10 Important 2019 SEO Trends You Need to Know

t’s time to take our annual look at what’s ahead for SEO professionals in 2019.

What SEO strategies and tactics will work and help you dominate in the SERPs and earn more revenue in 2019?

Here are 10 important trends you need to know in 2019, according to 47 of today’s top SEO professionals.

1. Understand Your Audience & User Intent

Does your audience prefer text? Images? Video? Audio.

Knowing this will all be more important than ever in 2019, according to our experts.

“You need to understand what someone is expecting to find when they query a word or phrase and you need to give them the answer in the simplest way possible,” said Mindy Weinstein CEO of Market Mindshift.

Motoko Hunt, president of AJPR, agreed, adding that the interests, tastes, and preferences of your audience can change more quickly than you think.

“Even if your website content is perfectly written and optimized, if it’s done for a wrong audience, it won’t grow the business,” Hunt said.

Tomorrow’s high-ranking website is all about the audience, said Julia McCoy, CEO of Express Writers.

“If your site enhances your audience’s journey, you’ll be rewarded by Google and your visitor will invest in you,” McCoy said.

This is especially important because rankings have been fluctuating over the past year to help fit the semantic intent of a user’s search query, said Jesse McDonald, SEO specialist and director of operations for TopHatRank.com.

“It will be more critical than ever for SEOs and content specialists to focus heavily on the user intent of the keywords they are targeting while creating content,” McDonald said.

Casie Gillette, senior director of digital marketing at KoMarketing, has also noticed Google’s shift in keyword intent.

“We have to think more about the funnel and where we really want to spend our time,” Gillette said. “Do I want to spend time and money trying to rank for a broad term or should I instead shift my focus to terms further down the funnel, where buyers are more knowledgeable and more likely to be interested in what I’m selling?”

To adjust to this shift in 2019, you may have to change the way you’ve been doing your keyword research, said Chuck Price, founder of Measurable SEO.

“When doing keyword research in 2019, it’s imperative that you check the SERPs to see if websites like yours are ranking for a targeted phrase,” Price said. “If the top SERPs are filled with directories or review sites and your site isn’t one of those, then move on to another phrase.”

The time is now to stop matching keyword phrases and start making sure that your content comprehensively answers questions your audience is asking via search, said Jeremy Knauff, CEO of Spartan Media.

“Ideally, we should take our content a step further by anticipating and answering follow-up questions they may have once they receive the answer to their initial query,” Knauff said.

2. Go Beyond Google Search

Could Amazon and Apple cut into Google’s search dominance? Eli Schwartz, director of SEO and growth for SurveyMonkey, believes so.

“I think that 2019 will be the year that, once again, SEO will not just be about how to optimize for Google, but we will have to take into account these other ‘engines’ as well,” Schwartz said.

As Cindy Krum, CEO of MobileMoxie, pointed out, SEO is about showing up wherever and however people are searching – not just getting the first blue link. So you must learn how to drive traffic and engagement for things other than just websites.

“If potential customers are searching for apps, you need to rank in app stores. If they are searching for podcasts or videos, you need to rank where people search for those things,” Krum said. “Strong brands are becoming multi-faceted, ranking more than just websites. Strong SEOs need to do the same thing.”

Jes Scholz, international digital director for Ringier AG, said she also sees the scope of SEO expanding to cover visibility on other platforms.

“Think beyond driving users to your website by ranking number 1 in the SERPs,” Scholz said. “How can you get visibility for your content in featured snippets and thus conversational interfaces, with hosted articles, with content aggregators and other such opportunities to ensure your brand reaches your target audience?”

In 2019, you also must at least consider optimizing for devices, said Kristine Schachinger, digital strategist and SEO consultant.

“For those with products that can be sold or brands that can benefit from the exposure, being optimized for home assistant or audio-only devices can’t be ignored,” Schachinger said.

Ultimately, this all requires the best content on the fastest platforms geared to meet the users wherever they’re coming from, according to Keith Goode, IBM’s senior SEO strategist, security intelligence.

“The entire search experience is our domain of expertise and control, and our goal isn’t to just drive traffic,” Goode said. “It’s to ensure that we’ve optimized that search experience, whether web-based or app-based or [insert the next big technology]-based, to create the most efficient and engaging intersection of the user’s needs and the site’s offerings possible.”

