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.
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.”
The holidays are here! That means search marketers everywhere are putting the finishing touches on strategies to make the most out of the next few weeks, the most important stretch of sales for many businesses.
However, don’t go into the holiday shopping season without reading up on these key trends which might help wrap up your strategy a little bit tighter.
Google Shopping will likely be the star of retail
It should be absolutely no surprise to retailers that Google Shopping is incredibly important to paid search success, and I’ve written about its rise manytimes over the years. This continues to be the case today, as Google Shopping accounted for 48% of all Google search spend in Q3 2019 for Tinuiti (my employer) retail advertisers. Advertisers should once again prepare for Shopping to play a key role during the winter holidays this year.
However, this Q4 and the months that follow will be an important time for both Google and advertisers in determining just how long Google Shopping can continue its torrid pace of growth, as we’re beginning to lap some shifts that happened at the end of last year that significantly drove up Google Shopping traffic.
As you can see from the chart below, Google Shopping click growth jumped from 41% last Q3 to 49% in Q4, and while growth has remained strong since, there has been a steady deceleration.
As has long been the case, phones in particular are driving much of the Google Shopping growth, and in Q3 2019 clicks grew 36% on phones compared to 27% overall.
The leap last Q4 coincided with an explosion in Google Shopping impressions, as Google seemed to prioritize Google Shopping over text ads. The impression growth was most pronounced on phones, where impressions increased 127% Y/Y in Q4 compared to 81% in Q3.
Some of this increase can certainly be attributed to newer, growing Shopping variations such as Showcase Shopping Ads, which produce advertiser-specific listings for more general searches.
The queries that trigger these ads tend to be about 20% shorter in terms of character count than the queries triggering traditional Google Shopping listings. While character count is far from a decisive metric with regards to determining how general or focused a search is, it does indicate that Google is finding shorter queries which likely include less product-specific qualifiers that it’s now showing Showcase ads for.
However, the impressive Shopping growth that occurred at the end of 2018 wasn’t just a matter of Google finding additional spots to throw Showcase ads, as true traditional Shopping listings also saw an explosion in growth. Taken together, the evidence points to a significant expansion in the share of search queries producing Google Shopping results.
All of this is to say that it’s unclear if Google Shopping has another big push like the one we saw last Q4 in it, or if Google has more or less used up its powder with respect to expanding these ad units to the extent observed at the end of 2018. As such, advertisers shouldn’t be shocked if Shopping growth is slower during the holidays this year than last year.
Nor should we be surprised if Google once again finds a way to push growth back up as it has so many other times. After all, the surge last year was unexpected, and Google’s latest additions of image search and YouTube inventory as well as additional Showcase-eligible product categories may help in a potential rebound.
Regardless, a rather large player you might have heard of stands ready to steal some Shopping clicks from under the tree.
Amazon poised to play Grinch more so than in past years
Much like the importance of Google Shopping, it’s difficult for U.S. retailers to be unaware of the trillion-dollar website in the room – Amazon. Even still, many retailers might be surprised to know just how dominant the e-commerce giant has become in Shopping over the last year.
This is most apparent when looking at Amazon’s Shopping impression share in apparel through Auction Insights reports. As of last October, Amazon was only barely visible in Shopping results against apparel retailers in the U.S., but that has changed rapidly.
Amazon’s impression share is now more than double what apparel retailers saw last December and has held steady for the last three months. In addition to impression share gains over the last year in other categories such as home goods, furniture and electronics, all signs point to Amazon more fully flexing its might in Google Shopping this holiday season.
Of course, given Amazon’s choice to take a couple days off from Shopping during Prime Day, it’s probably unwise for anyone outside of its paid search team to espouse confident opinions on its likely Q4 strategy. But the foundation seems laid for a bigger holiday presence than ever before.
What’s a competitor to do? There’s not much in the way of Amazon-specific advice for competing in Shopping, as competing with Amazon looks a lot like competing with any Shopping advertiser.
Stay on top of the queries triggering ads and funnel traffic effectively using keyword negatives. Keep feeds up to date and out of trouble by responding quickly to any warnings from Google Merchant Center. Take advantage of Shopping variations like Showcase ads and Local Inventory Ads (for brick-and-mortar advertisers) to ensure ads are eligible to show in as many different types of relevant scenarios as possible.
On the last point, Local Inventory Ads (LIA) are a nice differentiator for retailers with physical stores, since Amazon can’t offer the same in-store options. However, Amazon’s impression share is just as strong against LIA campaigns as traditional Shopping for many brands, so don’t think it won’t be lurking for searches with local intent as well.
Speaking of local intent – it’s time for my favorite paid search trend of the year.
Searchers turn to Maps for the Turbo Man dash
When it’s down to the Christmas wire and shipping cutoffs have left the prospect of getting a gift delivered in time shaky, many shoppers are forced to physical stores to make sure Jamie gets the right action figure.
This is readily apparent when looking at the share of Google text ad clicks which are attributed to the “Get location details” (GLD) click type, which comes predominantly from Google Maps according to Google. The chart below shows daily share for one national apparel retailer from last holiday season, for which GLD clicks accounted for 14% of all text ad traffic on 12/23 – the biggest daily share observed between November and December. A close second was Christmas Eve, with 13%.
These figures can vary significantly by advertiser, but the general trend of GLD clicks spiking in the lead up to Christmas relative to other days of the year is very common among brands with a brick-and-mortar presence.
In terms of accounting for this, advertisers often look to results from last year to determine if they overspent or underinvested on particular days. If a brick-and-mortar brand were to only look at the online conversions attributed to ads in assessing the value of traffic on the last days leading up to Christmas, the picture may not provide a true representation of the value of that traffic given the huge offline intent on these days. This is true throughout the year for brands with physical stores, but made more glaring in situations like last-minute holiday shopping.
Given the way the calendar falls this year, last-minute shopping is likely to be hugely important.
Shortest holiday season since 2013 will make for a time crunch
The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas will be a full six days shorter this year than in 2018, and we haven’t had a Thanksgiving occur this late into November since 2013. As such, the race will be on for both consumers and brands alike.
