasingly hard to create engaging text-based logos. Luckily, typography offers an enormous playground for experiments. While finding an unusual way of drawing the familiar letters and digits takes a great deal of imagination, the final result is totally worth it. Breath a new life into an old school font or invent your own typography solution from scratch. Either way, you’re guaranteed to have an exciting creative journey!
The unique thing about gradients is that they pair extremely well with almost any trend. Our prediction is that the power of gradients will soon start to fade away. However, in 2020, gradients will be shining as bright as ever. Prepare to see mesmerizing neon shades on minimalist designs.
If you’re skeptical about pieces with plenty of white space, you’re sure to like this next trend. According to experts, cluttered logos will be the signature feature of the 2020 design scene. The trick is that the abundance of elements conveys the feelings of security and reliability. This is especially true for geometry-based emblems. If you want to forge trust with your target audience, you know what to do!
The chaotic arrangement is yet another bold trend that is rebelling against conventional norms. If you want to showcase your company’s innovative personality, don’t be afraid to add a drop of chaos into your logo. Surprise your audience with unexpected graphic solutions! Avoid going too far, though, otherwise, you risk transforming your design into an unreadable mess.
One of the best ways to bring your customers’ attention to a specific part of your logo is to highlight it. In 2020, instead of saturated hues, try to use other techniques to distinguish the selected letter or graphic. For example, you can apply scaling, draw thicker lines, add shades, etc. Highlights look particularly good with text logos, rendering them more solid and visually stable.
Modern designers are putting a lot of effort into reinventing text logos. What do you think about letters consisting of geometric figures or their parts? This original technique has been gaining momentum for some time now. Get ready to see this trend refashion the logo design industry because it’s expected to go full scale in 2020. Our advice is to combine geometry-based letters with gradients and highlighting.
Although the global design community is taking a course towards simplification, detailed emblems are showing no signs of receding. However, the year 2020 will make its adjustments to this persistent trend as well. In the upcoming year, emblems are going to lose a part of their intricacy and sophistication to become more concise. This change aims to make emblems airier and, therefore, legible. If you’re looking for a way to show your brand’s appreciation for tradition, a neat emblem won’t let you down in that regard.
The last design technique on our list can be traced back to the lost fragments trend. When using text destruction, you’re intentionally leaving your logo unfinished. To achieve the desired visual effect, you can use fading lines, semi-visible shapes, etc. Text destruction is all about hints and guesses. When looking at an incomplete piece, the viewer can’t help recreating the missing parts in their minds. This genius method works like a magnet, spurring the imagination of your audience and making them memorize your logo. In 2020, playing games with the audience will become the next big thing!
That was our take on the biggest logo trends of the upcoming 12 months. The Logaster team is excited to see how the year 2020 will change the graphic design universe. Also, we hope our forecast will guide you in creating a heart-stopping logo for your brand!
About the author: this is the guest post by Dmitry Leiba, the content marketing manager at Logaster, online brand builder. He possesses hands-on experience in writing about technologies, marketing trends and branding strategies.
Twenty design trends for everyone in the world of user interface and experience to watch(out) for in twenty-twenty.
#1 Meaningful value
As technologies progress and give designers and developers these insanely powerful tools, the tech culture switches the conversation towards meaning and narrative rather than emotion and sensation.
Falter Inferno by Wild. A depiction of today’s living hell, daring you to take a look in the mirror.
Gestalt theory implies that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When we are solving a business problem with design, we are contributing to something bigger than a company’s wellbeing.
Affecting people with products is a responsibility beyond judicial. Social impact is gaining momentum and what the company represents while doing its job is as important as the quality of the product or service.
Why you do something will be more important than what you do.
#2 Astonishing animation
There is a misconception that complex animation is hardware dependent to the point where it makes no sense to produce it for the mass run by sluggish processors.
Turns out, there are products capable of outperforming industry standards written for slow hardware without relying on hardware manufacturers. GreenSock is such a company. They make plugins and dev tools for interactive animation. Somehow they optimize the process of implementing interactive projects to work on nearly any device “efficiently and buttery smooth.”
Motion tells a story better than words. With better tech like TweenMax and WebGL, it will become about putting substance into the animation. For a lot of design companies, us included, it’s an uncharted terrain but it’s cool to finally get quality animation into masses. This will lead to bullshit saturation and an inevitable purge.
Time to make a move. Literally
#3 Asymmetry & split screen
The block layout is a classic. It reflects an easily digestible flow of information when the concepts have defined boundaries. It caters to the sense of completion and just helps understand the structure better. Blocks mean symmetry. However, there’s an asymmetrical trend that is always there but never makes it to the mainstream. Especially with today’s wide desktop screens.