3. Structured Data Markup Is Key

Use structured data whenever possible, said Marcus Tandler, co-founder and managing director of Ryte.

“With AI becoming increasingly important for Google, structured data is becoming more important as well,” Tandler said. “If Google wants to move from a mobile-first to an AI-first world, structured data is key. No matter how good your AI is, if it takes too long to ‘crawl’ the required information, it will never be great. AI requires a fast processing of contents and their relations to each other.”

JP Sherman, enterprise search and findability expert at Red Hat, said you should start looking at and understanding structured data, schema, active and passive search behaviors, and how they can connect to behaviors that signal intent so that the behavior of search becomes a much larger effort of findability.

“Contextual relationships between topics and behaviors, supported by structured markup, is the critical trend we need to start understanding, testing, and implementing for 2019,” Sherman said. “Using information architecture, tags, metadata and more recently, structured markup, we’ve had the ability to give search engines signals to understand this topical and supportive content structure.”

Further, Jamie Alberico, SEO product owner for Arrow Electronics, said you should “leverage your existing content by integrating speakable and fact check structured data markup. These markups are a key link between factual reality and the screenless future.”

And Bill Slawski, director of SEO research at Go Fish Digital added this tip:

“[Understand] and [use] appropriate schema vocabulary on pages for products, offers, events, contact information, sameAs social and entity associations, organizational information, ratings, and speakable content.”

4. Create Exceptional Content

Google algorithm updates in 2018 revealed that Google is intensifying its focus on evaluating content quality and at the depth and breadth of a website’s content, said Eric Enge, general manager of Perficient Digital.

“We tracked the SEO performance of a number of different sites,” Enge said. “The sites that provided exceptional depth in quality content coverage literally soared in rankings throughout the year. Sites that were weaker in their content depth suffered in comparison.”

Enge said he expects to see the trend of Google rewarding sites that provide the best in-depth experiences continuing in 2019.

“Google was continually tuning their algorithms in this area throughout the year, and I believe there is still a lot more tuning for them to do,” Enge added.

That means if you’re still creating content just to keep your blog alive, that won’t be good enough any longer, said Alexandra Tachalova, digital marketing consultant.

“The issue with this content is that it isn’t good enough to acquire links, so there’s a slim chance that it’ll rank on Google,” Tachalova said. “Think twice about publishing such posts, since they won’t pay off. It’s better to do one post that is properly distributed every few months than doing several per month that will only receive a few visits.”

What you need to do is create content that solves a problem – content that moves, motivates, and connects with people, said Matt Siltala, president of Avalaunch Media.

“If you can answer a question, get a lead, make a sale, help with SEO (link building), reputation management, social proof or community building purposes with a piece of content, then you win!” Siltala said. “Do your research, be the solution to the problem that people have, and provide something that is meant for people versus trying to ‘SEO’ the crap out of it and you will always do better in your efforts.”

Shelley Walsh, director of ShellShock, expects to see the level of content quality rise in 2019.

“Content strategy in SEO is not just about answering a query and getting users to the page. It must also use language to engage the user and guide the user to the next action,” Walsh said. “There are still far too few pages doing this well. More use of content maps and experience maps would help this.”

5. Increase Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness

Establishing and growing your expertise, authority, and trustworthiness – better known as E-A-T in Google’s search quality rating guidelines – will be another key trend in 2019.

“Although the E-A-T guidelines are written for Google’s algorithm raters, rather than Google’s algorithm itself, it helps us to understand where Google is heading in the short term,” said Dixon Jones, founder of DHJ Ventures. “I think this will help SEOs start to understand that ‘quality’ comes with context. You cannot rank so easily writing authoritative content unless you are already an authority on a given subject.”

Grant Simmons, VP of search marketing at Homes.com, said you should look at content distribution and promotion from a reputation standpoint.

“Hire experts to author, leverage data from known entities, and ensure credentials and credit is given to both, with appropriate affinity to the promoted brand,” Simmons said. “How can you get more of your employees to blog, write, and speak? How can you (the brand’s people) be the go-to source for journalists around your core topic expertise? Because that level of expertise is what Google is looking for to power their results.”