History offers us a helpful test on the effects of a shorter holiday shopping period in the form of a 1939 decision by FDR to move the Thanksgiving holiday one week earlier at the request of retailers who hoped to drive more revenue from the holiday season. 23 states immediately adopted the new date (the third Thursday of November), while 23 others stuck to the original fourth Thursday of November. Two states chose to celebrate both.
After the holiday season, businesses reported that total consumer spending was similar across states that adopted the earlier date and those that stuck with the later date, indicating a longer period between the two holidays didn’t produce more spending. However, the distribution of sales revenue throughout the holiday season was different between the two, with the bulk of holiday shopping occurring in the last week before Christmas for states with the later date compared to evenly distributed throughout the holiday season for those celebrating the earlier date.
Using this as an indicator for how shopping might shake out this year (though there may have been one or two major developments in retail since 1939…), the shorter holiday season shouldn’t in and of itself reduce holiday-related sales for retailers. However, the last week ahead of Christmas might be especially important this year.
Most importantly, the U.S. settled on the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day once and for all in 1941, meaning marketers will only have to deal with one Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And for that, I am thankful. Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
More about retail for the winter holidays
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.
About The Author
Andy Taylor is director of research at Tinuiti, responsible for analyzing trends across the digital marketing spectrum for best practices and industry commentary. A seasoned marketer with 9-plus years of experience, he speaks frequently at industry conferences and events.
The Technology Radar is a snapshot of things that we’ve recently encountered, the stuff that’s piqued our interest. But the act of creating the Radar also means we have a bunch of fascinating discussions that can’t always be captured as blips or themes. Here’s our latest look into what’s happening in the world of software.
Race for cloud supremacy resulting in too many feature false starts
As I’ve written about previously, Cloud is the dominant infrastructure and architectural style in the industry today, and the major cloud vendors are in a constant fight to build market share and gain a leg up over their competitors. This has led them to push features to the market — in our opinion — before those features and services were really ready for prime time. This is a pattern we’ve seen many times over in the past, where enterprise software vendors would market their product as having more features than a competitor, whether or not those features were actually complete and available in the product. This isn’t a new problem, per se, but it is a fundamental challenge with today’s cloud landscape. It’s also not an accident — this is a deliberate strategy and a consequence of how the cloud companies have structured themselves to get software out of the door really fast.
The race by each cloud platform to deliver new products and services isn’t necessarily going to create good outcomes for the teams using them. The vendors over-promise, so it’s “buyer beware” for our teams. When there’s a new cloud database or other service, it’s critical that teams evaluate whether something is actually ready for their use. Can the team live with the inevitable rough edges and limitations?
Hybrid cloud tooling starts to take shape
Many large organizations are in a “hybrid cloud” situation where they have more than one cloud provider in use. The choice to use a single provider or multiple providers is complex and involves not just technology but also commercial, political and even regulatory considerations. For example, organizations in highly regulated industries may need to prove to a regulator that they could easily move to a new cloud provider should their current provider suffer some kind of catastrophic technical or commercial problem that rendered them no longer a going concern. Some of our clients are undertaking significant cloud consolidation work to transition to a single cloud platform, because being on multiple clouds is problematic due to latency, complexity of VPN setup, a desire to consolidate in order to get better pricing from the vendor, or for cloud-specific features such as Kubernetes support or access to particular machine learning algorithms.
Such transitions or consolidations could take years, especially when you consider how legacy on-premise assets may factor into the plan, so organizations need a better way to deal with multiple clouds. A number of “hybrid cloud control planes” are springing up that may help ease the pain. We think Google Anthos, AWS Outposts, Azure Arc and Azure Stack are worth looking at if you’re struggling with multiple clouds.
“Quantum-ready” could be next year’s strategic play
Google recently trumpeted its achievement in so-called “quantum supremacy” — it has built a quantum computer that can run an algorithm that would be essentially intractable on a classical computer. In this particular case, Google used a 53 qubit quantum computer to solve a problem in 200 seconds that would take a classical supercomputer 10,000 years (IBM has disputed the claims, and says its supercomputer could achieve the result in 2.5 days). The key point is to show that quantum computers are more than just an expensive toy in a lab, and that there are no hidden barriers to quantum computing solving important, larger-sized problems.
For now, the problems solvable with a small number of qubits are limited in number and usefulness, but quantum is clearly on the horizon. Canadian startup Xanadu is developing not just quantum chips — using a ‘photonic’ approach to capture quantum effects as opposed to Google’s use of superconductors — but also quantum simulation and training tools. They point out that even though most quantum algorithms today seem a bit theoretical, you can use quantum techniques to speed up problems such as Monte Carlo simulation, something that’s very useful today in fields such as FinTech.
As with many technology shifts (big data, blockchain, machine learning) it’s important to at least have a passing familiarity with the technology and what it might do for your business. IBM, Microsoft and Google all provide tools to simulate quantum computers, as well as in some cases access to real quantum computing hardware. While your organization may not (yet) be able to take advantage of highly specific algorithmic speedups “Quantum-ready developer” could soon become popular in the way “data scientist” has in the past.
90% decommissioned is 0% saved
As an industry, IT constantly faces the pressure of legacy systems. If something is old, it might not be adaptable enough for today’s fast pace of change, too expensive to maintain, or just plain risky — creaky systems running on eBay’d hardware can be a big liability. As IT professionals we constantly need to deal with, and eventually retire, legacy systems. One cool-sounding approach to legacy replacement is the Strangler Fig Application, where we build around and augment a legacy system, intending to eventually retire it completely. This pattern gets a lot of attention, not least due to the violent-sounding name — many people would like to do violence to some of these frustrating older systems, so you tend to get a lot of support for a strategy that involves “strangling” one of them.
The problem comes when we claim to be strangling the legacy system, but end up just building extra systems and APIs on top. We never actually retire the legacy. Our colleague Jonny LeRoy (famed for his ability to name things) suggested that we put “neck massage for legacy systems” on ‘Hold.’ We felt the blip was too complex for the Radar, but people liked the message: if we plan to retire a legacy system using the strangler pattern, we better actually get around to that retirement or often the whole justification for our efforts falls apart.