We feel like the coming year is when asymmetry makes another comeback. First, everyone is used to dealing with multiple tools all battling for the screen estate. We feel comfortable with split-screen setups and this principle is making its way into single-platform layouts as well.
What was originally a utilitarian approach to give two separate information blocks in one screen, now becomes a visually appealing way to present any type of information just because. The queen of asymmetry in 2019 is Zhenya Rynzhuk. Excited to see her progress. Give her a follow.
#4 Low-key gradients
The general design trend technology is gearing towards is automation, AI delegation, less is more and everything of that kind. It’s not to write about those anymore. However, the visual elements attributed to that kind of design are making its way into what is still a heavily-human job.
One of those is subtlety in colors, also, simplification and reduction. The idea that is something is smart and automated brings the light and dreamy tinges.
Doesn’t mean all the colors have to be of the same palette. A bright out of place color element conveys the effect even better.
Tone it down.
#6 Human writing
The progress of the UX writing trend from the past two years set the standards high for writers in design. The term “UX writing” itself will fade as any product writing for the people is UX writing.
Text does not accompany design, it’s a part of it. Context matters, author matters. Text is as important as what happens after it – the picture is a reader’s mind and their action. Human writing allows a reader to judge, choose, and relate to the product.
The original message and the user-oriented edit. Inspired by Maxim Ilyahov.
Visuals are stronger than words. Combing fast-loading controlless videos integrated into layouts is a good way to liven up the experience. Content is king and the way it gets delivered plays a huge role in the impact it makes.
Blending the content means building a wholesome experience on your terms. Later, we’ll talk about tailoring the experience based on user’s behavior but the ultimate trend is a website that does not consist of screens, illustrations, and videos. It’s the composition of all.
“Ensure it feels like it’s made by humans, for humans.” – Stefan Sagmeister
A designer’s kryptonite is development. Sometimes we design things that are impossible to implement within a specific timeline or budget, or team. Some designers learn to code and become “dangerous” because they know enough to argue but not enough to actually make it.
This dichotomy has to end in 2020 and because of tools like Webflow, the future is here. Basically, it’s a visual tool that allows you to design whatever you want as long as it can be done in HTML and CSS. Every pixel move is a code change, which makes this approach a perfect way for designers to start coding.
Webflow ecommerce website made in Webflow. Design by Ryan Morrison.
When everything is gearing towards interaction-based design, it gets harder to explain how the interaction should work and look. The importance and the need for a visual tool like that are hard to overstate.
Be a “dangerous” designer. Mingle with code.
#10 Empty space
When elements fight for attention, none of them is getting enough. When there is a spotlight on one element, it gets all the attention. Depending on the message the UI is delivering, it’s important to give it some space, to let that message sink.
There are micro and macro empty spaces, text and paragraph spaces, they can be active and passive, and all of them scale. There is a pragmatic aspect to it, as we tend to process condensed information longer and with less comprehension.
Surrounding the idea with empty space is a way to make the idea stand out. Now let’s make sure what stands out is worth it.
Nothing is something.
#11 Heavy renders
While it’s hard to imagine a designer whose default behavior does not involve a vector set of icons and an “our advantages” block, the upper crust of the industry is taking it back to simple scenarios and stellar renders.
Stunning Apple AirPods Pro presentation/landing page.
To present a product or a service in 2020 more companies will use super-detailed images of products and people using those products.
Hi-definition renders emulate a near-tactile experience which is one step away from a purchase. Even though there are possible load time issues, with the right technologies and varying UX in place, things can get ugly.
So real I can smell it.
#12 Varying UX
Just like there are different types of temperament, there are different types of behavior online. For a long time, we only used to cater to an average user in an average context with an average engagement level.
We are capable of changing the experience for an infinite number of people based on their behavior on sight. Modern analytics allows us to determine who you are dealing with: a just-browsing wanderer, an uncertain lead, or a determined hero. Depending on the amount of time they spend on a screen or the scroll speed, a website behaves differently.
The Apple website shows or crops iPhone 11 Pro based on how you scroll.
It will take an aggressive stance on user research and might not be an option for service design but brand designers will have the experiences tailored. That means understanding the scene, the mood, and the repercussions of the actions a user is taking.
Teach your designs to understand context.
#13 Mobile browsing
The PWA movement channels the gap between apps and the mobile web. The same functionality can be accessed in two ways which obliges designers to build consistent UX patterns.
One of the ways apps and mobile websites are different is the latter need mediation – a browser. 2019 is the year when the first real mobile-first browser, Cake went viral.
Comedian Esther Povitsky demoing the Cake mobile browser.
Technically it’s an app from the AppStore that is set to liberate users from apps. But what it does is provide a familiar app-like experience when using search engines and browsing websites. PWAs are here to stay and with support of mobile-friendly browsers, we can expect more of them to actually hit the market.
Embrace the swipe.