Like Google, Bing also wants to reward E-A-T.

“A major goal of our ranking team is to build an algorithm that would rank documents in the same order as humans would as they are following the guidelines,” said Frédéric Dubut, Microsoft’s senior program manager, Search & AI. “You can only do so at the scale of the web by generalizing your ranking algorithm as much as possible. It turns out that modern machine learning is very good at generalizing, so you can expect our core ranking algorithm to get closer to that ideal Intelligent Search product view that we hold internally and which we try to capture in our own guidelines.”

6. Invest in Technical SEO

Websites continue to grow in complexity every year, making technical SEO a major area of investment in 2019 and beyond.

Some key areas of focus on the technical side of SEO will be:

  • Speed: “Sites will finally start to become simpler and faster as SEOs discover that Google is rewarding sites more than once thought for [first meaningful paint] speed,” according to Jon Henshaw, founder of Coywolf Marketing and senior SEO analyst at CBS Interactive.
  • JavaScript: “A new year means that even more of the websites you encounter will be heavily JavaScript driven (likely one of the big frameworks, such as React, Vue.js, and Angular). That means it’s time to familiarize yourself with at least a little JavaScript, and how the major search engines play best with JavaScript-driven websites,” said Paul Shapiro, director of strategy and innovation for Catalyst.
  • Progressive Web Apps (PWAs): “For 2019, you should start thinking about how your website could live on as a PWA in the future. How can your PWA become a keepable experience your users would like to put on their home screen?” Tandler said.

7. Win with On-page Optimization

On-page optimization will continue to be important in 2019, said Tony Wright, CEO and founder of WrightIMC.

“We are still seeing incredible results from nothing more than on-page SEO tactics for many companies that come in the door,” Wright said. “Links are still very important, but the biggest bang for most companies’ SEO bucks is ongoing on-page optimization. Because on-page SEO isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it tactic.”

Alexis Sanders, technical SEO manager at Merkle, also shared some key website optimizations:

  • Content that answers common user questions.
  • Ensuring internal site search is providing relevant results.
  • Shortening conversion process.
  • Ensure that repeat customers can restock commonly purchased items simply.
  • Customer support responds to questions related to the business.
  • Consider use of chatbots to lighten the load for basic, common questions and procedural tasks.
  • Users are easily able to navigate to physical locations.
  • Providing users with their stage in fulfillment funnel (think: clear, visual process forms).

8. Get Ready for Voice Search

Last decade, “the year of mobile” became a kind of running joke. Every year, the experts predicted that this, finally, would be the year of mobile. Year after year. Until hype finally matched reality around 2015.

Well, is this year the year of voice search? Once again, not quite.

As Wright put it:

“In my opinion, the ‘juice isn’t worth the squeeze’ yet for most companies when it comes to showing up in voice queries,” Wright said. “However, I think more companies will look into a voice optimization strategy next year. As I said last year, voice search is coming, it still just isn’t quite there yet.”

Although voice search got lots of attention in 2018, Aleyda Solis, international SEO consultant and founder of Orainti, said voice search is just a piece of a bigger shift, from specific “results” to “answers” as part of a longer “conversational search journey.”

“This will only gain more prominence and importance in 2019 – and the shift has already started,” Solis said. “While ‘voice’ might be an easier way to request answers in some scenarios, it certainly isn’t the ideal format to fulfill the intent in more complex answers (e.g., when comparing services or products).”

All that said, Michael Bonfils, managing director of SEM International, said voice search is a game changer for multinational and multilingual websites.

“Hopefully, marketers will realize in 2019 that the effective use of voice response can’t be done by translators (machine or human). The use of voice is, and can be, very different from country to country, region to region, dialect to dialect, social class to social class, etc.,” Bonfils said.

9. Watch Machine Learning

Dave Davies, CEO of Beanstalk Internet Marketing, said machine learning is about to explode in 2019.

“While we’ve seen machine learning in search with RankBrain, Google News groupings, etc. we haven’t really experienced the true power of what it can be. This is the year that changes,” Davies said. “We can see the prep work coming with some of the layout changes the engines are pushing out and their drive to answer intents rather than questions. This is the root of machine learning’s impact on search.”

But machine learning won’t just be something to watch on Google and the search engines, said Jenn Mathews of Jenn Mathews Consulting.