Trunk-based development seems to be losing the fight
We’ve campaigned for years that trunk-based development, where every developer commits their code directly to a “main line” of source control (and does so daily or better) is the best way to create software. As someone who’s seen a lot of source code messes, I can tell you that branching is not free (or even cheap) and that even fancy code merging with tools such as Git don’t save a team from the problems caused by a “continuous isolation” style of development. The usual reasons given for wanting code branches are actually signs of deeper problems with a team or a system architecture, and should be solved directly instead of using code branches. For example, if you don’t trust certain developers to commit code to your project and you use branches or pull requests as a code review mechanism, maybe you should fix the core trust issue instead. If you’re not sure you’re going to hit a project deadline and want to use branches to “cherry pick” changes for a release candidate, you’re in a world of hurt and should fix your estimation, prioritization and project management problems rather than using branches to band-aid the problem.
Unfortunately, we seem to be losing the fight on this one. Short-lived branching techniques such as GitFlow continue to gain traction, as does the use of pull requests for governance activities such as code review. Our erstwhile colleague, Paul Hammant, who created and maintains trunkbaseddevelopment.com has (grudgingly, I hope!) included short-lived feature branches as a recommendation for how to do trunk-based development at scale. We’re a little glum that our favored technique seems to be losing the fight, but we hope like-minded teams will continue to push for sane, trunk-based development where possible.
XR is waiting for Apple
At the recent Facebook Connect conference, Oculus confirmed they are working on AR glasses but didn’t have anything specific to announce. The most recent leaks and rumors suggest that Apple will launch an XR headset of some kind in 2020, with AR glasses planned for 2022. As with many other advances such as the smartphone and smartwatch, Apple will probably lead the way when it comes to creating really compelling experience design. Apple’s magic has always been to combine engineering advancements with a great consumer experience, and it doesn’t enter a market until it can truly do that. For a long time (and maybe still today) Apple’s Human Interface Design guidelines have been required reading for anyone building an app. I expect a similar leap forward will be taken when Apple (eventually) get into the AR space. Until then, while we have some nifty demos and some limited training experiences, XR is going to remain a bit of a niche technology.
Machine learning continues to amaze and astonish, but do we understand it?
One of my favourite YouTube channels is Two Minute Papers in which researcher Károly Zsolnai-Fehér provides mind-blowing reporting on advances in AI systems. Recently the channel has featured AI that can mimic a human voice given just five seconds of input, AI that can infer game physics 30,000 times faster than a traditional physical simulation, and AI that learns to play Hide and Seek and literally breaks the rules of the game world within which it’s playing. The channel does a great job of showing the amazing (and slightly scary) advancements in narrow-AI capability, usually for problems that can be visualized and make for good videos. But machine learning is also being applied to many other fields such as business decision making, medicine, and even advising judges on sentencing criminals, so it’s important that we understand how an AI or machine learning system works.
One big problem is that although we can describe what an underlying algorithm is doing (for example how back propagation of a neural network works) we can’t explain what the network actually does once trained. This Radar features tools such as what-if and techniques such as ethical bias testing. We think that explainability should be a first-class concern when choosing a machine learning model.
Mechanical sympathy comes around again
Back in 2012, the Radar featured a concept called “mechanical sympathy” based on the work of the LMAX Disruptor team. At a time when many software applications were being written at an increasing level of abstraction, Disruptor got closer to the metal, being tuned for extremely high performance on specific Intel CPUs. The LMAX problem was inherently single threaded, and they needed high performance from single-CPU machines. It seems like mechanical sympathy is having something of a resurgence.
Last Radar we featured Humio, a log aggregation tool built to be super fast at both log aggregation and querying. This Radar, we’re featuring GraalVM, a high performance virtual machine. We think it’s ironic that much of the progress in the software industry is getting things away from the hardware (containers, Kubernetes, Functions-as-a-Service, databases-in-the-cloud, and so on) and yet others are hyper focused on the hardware on which we’re running. I guess it depends on the use-case. Do you need scale and elasticity? Then get away from the hardware and get to cloud. Do you have a very specific use-case like high-frequency trading? Then get closer to the hardware with some of these techniques.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this lightning tour of current trends in the tech industry. There are some others that I didn’t have room for, but if you’re interested in software development as a team sport, or in protecting the software supply chain, you can read about those in the Radar.
As the digital landscape continues to fragment, advertisers are looking for more ways to reach customers with one-to-one messaging that drives a lasting impact. As digital ad capabilities become more accessible and effective, both the sell-side and buy-side are shifting to embrace more advanced solutions.
In particular, programmatic advertising (digital display, advanced TV, digital out-of-home) has reached unprecedented adoption in recent years as the industry responds to changing marketplace dynamics. Powerful third-party platforms and tools have enabled advertisers to expand the efficiency and effectiveness of media programs, even as the complexity of the programmatic value chain evolves.
With all the progress of advanced digital advertising, it’s easy to lose sight of big-picture trends and insights. From enterprise consolidations that impact ad operations to recent advances in supply chain transparency, the advertising solutions of our modern digital age are vast and everchanging. But how are these changes affecting the digital ecosystem? And what can advertisers expect in adtech for the year to come?
Here are the top adtech trends rounding out 2019.
Programmatic growth continues, with duopoly dominance
Since the advent of programmatic display over a decade ago, the adtech industry has seen enormous growth, with programmatic now representing the primary method of buying digital media in the U.S, according to eMarketer. In fact, eMarketer estimates US advertisers will spend nearly $60 billion on programmatic display by the end of 2019. By 2021, nearly 88%, or $81.00 billion, of all U.S. digital display ad dollars will transact programmatically, says the research firm.
Duopoly’s growing share. By the end of 2019, the combined ad revenues of Facebook and Google’s media in the U.S. will account for more than half of advertisers’ total budgets for programmatic display, eMarketer predicts. That portion will increase in 2020, with Facebook and Google accounting for nearly 63% of ad spend next year.
Amazon steps up
Overall, digital ad spend in the U.S. remains dominated by Google and Facebook. Amazon (at 7% share) is the only seller to break out from the pack of would-be challengers.