#14 Typographic overlap
It’s the extension of the bold typography trend. The overlapping poster-based headings are an alternative to sound. You can deliver a message in a specific tone with this and in a graphically attractive manner.
Orkestra home page headings overlapping the images.
Products that deliver custom experience is the ultimate trend of the coming year. There are proven conversion methods and prerequisites for specific goals but if we think about supporting a brand with powerful visuals, we can utilize all the website assets, navigation being one of them.
Corphes website has inverted navigation urging you to climb the peak instead of going down.
Navigation can contribute to the effect if it gets logically woven into the story. There are two types of navigation elements: visible and hidden. It’s important to design navigation relying on how the information flows.
2ndstreet navigation menu repeating the positioning of the page title.
Navigate the effect, not its residue.
#17 Full-screen visuals
Unfolding the social-media-induced central alignment of content is a challenge on multiple levels. First, the center of the screen is where our eyes naturally gravitate to, second, we play a safer bet by placing significant content in the middle of the page, however there are benefits to utilizing the entire estate of the page.
Brand Studio website home page is a peephole into a crazy world.
For a chance to create an immersive experience, it makes sense to show that the screen estate is just a portion of the visible content. This encourages users to explore further and potentially reduces bounce rate.
Shimane Misato from Japan is an interactive full-screen story about something.
The depth of the full-screen experience depends on and can only be limited by the effect you are producing. It makes sense for complicated issues and socially significant problems where it’s important to put a person into the right context.
Fishing Feed website is taking you into the depth of the fishing industry problem.
Don’t build walls, tear them down.
#18 Data visualization
Because the technologies that make stunning interactive experiences possible are getting more accessible, marketers can build their whole strategies around visual data. To show is better then to tell but if you can tell and show, it’s the ultimate narrative.
WebGL and 3D is a powerful combo if there is meaningful data to display. Anything that picks data is a source. All we have to do is filter it, find the most impactful ones, and take them for a ride.
This is Autoneum visualization of automobile acoustic management. It’s a science and this certainly makes it look like one.
Data visualization is not only charts and graphs designed into a digestible piece. Depending on what the user may appreciate, we are free to select data sources and present them in a graphic way.
Visualize what matters, not what’s available.
#19 Uninterrupted UX
Need a product? Click here and visit this page. Need to see more pictures? Click here and scroll. Want some reviews? Click here and check out the bottom section. Wanna buy? Click the cart icon, then go to the Checkout page, bring your credit card, oh but sign up before that, fill 27 text boxes, agree to Terms & Conditions, get an email invoice, track your order, boom it’s here.
Every step of this process is urging you to doubt your purchase intention and bounce off. Every box you have to fill takes from your time doing something else. The motivation has to be high as a kite to go through a generic buying online procedure. And it can be, because people know how to market things these days.
And what if all a website needed from you to ship a purchase, was your intention. One button to control it all. Mobile is tapping into that by integrating payments into simple gestures and face IDs. The web is yet to see the rise of this trend.
Bike Configuration by Den Klenkov is a stunning example of a buying experience weaved into exploration and trying the product out.
Technology is under an obligation to humanity for being negligent about privacy. The only way to fix it is not by shying away from personal data but actually putting it to use for a better purpose. A user does not have to speculate whether they can entrust you with their personal information. If you are asking for data, it has to be embedded in concrete that it will stay safe. And it’s on us. Our job is to take a user’s intention and turn it into delight. Whatever we are using to do that is okay if it stays within the boundaries of ethics and aligned with the modern requirements of security.
The internet runs on cookies. Without them, it’d turn into shit. Geolocation will be next. Uninterrupted UX starts where sensitive information is touted as a trade sacrament, not a commodity.
It’s not only about buying. Any user objective has to be treated that way. If you won a battle for attention, you are not allowed to lose the battle for satisfaction.
Don’t interrupt a person who wants to give you their money.
#20 Some dignity
Technological hype train keeps everybody on their toes. In the quest for immediate adulation, we start forgetting what brought us into the industry and that’s years of studying, bumps, bruises, and some sort of expertise earned.
By blindly jumping on the hype train, we neglect that for a handful of Dribbble likes, features and reposts. Design trends are cool but own opinion is better.
Quick test. Scroll your creative account down one year. How many bottle-cup type things have you found? Guarantee the same will be with the Cybertruck a year from now. If it makes you cringe, most likely it was done for the hype. There’s nothing wrong with making money but designers are remembered for being different. There’s no recipe for success but there is a benefit in looking for it.
I’ll end with Marty Neumeier’s quote from The 46 Rules of Genius: An Innovator’s Guide to Creativity:
“Creativity is the discipline you use when you don’t know the answers when you’re traveling to parts unknown. On this type of journey, missteps are actually steps. Every mistake brings you closer to the solution.”