“Companies need to adopt machine learning to develop unique content for SEO, beginning with a set of data based on specific variables,” Mathews said. “Machine learning, coupled with the need for analysis and reporting, as testing new strategies and implementation is imperative to understanding successes and failures.”

10. Optimize for Featured Snippets & Other Google SERP Features

In addition to optimizing for your own website, you must also optimize for the Google search experience in 2019.

“Answer boxes, recipes, the knowledge graph, carousels, and who-knows-what-else will take an even bigger bite out of organic traffic,” said Ian Lurie, CEO and founder of Portent. “That makes SEO even more important, because exposure is as much about visibility in the SERPs as it is about clicks.”

That means optimizing for featured snippets (a.k.a., position zero) and other Google search features will continue to be an important trend – and more important than ever – in 2019.

The 10 most inspirational graphic design trends for 2019

Design helps us understand our world, and trends place us in time. The overarching design trend for 2019? Just like in every other part of life, we seem to be in opposition with ourselves: this year is all about contradictions. Design trends from conflicting eras and opposing ends of the visual spectrum are all vying for attention.

Whether you’re a designer or are working with one, you need to stay on top of the latest graphic design trends. No matter the medium, understanding how styles are changing and evolving keeps your work fresh and resonate with clients. Take a look at our top picks for this year and start imagining how these trends can help inform your style.

10 graphic design trends that will be huge in 2019

1. 3D design and typography

Three dimensional works seems to be everywhere right now: entire compositions that have so much depth, you can’t help but reach out and touch them. 3D typography especially feels just about ready to pop. The best part about it is there’s no particular type that works best for this trend: bold, skinny, sans-serif, script, any font can be rendered in 3D.

Mulher 3D logo
A gorgeous example of 3D type brings whole new life to the floral trend. 
A creative and fun metallic poster

A creative and fun metallic poster.

3D netbee logo
This composition shows how 3D design can enhance a logo design. 

Beyond typography, we’re seeing a lot of gorgeously rendered 3D compositions that give the impression of being still-lives from distant planets. Some designs, like Pinch Studio’s vibrant pop art or Issey Miyake’s marriage of textiles and food, merge these two design trends into futuristic landscapes of color, type and form. Others, like the stunning papercut illustrations by Eiko Ojala, seem like they were created from elements directly from the natural world. In both directions, the effect is stunning—these compositions literally jump right off the page and make it impossible to look away.

Pop art design
A fantastic pop art composition.
Wine textile texture

Incredibly rich textile textures.

Ice cream textile texture
Paper design of green woman
Colorful 3D city landscape

A fun, colorful 3D landscape

2. Asymmetrical layouts

We’re starting to see the beginnings of a move away from the rigid grid-based designs that have been standard for the past few years. The dominance of Squarespace and Canva and other template-based design sites provided beginners with beautiful websites and graphic products, even if they had no idea what a grid was. Now designers are looking to create products that feel more bespoke and alive.

Enter the asymmetrical design trend.

Because these layouts break free from the rigid and predictable grid, they deliver more kinetic energy and movement. An asymmetrical layout, whether on a design composition, in an app or on a site, demands attention. The user feels an innate curiosity about where the information and graphics might go next, creating a feeling of wonder and interest as they scroll or peruse a design.

Deconstructed web design
A deconstructed and unconventional web design. Via Mila Jones Cann.
Furniture asymmetrical design

Another asymmetrical layout challenges notions of the way products should be displayed. Via Artem Oberland.

Remote working design

The boxes in this design don’t interact the way we expect in a standard grid. Via Jesse Showalter.

The wisdom of nature gallery display design

3. Art Deco

The “modern” design era gets its name from the artistic movement of modernism that began after World War I and continued for nearly a half-century. There are two major styles from this period that are currently experiencing a total renaissance: the highly ornamental and glamorous Art Deco designs of the 1920s and the streamlined organic forms of the Mid-Century Modern period of the 1950s and 60s.