However, even as Amazon continues to build up its advertising product, as well as the new mobile, over-the-top (OTT) and connected TV ad inventory entering the space in the coming year, the Facebook/Google duopoly will likely continue to dominate into 2020.
According to WARC’s Global Ad Trends report earlier this year, Google and Facebook’s advertising authority can be attributed back to the paid search and social ad units that marketers have found so successful. Additionally, the ease of use of these respective platforms make Facebook and Google’s ad products accessible at nearly every business scale, from SMB to enterprise.
High-quality creative is king
With the surge in digital growth, and brands have eagerly delivered on the demand for high-quality digital customer experiences. But CX has moved from a disruptive concept to a fundamental component of most digital strategies, resulting in advertisers seeking new ways to capture and retain customers.
Most digital ad experiences look, feel, and behave in a
similar fashion – and consumers have come to expect it. According to
Pattisall, many marketers recognize this issue of “sameness,” and it’s prompted
a re-emergence of creative as a fundamental priority for advertisers.
“In our pursuit to be customer-centric marketers – to answer
every customer need, want, and desire with digital – we have forgotten an
important ingredient: creativity,” said Forrester principal analyst Jay
Pattisall in a Forrester report
earlier this year.
Industry moves to ramp up creative capabilities. A blog post from CMO by Adobe cites examples of the industry shift toward more creative-focused solutions to bolster digital advertising efforts.
In recent years, Accenture Interactive has been on a creative acquisition spree, acquiring agencies Droga5, The Monkeys, Karmarama, and Fjord in an effort to advance its creative capabilities. Similarly, Deloitte has expanded its creative foundation with the acquisitions of Acne and Heat.
We’ve also seen advances in the creative tools advertisers and marketers use to support ad efforts. For example, Adobe Asset Link, the extension that connects Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) assets to the Adobe Creative Cloud, has added integrations designed to streamline creative production. and create more efficient collaboration between marketers and creatives.
It’s expected that these moves to drive up creative will trickle into 2020, with more advertising agencies advocating high-quality creative over customer acquisition numbers and statistics.
Dynamic creative optimization (DCO) continues to be a powerful tool for advertisers to connect with consumers on a global scale, providing the ability to layer user-level data with targeted messages for each purchaser. And while large-scale personalization and targeting was once prohibitively complex, time-consuming, and costly, today’s DCO solutions make it automated and simple enough to deploy for virtually any campaign.
Connected TV driving significant growth
The dramatic shift to digital is spurring a new wave of investment in connected, or over-the-top (OTT), TV advertising. With better tools to programmatically target and measure ads across all screen types – think advanced TV and targeting capabilities – eMarketer predicts U.S. advertisers will buy $3.8 billion in programmatic TV ads in 2019 – a 236% increase from 2018.
Despite the array of challenges still present in programmatic TV ((privacy, measurement, and transparency), connected TV campaigns that allow for precision targeting through granular consumer data are now more readily accessible to advertisers.
Advertisers moving to consolidate media partners
As tech continues to curve in favor of ease and efficiency, we can expect that platforms will consolidate to provide customers with more addressable solutions as the demand for ease and efficiency grows.
Laser-focused on full-funnel data. The combined data of DMPs, CDPs, CRMs, DSPs and measurement platforms fuel advertisers’ efforts to boost ROAs with personalized targeting that reaches every step in the customer journey. As a result, rival platforms are coupling up, while other platforms are seeking ways to round out their offerings in an effort to offer a more integrated data hub.
Adtech consolidation is good news for programmatic media buyers, especially since integrating multiple platforms means less coordination, and lowers the possibility of bidding against oneself.
But other adtech players have recognized that the idea of a market dominated by a small number of conglomerates could drive up costs, resulting in less control for advertisers and fewer platforms to choose from.
“Google and Facebook have a forceful hold on today’s digital-advertising industry, meaning brands can’t walk away from them,” wrote John Nardone, CEO of analytics company Flashtalking, in a Forbes article earlier this year. “There is an urgent need to start building a more open ecosystem where brands have greater choice and more control.”
Increased focus on measurement and the value of inventory
Digital advertising as we know it was built on a foundation of open standards, where no single governing body regulates market transactions. But as adtech matures, advertisers and brands are demanding more standardized ways of measuring the effectiveness of ads funneled through the ad exchange.
Likewise, publishers are making more efforts to understand the value of their ad inventory. Viewability has become a key metric that helps define the value for both advertisers and publishers.
Viewability tracks ad impressions that appear “in-view” on a screen while having an opportunity to actually be seen by consumers — as opposed to impressions served, which may load on a page but never enter the user’s view. For publishers, selling inventory on a viewability basis enables publishers to offer higher-quality inventory at a competitive cost in the market.
On the demand side, advertisers are pushing for cross-screen and cross-platform measurement standards that can inform ad serving decisions. In August, Google adopted the IAB Tech Lab’s Open Measurement standard for mobile ads, providing advertisers with code libraries for facilitating third-party access to measurement data.
“The sell-side has been adopting OM quickly, and we ask brands, agencies, and Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) to get more active and take advantage of what [Open Measurement] offers.” said Dennis Buchheim, EVP and general manager of the IAB Tech Lab, at the time of the announcement.
Apple’s iOS devices show significantly lower PMP investment, which is expected given Apple’s staunch efforts to prioritize user privacy and tracking behavior. For Android devices that operate in an open-source environment, the dramatic shift to private marketplaces indicates a mounting focus on measurement standards and authorized inventory.
Ad fraud, privacy laws increasing the value of authorized data
Fraud prevention tightens. Financial losses from ad fraud have finally hit a slowdown, according to a report earlier this year by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and cybersecurity firm White Ops. The report predicted ad fraud losses would total $5.8 billion globally in 2019 – an almost 11 percent drop from the $6.5 billion global loss reported in 2017.
But even so, efforts to thwart ad fraud haven’t occurred overnight. Publishers have been moving vigorously to implement brand safety measures like ads.txt and brand controls – proving that these concentrated efforts are playing a hand in the decline of fraud.
Ads.txt default. In April, Google introduced new brand safety-focused initiatives, including defaulting to ads.txt inventory, supporting app-ads.txt and providing a central hub for brand controls in the interface. It meant that only publishers that have adopted the standard and have placed ads.txt files on their sites will be eligible for bids from DV360.
As part of the industry-wide effort to mitigate fraudulent ad selling, Centro, AdMob, and other demand platforms enforced ads.txt earlier this year.
Protecting advertisers and consumers. Adtech players have been making moves to bring user privacy and authorized inventory together under bundled solution offerings. And with CCPA on the horizon, the industry is eager to cover its bases to avoid privacy-related violations.
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), expected to be live in the second half of 2019 and is set to extend the reach and powers of last year’s GDPR. In particular, it will expand upon consent requirements for website cookies. With an opt-in section for sites tracking those cookies.
To pursue ROAS in a digital world, advertisers are tracking behavior, targeting individuals, disrupting journeys, gathering data, and performing identity resolution. But as consumers take more ownership over their data and privacy rights, these strategies won’t be sustainable forever.
With the impact of browser actions on tracking Apple ITP, Google Chrome cookie blocking, and others, more platforms are taking measures to protect against bad actors. As a result, advertisers should prepare to embrace a wider array of holistic adtech solutions focused on brand safety and privacy compliance to support more accountable and effective advertising efforts.
Looking ahead: The big picture
In the next year, advertisers should expect changes in all of these areas, from creative resurgences to tighter measurement standards and growing consolidation among media partners. Players on both the buy-side and sell-side are making strategic shifts as consumer behavior, digital regulations, and technical capabilities evolve at record pace.
For advertisers and publishers alike, the coming year will present new opportunities driven by a customer-first approach grounded in privacy and brand experience. It will be important for advertisers to actively monitor and understand the big-picture changes happening in the adtech landscape as it surfaces new opportunities to connect brands with consumers.
About The Author
Taylor Peterson is Third Door Media’s Deputy Editor, managing industry-leading coverage that informs and inspires marketers. Based in New York, Taylor brings marketing expertise grounded in creative production and agency advertising for global brands. Taylor’s editorial focus blends digital marketing and creative strategy with topics like campaign management, emerging formats, and display advertising.
Trends in typography seem to evolve more quickly than many other design trends. For a long time, website designers stuck to font palettes packed with sans serif typefaces. But that feels like ancient history now!
Today’s range and variety of web fonts make for much more interesting design possibilities, font pairings, and visual themes.
We’re taking a look at eight trends for pairing fonts with a beautiful example of each, covering a wide range of font families and aesthetics.
What is Font Pairing?
Font pairing is putting together different typefaces for use in one design project. While the term “pair” is used, font pairing can refer to using any number of fonts in the same project.
A good font pairing — typically no more than two or three typefaces — is harmonious while providing ample contrast between lettering styles. Font pairs often convey similar moods and have complementary shapes, so that they bring attention to the message but don’t compete with each other for attention.
No more than one novelty, funky, or challenging font should be used in a pairing. This helps ensure readability and balance in the typography of a design.
1. Serif Sans Serif Layers
Different layers and levels of typography can make for a lovely display.
The Academy of Classical Chinese Medicine uses two type families – a serif and a sans serif – for a timeless combination. Note how the typefaces are stacked in layers.
About ACCM: Caps sans serif
Headline: Serif line and serif bold italic line
Main text block: Sans serif
Call to action: Bold, caps sans serif
What makes this layered typography display work so nicely is the use of space and the shapes of the font pair. Note that each typeface has a round design – you can see that particularly in each lowercase “o” and “c.”
2. Funky Sans Serif Simple Sans
Pairing two fonts of the same style can get a little tricky because you don’t want typefaces that look too much alike.
Intact Software does a nice job with two sans serif options, one that’s just a little funkier than the other with harder edges and thicker strokes. The secondary sans serif is more of a traditional style.
This combination works great for a headline and body text pairing. The funkier style draws attention to the big text while providing superb readability for the smaller type on the screen.
3. Sans Serif Caps Tiny Serif
There’s nothing groundbreaking about using an all caps sans serif. (Everyone has been doing that for a while.)
But the simple serif line beneath and the stark contrast between the big type and the second line is amazing. It’s one of those understated trends that we are starting to see a lot more of in typography and the BBC Earth website nails it.
What’s nice about this font pairing is that everything is easy to read. Both typefaces have uniform stroke widths (which is nice for websites and devices where there is backlighting to think about).
4. Novelty Monospace
This font combination is perfectly brutalist – a trending design style. A novelty typeface with a monospaced style is visually interesting and fist the tenets of the style.
Putting together typefaces for this trend can be tricky.
Opt for typefaces that give you a somewhat intentional mismatched and chaotic feel. If you try too hard for styles that match here, it might fall a little flat. Remember brutalists styles are hard and a little visually shocking by nature. Use that idea in your font pairing as well.
5. Sans Serif Font Family
Font pairs don’t actually have to be paired at all. Using multiple styles within the same family can serve that purpose.
This is a rather popular technique because it makes websites easy to read and always creates a design where all of the text elements are in harmony.
Here’s how to make it work, just like flocc (above). Pair the most contrasting styles from a font family for obvious distinction in the design. Pairing a bold or lack option with a regular or light variation is almost always a winner.
6. Slabs Simple Sans Serifs
Slab styles are smack-you-in-the-face font options that are good for generating impact. Tone down the style with a simple sans serif partner.
This is a classic typography design trend that never gets old and is almost always effective.
Rogue Studio uses this combination brilliantly with larger than life slabs as an artistic element and simple sans serifs for all the stuff you really need to read. Nice spacing also helps draw the eye and keep users on the site.
7. Wide Sans Serifs Modern Serifs
Wider typefaces are making an appearing in more design projects. It can be a tough style, but with the right complementary typeface, it works.
LaFaurie does a nice job with this font pair. The wide sans serif is large in the hero header and provides an interesting take on the navigation elements. The modern serif is more readable and helps generate a fresh, youthful tone for the project.