Chalk it up to the nearing centennial of the roaring twenties, but Art Deco-inspired designs are set to blow up in 2019. We’re seeing the trend emerge particularly in logo work. Designers are embracing the complex line-work intense symmetry of the era’s best work, while combining it with sharp metallics that would make Jay Gatsby feel right at home. We’re noticing this influence in typography as well, as sans-serifs get narrower and leggier, like they were pulled from a classic A.M. Cassandre poster design. These designs feel opulent and luxurious—and starkly in contrast to the rustic, country-inspired work that has dominated for the past few years.

Minimal Lettermark logo and Line Graphic Illustration for Juicebox
A gorgeous and intricate metallic branding design.
Tulipan Husene logo
Cannabis Regulatory Compliance logo
Peacock logo design
Insaaph logo
Collective Humanity package logo

4. Modern Mid-Century Modern

After the Art Deco period—and in direct response to it—designers decided that function should dictate form, ditching the flashy designs and embracing stripped down and organic clean lines. While mid-century influence has been prominently visible in areas like interior design and fashion for the past few years, it’s been a steadily growing trend in graphic work.

It’s especially prominent in the illustration styles that harken back to the iconic advertising illustrations of the post-War era. And like in that era, small companies and start-ups are recognizing the power of custom illustration work. We’re seeing a lot of brands launching with gorgeous websites, full of these mid-century influenced illustrations, often rendered in a clearly modern style but retaining dreamy vintage color palettes. In 2019 we expect to see these continue to dominate web and in print work as well.

Goodbye summer web slider
Retro-futuristic boxing poster
How attentive are you? illustration
Golden Rule - Old Fashioned Matchbooks
Solar Eliquids logo

Another Space Race inspired design.

Mid-Century modern graphic design logo
Patterns that evoke the masters Mid-Century modern graphic design. 

5. The continuing evolution of duotones and gradients

Gradients—“color transitions,” as they are now sometimes called—have been a well-recognized trend for the past few years. Recently they’ve definitely begun to creep back into logo design more heavily. Simple one-color logos aren’t enough; more and more are showing up with some kind of gradient. Some are the expected combinations (blue/purple, red/orange) but others use chunkier duotone fades.

There was much noise made in the past year or two about the “return of the duotone”. Now, often contributed entirely to Spotify and their iconic playlist covers, the two parallel trends have combined, making 2019 the year of the duotone gradient.

Immaculate Styles concert poster
vlogeasy logo

Two nice gradient logos in the classic “blurple” duotone.

Buildify Systems logo
Printing Apparel Company website design

This shows how bright (but complimentary) gradients can be used throughout a web design

Explore. Sonhe. Descubra. poster design

This gorgeous combination of bold gradients is the definition of on-trend.

6. But also a steady rise for warm and moody color palettes for photos

But of course for every action there is an equal reaction: the prevalence of saturated and bold duotones has led to a rise in moody, vintage tones. While a few years ago designers were told to shun muted colors to embrace the bold and neon—inspired by shows like Stranger Things—the photo colors of 2019 feel more like the days when cameras and screens were not able to capture deeply saturated colors.

They feel like a direct throwback to the soft, low-fi photography of the seventies and even muted camcorder footage of the 1980s. Incorporating some amount of black into each color, these photos have a warm and wistful vibe that neon colors will never compete with.

Moody fashion shoot

More moody colors in fashion photography

Fashion spread

A fashion spread that ditches the usual bold colors in favor of muted tones.

Woman eating at restaurant

Contemporary portraits that feel like they were lifted from a 1970s photo album.

Woman wearing denim jacket and sunglasses
Lil Yachty mixtape cover

Stunning collage-inspired book cover and mixtape cover

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me book cover

7. Custom illustrations lighten up

After years of bold, thick lines in illustration, there’s been a recent rise in more delicate, elegant illustration. Heavily influenced by botanical and natural elements, this trend is more feminine and appeals to a more innocent and childlike part of us all. We’re seeing it take a front seat particularly in packaging design, where intricate designs are rendered beautifully against a textured paper background. With addition of premium materials like foil and embossing, these designs strike a balance between maximalism and simplicity.

Sophisticated chocolate bar packaging
The packaging for these chocolate bars feels expensive and natural. 
Natural Deodorant packaging

Lighter, more organic packaging design for a natural deodorant company.

Sea Monster Software logo

A playful branding design

Clinical looking illustration of Dandelion plant

A soft illustration inspired by old botanical drawings.

The Seattle Baby Company logo

This adorable deer created for a baby accessory brand.

8. Buxom serifs

While the illustrations are getting lighter, the fonts are beefing up—especially when it comes to serifs. While sans-serifs aren’t going anywhere—especially in digital—2019 will be the year of the serif. The past year has given us some gorgeous plump serifs that seem pulled from the days of cast-metal type. While sans-serifs and hand-drawn fonts will continue to be highly visible, this is the year where the range and diversity of serif fonts will explode.

Custom type is becoming more and more necessary for brands that really want to stand out and increasingly a signature serif type or logomark is what designers are turning to. Why? Because after years of dominance the clean sans serif is now seen as “soulless” and “characterless” and serifs are the horned-rimmed glasses of type–seen as quirky cute, smart, and bursting with personality.

Cabin Fever web design
A stunning and immersive serif font web design.
D. McQuillan Construction and Fine Homes logo

The beautiful and classic serif feels bespoke and hand-carved in this logo for a high-end construction company.

Lighter illustration and trendy serifs combine on this restaurant logo. Via tulimilka.

Minimalist/Scandinavian web design

A website template that evokes ultra-minimalist/Scandinavian design.

Branding for a toast and juice bar

Branding for a toast and juice bar.

9. Open compositions

Remember that old adage about leaving something to the imagination? After years of boxes and frames encasing elements in a strict order, every single part visible and accounted for, designers are starting to embrace more open compositions. These are designs where you feel like you only see a part of the whole picture and there’s an entire world off the page.

These compositions embrace white space and eschew clear hierarchy. The elements in these compositions feel loosely tethered to each other, as if they could float away. Often open-styled, seemingly chaotic, broken and cut-up, these compositions take a very strong design hand since the placement of each element is anything but random.

text open composition website
This entire website is a menu, with not all the letterforms present on the screen at once. 
Rise up statue design

This design hits the mark for 2019 with duotones, gradients and an open composition style

3D poster design

A bold and open design that makes you wonder if you’re holding it right side up.

Pink Louis Vuitton design

Light, modern illustrations that feel like they are continuing off-screen.

Ayodele modeling website

A open composition used for a modeling website.

10. Isometric design

While open compositions leave some things out, isometric designs create whole universes in tiny little spaces. Isometric design sounds highly technical, but it’s simply a method of drawing a 3D object in two dimensions. The drawing is simple and clean, but has a depth that flat design can’t compete with. The arena where this trend is heating up the most is with icons. Isometric icons have a lot more tactility and warmth than flat design, drawing users in. Plus they are saved to a smaller file size than 3D, so you get all of the bang with none of the lag!

City illustration
An isometric illustration of a city. 
CryptoGoal.io web design

A very on-trend isometric mountain.

Savagely website design

A super fun isometric landing page

Isometric data design

This design shows data moving in a way that feels more vibrant and alive than flat design.

Man sitting at desk with computer

Isometric design can be used for character creation, as well.

What happened in design last year, and where are we heading?

Last year was an exciting time for graphic design, and by the looks of things, 2019 is going to be no different. In this article, we take a closer look at the trends that started to emerge last year and examine where they’re heading now.

To put together this report, we spoke to a wide range of creatives, from diverse disciplines and at different levels, at creative studios across the world, to hear their takes on the hottest goings on in everything from logo design to illustration. Read on to discover some of the standout themes they picked up on.

01. Millennial pink

Last year saw the dominance of one particular hue. “The colour known as ‘millennial pink’ provoked think piece after think piece in 2018,” says Optimist Inc’s Nomi Leasure. “Bright, cheery and androgynous, it was colour that instantly made products sell, Instagram posts amass ‘likes’ and restaurants procure multi-day wait-lists.”

The love of this hot hue is starting to fade already. “At some point we will reach fatigue, and seek another hue to unite us a culture of consumers,” she predicts. “Indeed, right now, social media stars and brands alike seem to be leaning into browns and beiges to feature products and spaces.”

02. Smashing stereotypes

In illustration, there’s one standout trend right now: the varied ways in which women are being represented. “From gender issues to body politics, what it’s like to be a woman today is being explored in a more unapologetic way than ever before,” says Alex Thursby-Pelham, lead designer at Wieden+Kennedy London.