8. Serif Sans Serif Script
This trio of fonts sets just the right tone. With a modern serif, simple sans serif, and a script the feel is classic, controlled, and elegant.
Pairing three fonts is fairly common and what makes it work well is using distinctly different styles. Using three sans serifs can get clunky and odd visually because the styles aren’t different enough.
Look for a font trio that has the same feel but unique lines and designs.
Pairing fonts can be a lot of fun. Playing with different combinations can add new dimensions of meaning to design projects.
Just keep some of the “golden rules” of design in mind when working with font pairs:
One of the most powerful ways you can communicate and convey your message is by incorporating your designs with beautiful fonts. We’ve come up with 37 of the best font pairings you can use in a wide range of projects.
Fonts and font pairings are one of the most crucial parts of a design. It allows you to create a wide range of effects and moods by utilizing different styles of typography.
Choosing the right font combination for your projects can make a huge difference. You’ll be able to create beautiful and compelling designs instead of dull and lifeless ones.
So which fonts look good and work great together? Read on to find out!
Best Font Combinations
Suisse Works and Suisse International
Suisse Works is about the clarity of information, simplicity, and structure. It’s a serif typeface and created by Party of Swiss Typefaces. It’s also under the superfamily of Suisse fonts. It has a text face similar to the style of the good old Times New Roman.
It will pair perfectly with a neo-grotesque typeface like its counterpart, the Suisse International. The font has a design that follows the style of Helvetica and other Swiss neo-grotesque font faces.
There are some subtle differences though which are more noticeable in terminals and counters.
What makes the Suisse family great is that it creates a massive superfamily when paired together and works harmoniously at that.
The font combination is a beautiful contrast of classic and contemporary that works really well with a modern design.
The monospaced sans-serif Andale Mono font-face is created in 1995 by Steve Matteson. Its purpose is to provide programming with an extremely legible font for usage.
It is used to come with Microsoft Windows as one of their core fonts but is now bundled with Lucinda Console.
Both typefaces evoke simplicity and work well on the text. While Andale Mono is highly readable even in small point sizes, Suisse Works is highly effective when set at large point sizes for your headings.
The font pairing of GTF Opposit and GT Walsheim works really well for a billboard, posters, and ad campaigns where you want to make an impact at first glance.
Opposit is best at sending out strong messages that you want to many people to see. The eye-catching typeface is a high contrasting sans serif with reverse contrasts from average fonts such as the GT-Walsheim.
The opposite contrast with thicker horizontal strokes and thinner vertical strokes is balanced by the interesting characteristics of the geometric sans, GT-Walsheim.
GT Walsheim Price – USD1080 (Pro-Family) or USD720 (Family)
Fakt Pro Normal and ITC Clearface
The font pair will give your design a unique touch combined with a 70’s feel. Fakt comes with geometric and grotesque characters making the font somewhat unusual. You can also toggle between those styles since you can get them as alternates.
On the other hand, ITC Clearface is a serif typeface with a distinct character to it, which expresses the Zeitgeist.
Fakt Price – Approximately USD1,541 or EU1,400 (Superfamily)
GT Sectra and Heebo is a perfect example of serif and sans serif font pairing. The angular serif GT Sectra combines the calligraphic nature of a wide nip pen with a scalpel knife’s sharpness, which defines the contemporary appeal of the typeface.
On the other hand, Heebo is very readable on web pages and has that warm and approachable vibe.
The letter proportions of GT Sectra is consistent with a classic serif like Heebo. The mixture of unique visual style, high legibility, and easy to read makes the font combination makes for a professional-looking design.
The font combination is Avant-Garde meets slightly playful, making Sharp Sans Display No.1 and Morion perfect together.
The relentlessly geometric Sharp Sans Display No. 1 is an innovative sans-serif typeface with an interlocking ligature system. It also has an extremely legible spacing and features true italics, which is a delightful welcome to its genre.
Conversely, Morion has a slightly fun, calligraphic style but still maintains its control and balance. It works well in larger, decorative purposes.
However, it comes with open type features such as its lower case “a” option that increases the readability of small text sizes.
Combining the two stylistic elements of Sharp Sans Display No. 1 and Morion typefaces makes for a compelling design that can capture the attention of people.
The font pair ITC Ronda and Calibre Regular is a cool geometric font face combo. It will give your design projects with a clean and contemporary touch.
They are the perfect typography to use if you’re aiming for a minimalistic style with plenty of white spaces.
We first saw the geometric constructed forms of Ronda in 1970 while the geometric neo-grotesque Calibre in 1958. Ronda presents a modern, clean look in all applications.
The shapes of its capital B, P, and R, are its distinguishing qualities, while Calibre has a very distinct letter A, which is unlike anything from its genre. You may not like it at first, but it will surely grow on you.
The Chap and Moderat font pairing is a remix of old and new. You’ll love the fluidity that the combo offers. Chap has that classic nib-pen style combined with the 90s geometric vibe. It features pen-drawn shapes reminiscent of the modern 90-degrees digital presets.
Meanwhile, the geometric Moderat is from the sans-serif font face family, enhanced with a set of open type features. Its set of pretty nice stylistic alternates and moderately tight apertures work harmoniously with the sharp angles and high stroke contrast of Chap.
Additionally, the readability of the Chap font will coexist easily with the modern geometric sans.
Chap Price – Approximately USD468 or EU425 (Family)
Moderat Price – Approximately USD418.40 or EU380 (Web)
URW Classico and Monument Grotesk
URW Classico is a remake of the URW under the popular Optima sans-serif font by Hermann Zapf. With corrections of the original and many additional accented glyphs, it became even more perfect for both titles and body text.
Classico is best paired with any member of the grotesque family of text such as the Monument Grotesk. The quality and powerful font-face has great versatile and make an excellent contrast to Classico.
You can easily implement the font combination in your new projects for a unique and standout style, including book designs and bold editorial statements.
GT Pressura Mono takes inspiration from shipping boxes where its edges and corners run within the color. On the other hand, GT America bridges the gap between European Grotesque and American Gothic. Both typefaces are available through Grilli Type.