Galvanised by #MeToo and similar movements, illustrators are feeling encouraged to break away from caricature and explore more nuanced and multi-dimensional portrayals of women that confront the status quo. “Scrolling through Instagram, Matisse-inspired nudes follow politically charged illustrations of female solidarity and resistance,” Thursby-Pelham enthuses. “Empowered, angry, joyful, funny, flawed, opinionated… they’re all here.”

Polly Nor’s ‘You don’t know him like I do’

Polly Nor’s ‘You don’t know him like I do’ – part of her searingly personal Airing my Dirty Laundry in Public show

And it’s not just about what is being produced but what isn’t, the designer continues. “The furore caused by the recent cartoon of Serena Williams in Melbourne’s Herald Sun – deemed sexist and racist – goes to prove that today, gendered stereotypes aren’t met with a shrug, but with fiery backlash.”

“This year feels like a time where these varying perspectives aren’t just ‘nice to have’, but absolutely necessary,” she concludes.

03. Colour gradients

Advancements in screen and display technology led many to dub 2018 the ‘year of the gradient’, and this trend is showing no signs of going anywhere in 2019.

“HTML5 enables people to code gradients rather than having to manually make graphics for them,” explains Mitchell Nelson, lead creative at Jazzbones. “And this year, there’s been a big focus on duotone gradients as opposed to flat colours, which are more limited. A lot of websites are now using brighter gradients with dark schemes, to give a slick, almost tech feel.”

Helen Baker, a freelance brand identity designer based in Wiltshire, concurs. “Gradients are now recognised as colours in their own right, and are seen in an increasing number of logo designs,” she says. “The Brit Awards, for example, has moved from the use of flat colours in previous years to a rich ‘red carpet’ gradient.”

Rachel Brandon, graphic designer at PLMR, posits that this trend may be a reaction against digital design in general. “With a sense of movement and 3D to it, a gradient appears as though it has life and weight to it,” she says. “As screens take over from physical, print-based mediums, the lifelike look these elements create could be one reason for their sudden surge in popularity.”

04. Custom fonts

One mainstream way that designers have been adding extra personality to their typography has been through the rise of custom fonts. “Brands are asking themselves: how can I be myself if I’m using the same font as a hundred other brands, especially when that other brand is a real asshole?” says Chris Harmon, art director at Loyalkaspar. “In response, more and more brands are making custom fonts that honestly feel like themselves, and no one can copy them.”

“At this rate it won’t be long until every company has a custom typeface,” believes Tyler Hendy, graphic designer at Wunderman. “This trend will be a force to reckon with, as it’s incredibly affordable and allows the ultimate creative freedom for designers.”

05. Striving for simplicity

There’s been a broad trend towards simplicity in design for some years now, and it shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, as we live more of our lives on apps and websites, it seems only to be accelerating.

“Consumers are now used to seeing a flatter, cleaner, uncluttered design aesthetic in the apps and sites they use,” says Alastair Holmes, associate creative director at This Place. “So it makes sense that companies should want to reflect this in their overall branding.”

Examples abound. “Burberry recently turned heads with a bold step in typographic simplicity, cutting ties with the elegant graphic ornament of the past and adopting a timeless, grotesque approach to its new identity,” notes Lee Hoddy, creative partner at Conran Design Group.

06. Super-functional logos

“This year has seen more and more corporates adopting the ‘lowercase sans serif’ model, with a reductionist, one-colour symbol floating nearby,” says Michael Johnson, founder of Johnson Banks. “So now we see virtually the same typography used by everyone – from BT to the Premier League, to Airbnb, to Spotify, to Uber’s latest wordmark, to you-name-it.”

He’s not sure whether we’ve seen this trend peak. “At first this approach seemed more interesting, more stripped down, more ‘less’ if you like,” says Johnson. “But I’m really starting to wonder quite how long this kind of corporate me-too-ism can continue.”

Chris Maclean, creative director of Wolff Olins, is among the optimists, though. “We’re losing those glossy sheens and skeuomorphic embellishments that are a hangover from the UI design 10 years ago,” he points out. “We’re witnessing a return to classic logo design, where less is more, and anything that doesn’t express the core essence of the brand is discarded.”