The grotesque design of GT Pressura Mono utilizes the visual impression of a spreading ink under pressure as a stylistic means.
The condenses sans-serif pairs with its soft side and round corners pairs well with the versatility of GT America which is a combination of the design characteristics of traditional fonts to come up with a contemporary family of font faces.
Adobe Caslon has been gracing us with its presence since 1722. The serif typeface was used during in the early 18th century during the British Empire.
Since then, it has gone through several revisions and redesigns to catch up with the change in technology. Today, it’s still one of the standards in typography.
NY Irvin is a great font pairing for Adobe Caslon, which is a font drawn for the New York Times to use. When in action, these typefaces create a unique combination that will make you feel like you’re in the renaissance period.
However, both are versatile, and you can use them in various design projects, including posters and documents.
The font pair will bring elegance and functionality to your designs. Cadiz is a space-saving font that holds a lot of the early details of the typeface of the early 20th century. It brings clarity when combined with Mackinac, which connects the New World with the Old.
Cadiz exudes simplicity and grace, while Mackinac features a modest contrast of thin and thick. They’re one of the font combinations you’d want to use for packaging, publishing, advertising, and signage.
Poppins and Georgia font combo is perfect if you want a good design but doing as little design as possible.
Although Georgia may not be on your favorite list of fonts, you can’t deny its versatility and how well it works when displaying text on screens. This serif is a bit formal but will remain visible no matter the size of your screen.
The intimate and friendly typographic personality of Georgia fits well with the geometric shape of Poppins. Its letterform has a perfect spacing between its character and height and will look greater either as its body text or heading.
The almost monolinear letterform of Poppins complements the modern appeal and Old World beauty of Georgia quite well.
Brandon Text and Austin is another good example of serif and sans-serif font pair.
Brandon Text takes inspiration from the well-known geometric type sans-serif fonts of the 20s and 30s but possesses better legibility.
But you may not notice the font face right away if you’re like most readers since it doesn’t have that punch that its popular Brandon Grotesque family has. It does have a higher x-height though as well as optimized for screens, small texts, and long texts.
Austin, on the other hand, was a newer typeface which took inspiration from the 18th-century designs of Richard Austin, a typography designer.
When its somewhat condensed letterforms and high contrast style is combined with the subtle charm of Brandon Text will result in a distinct and readable design.
If you want to give your projects with an assured stance that incorporates an overall welcoming character, the SCTO Grotesk A and Ivar is the font pairing for you.
SCTO Grotesk A is one of the most rational and least quirky neo-grotesque typefaces out there. It stayed away from simplistic solutions but rather opt for reader-friendly and animated forms. It’s not sterile but certainly matter-of-fact.
Its companion Ivar may be small but can provide your design with a big impact. The font has a sturdy construction and grace similar to Times and can go head-to-head with other dependable typography today.
No doubt, the font combination can provide your design with a clear and solid font foundation.
Ivar Price – Approximately USD219 or EU199 (Complete)
Bluu Next with Roboto
If you want to give your design a modern and nonconformist font pair, use the combination of Bluu Next with Roboto. These typefaces offer various styles and amazing details that will not be left unseen.
Additionally, you’ll achieve a reading that’s more natural mixed in with a contemporary vibe.
Bluu Next is a serif font. It is precise and sharp and considered it’s perfect for your brutalist designs.
It’s a great choice for replacing those boring serifs such as the Times. The open and friendly curves of Roboto will complement its characteristics very well.
Roboto is dual in nature and it doesn’t compromise its grotesque letterforms force an unyielding rhythm which allows it to settle in its natural width.
What makes the brutalist typeface Bluu Suuperstar is its highly prominent triangular-shaped wedges. The strokes of the serif font are certain portions have been broken. Its heavier style is best when used as large headlines.
Pairing it with Neue Haas Unica proves that you don’t need every element of your design to have the same characteristics to make it stunning.
Neue Haas Unica is the revival of Haas Unica, and the reinvention of the classic Helvetica made to be legible in small text sizes. The sans-serif neo-grotesque font-face is warm and clear with a bit of loose spacing and narrower letterforms, which is a great contrast to its flashy font pair.
The Value Serif and Apercu font pairing is a beautiful mix of contemporary, minimalist compositions, and amplifying the elements of your projects.
Value Serif has a distinctive groove in some of its letters. It pays tribute to its ancestors the Italian Old Style and Plantin Infant. It’s complemented with the ovoid shapes of Apercu which loves to be combined with geometric fonts and bright colors even if your design is subdued.
You’ll be able to come up with eye-catching designs without pretensions but projects a relaxed and clear message that can capture the attention of viewers and readers.
Value Serif Price – Approximately USD55 or EU50 (Individual styles)
Apercu Price – Approximately USD55 or EU50 (Individual styles)
GT Sectra with IBM Plex Mono
If you want a serif font pair with calligraphic influence and friendly grotesque, GT Sectra and IBM Plex Mono should definitely be on your list.
GT Sectra has a contemporary look defined by a scalpel knife’s sharpness. It’s very legible and has a one-of-a-kind visual character. It also features compact descenders and accents, which makes it a great choice if you have short line-height headlines.
Combining it with the neutral IBM Plex Mono is especially beneficial if you’re designing editorial. The typeface balances design with engineered details. It has a unified visual appeal but still maintains the visual diversity of its characters.
The serif Tiempos Headline is ideal if you want a fancier typeface for your simple body text. The display version of Tiempos Text features a tighter spacing as well as higher contrast allowing for elegant headlines.
The simplicity and subtleness of the neo-grotesque Roboto sans-serif font work incredibly well with the interesting Tiempos Headline. Putting the two together allows you to make a statement in your projects while not detracting from your seed typography.
Vesterbro is a type of font that provides a sense of being well-behaved blended in with optimism and a slight touch of playfulness. It has a charm that the highly versatile and functional GT America Mono emphasizes even further.
The mashup is surprisingly good and refreshing. Vesterbro has enough distinction, calmness, confidence, and compelling appeal that works rather well with the Swiss Grotesk feeling of GT America Mono.
The font combination is a perfect choice if you want your design to define emotion. It is especially handy for complicated branding and corporate identity projects where various styles are required.
Tiempos Headline has a more traditional form while Neue Haas Unica is unique and elegant and can be paired with a wide variety of typefaces. These characteristics make for a classic font pair.
The simple text and thin lines of Neue Haas Unica is the perfect combination for the tight spacing and high contrast of Tiempos Headline.
You can use them in conservative industries or corporate design that require traditional font combinations but without the element of dullness. The serif and sans-serif pair has enough professional feeling to it but interesting enough for your traditional design to veer away from boring.
Canela with Adieu
A display typeface, Canela takes is a fresh take on historical forms. It features flared stroke endings, which took inspiration from stone-carving. The crispness of its shape is a welcome balance to the high contrast and wide proportion design features of Adieu.
The vibrancy of the font pair may not be your typical combination as the rhythm and forms may not align with how you want to think of them. However, they offer a distinct voice to design projects that will not make them feel like you’re bringing people to something traditional.
Adieu Price – Approximately USD495 or EU450 (Full family)
Sneak with EB Garamond
Fusing a modern sans-serif with a traditional serif is an effective way to pair fonts, like this Sneak and EB Garamond typefaces combo.
Sneak is a neo-grotesque sans-serif typeface that features some reversed characters. Its top-heavy S has a peculiar style that made it look like it’s upside down. The crispiness of the font makes it great for larger text or headlines.
Pairing it with the classic EB Garamond result in your design having an engaging sense of balance.
The stability and authority of EB Garamond and the simplicity of Sneak make for an eye-catching and versatile combo which you can use for your social media to poster graphics.
Sneak Price – Approximately USD385 or EU350 (Full family)
Roslindale is an exciting typeface that will capture your attention right away with its many dimensions. The serif is a condensed headline with a traditional Victorian feel to it but is high contrast and slender inform.
You can never go wrong when pairing the modern, elegant version of the historic old-style font with subtle moments and the versatility of GT America. You’ll achieve a mixture of contrast, stress, and texture while maintaining a dynamic and controlled design.
Canela is a robust typeface that is somewhere between a serif nor sans serif. It challenges traditional classifications and comes in sharp and soft forms. The modern fon with distinguished classical roots works extremely well the sans-serif neo-grotesque Univers.
The flexibility and neutralness of Univers balance the uniqueness of Canela and will instill your design with a feeling of warmness and trustworthiness.
The serif font-face Larish Neue has seen some updates to provide it a more contemporary appeal. It may not be as quirky as the Larish Alte, but it does offer a lot of distinguishing letterforms.
Pairing it with the open-source and free Work Sans font results in an impressive design project. It is optimized and simplified for both screen and print, thus making it quite popular these days so we’ll surely see a lot of it not only in graphics but on the web as well.
Larish Neue Price – Approximately USD99 or EU90 (Individual styles)
Pulling inspiration from classic grotesques, the sans-serif font HK Grotesk is multi-purpose. You can use it in a wide variety of designs and projects without being intrusive to the eyes of the readers.
Its distinctive character and friendliness make it suitable for small text and to pair with the sharp and crisp Leitura News serif typeface.
Leitura News is best used in an editorial. It’s an excellent tool kit for any typographer. It works well together with the minimalist HK Grotesk because of its harmonious consistency and contrast.
The best thing about the font pair is that they will not distract readers from the content.
Times New Roman may be overused, but it’s still one of the most trustworthy typefaces out there. The go-to font has always been the star of documents and newspapers, pairing it with the right typography like Roboto can transform it into an effective headline. It brings emotion to the more or less void font.
The typefaces make a great font pairing as the versatility and adaptability of Roboto can bring out the beauty in Times that we usually overlook.
The font pair goes really well with the niche of the website. Ballet is a beautiful art and what better typography to use than those that evoke elegance and beauty.
Domaine is a pretty typeface. Reading it feels like you’re strolling through a charming topiary garden. It has organic forms that are controlled meticulously, while its natural presence is further enhanced with little jagged serifs.
Calibre, on the other hand, is a distinct font that shares a handful of characters even though they were created simultaneously. It’s leaning more towards neo-grotesque, which is a genius move.
The Tiempos Fine and Mabry font combination is trendy and contemporary. Both font-faces have so much personality, and yet they do not clash but rather complement each other beautifully.
Mabry is a demure font with qualities that you’d want to take all in. It’s a hybrid sans-serif of the opposing aesthetics of rational geometric sans and irregular grotesques. The fancy font has controlled sweeping curves that go very well with the sharp details and high contrasts of Tiempos Fine.
Mabry Price – Approximately USD50 or EU55 (Individual styles)
GT Super with Ginto Nord
GT Super and Ginto Nord is yet another superb example of serif and sans-serif font pairing.
Ginto Nord is from the Ginto font family. It takes Ginto Normal to a different level by remixing its structure with wider proportions and pronounced details. It also stretches from fine hairlines to solid ultra-bold forms.
On the other hand, GT Super is a rad 70s-inspired typography. It followed the footsteps of Perpetua Super, Times Modern, and Trooper Roman but expanded their unique traits in one consistent typography.
Together, these versatile fonts offer high legibility without compromising the overall aesthetics of your design.
Ginto Nord Price – Approximately USD446 or EU405 (Essentials)
Canela with Basis Grotesque
Canela is one of the most graceful display font-face you’ll find. It also defies a lot of traditional classes, wherein its forms draw a thin line between serif and sans-serif. Its traits are a mixture of sharp and soft, as well as modern and classical.
Meanwhile, Basis Grotesque is a custom-made typography for Hotshoe, which was expanded for commercial use. It has a style that pulls inspiration from the early grotesques. However, it was injected with just enough twists to make it more shapely and behaved.
You’ll be able to create contemporary designs with a touch of playfulness, while still maintaining a professional vibe.
There are numerous various styles available out there, so it’s quite challenging to find the perfect font pairs suitable for your project. There are millions of available typography out there, and you need to carefully think about which ones to combine since not all fonts are winners.
Fortunately, we’ve made your life a bit easier with this list of the 37 best font pairings to inspire you on your next design.