Furthermore, he believes that the simplicity of the logos themselves is being balanced out elsewhere. “While some might argue that logo design has become more conservative, exciting things are happening in the expressions that surround the logo,” he argues. “More and more brands are recognising that a cohesive brand identity can be a much more expressive palette than the logo alone. This means the identity can evolve while the logo remains consistent over time.”

07. Pastel hues

Monzo uses flat pastel tones to create a friendly feel

“Fintech and financial services startups are favouring restricted colours, typically in pastel hues,” says David Shalam, founder and creative director at Studio 2br. “Flat, soft-edged, vector illustrations are also popular. Monzo was one of the first to do this, followed by the likes of Habito, Kinsu, Tink and Trussle. These brands, which all target millennials, are attempting to create a friendly, human feel. But this trend is starting to border on cliché.”

Jason Mayo, managing director of Postal, reports another simplified colour trend. “We’ve noticed the ubiquity of pastel still-life photography, especially on the
New York subway,” he says. “It has a sophistication that places it just above ‘normal’ product photography; artfully arranged, part minimal, part fine art, part decorative, but definitely aspirational. It feels like the new upper-middle class, urban go-to photography style of the year.”

08. Disruptive typography

We’re experiencing a noticeable trend towards more sophisticated typography in web design,” says Alex Blattmann, senior designer at Dalton Maag. “Serif styles are, once again, taking centre stage, after years of avoidance in the pursuit of simpler, sans serif forms.”

Rick Banks, director of Face37, takes a similar view. “Last year, I predicted in Computer Arts we’d see a reaction to the geometric sans-serifs that dominated 2016, and I think I’ve been right,” he says. “I see this trend continuing over the next few years, with brands and designers wanting more personality in their type and logos.”

In terms of ‘more personality’, there’s been mini-trend for what Riccardo De Franceschi, senior designer at Dalton Maag, describes as a ‘brutalist’ approach. “This is where type gets compressed or expanded to the extreme, as well as being outlined or even mechanically slanted,” he explains.

09. Motion graphics in branding

2018 saw a major change in what motion designers are being asked to produce, with a seismic shift towards social content. Creative agency DMS has seen a 60 per cent increase in this area, reveals head of motion graphics Nico Vargas.

“In today’s world, our clients need to engage with their audiences faster,” he says. “So we’re using bumpers – a five-second teaser before a promotion trailer – that incorporate engaging dynamic subtitles to entice the audience to click and view the promotional content.”

Designing for social means rethinking your approach, says Katie Cadwallader, senior designer at Supple Studio. “Twitter and Instagram now loop videos, encouraging our films to be more like GIFs and less like stories with a beginning and end,” she says. “The length of animations is adapting too. Anything between 30 seconds and five minutes is now a no-man’s land: you’re either designing for likes or for a lunch break viewing.”

This is just a part of a larger trend, which is seeing motion design become better integrated into the branding mix, according to Wouter Sel, co-founder and animation director at Volstok. “More than ever, video is part of the brand instead of merely being a billboard for it,” he says. “Motion design is now deeply embedded in the customer journey.”

10. Tactile typography

Carter Wong’s woodblock-style branding for Howies

Over the past few months we’ve seen a mini-trend for physical materials (either the material itself or a graphic representation ) in their letterforms.

“Things like wood, stone and ceramic give brands a more premium and honest look,” says Martyn Garrod, creative director at Carter Wong. “The rebrand of Shakespeare’s Globe is a great example of this, with a red, circular, woodblock-printed emblem, as is Dutchscot’s restaurant menus for Meraki. Our own work for fashion brand Howies embraced this trend, with the creation of a typeface created out of the wood of a fallen tree, near the company’s base in Wales.”

11. Playful illustration
colourful illustration of houses and bikes

Illustration by Jing Wei

There has been a shift towards more straightforward concepts and a more simple and playful approach to illustration,” says Andrea Chronopoulos, illustrator and D&AD judge. “Clear, bold shapes and lines with bright colour palettes and sometimes an ironic retro feel are certainly a must. Many illustrators over the past year started using more tools such as the iPad Pro, which gives a more direct feeling to digital image-making. They’ve been sharing lots of work-in-progress of their illustrations, with sketches and speedpaint videos.”