Things in the design world don’t change that rapidly in regular times. So, for example, the geometric, simple logo style of the 2010s didn’t only last a year but lasted the entire decade.
In general, though, what we’re going through is a far way from ‘normal times.’ And all of that instability and uncertainty is pushing many parts of the design in unexpected directions, often so swiftly that we don’t even notice.
With that in mind, we’ve assembled a panel of prominent designers to help us make sense of what’s occurring and what’s expected to happen in the coming year. Continue reading to learn about ten trends that will have an influence on your creative work in 2022.
Brands in Motion is the first trend.
We’re seeing more and more motion design these days, whether we’re walking by a digital billboard, browsing through a website, or navigating an app. And the majority of professionals agree that this can only be a good thing.
“Static images don’t seem to be cutting it anymore – it’s moving it or lose it!” says Martin Widdowfield, creative director of Robot Food. “Brands are discovering new ways to live online thanks to the continual introduction of new and creative digital platforms, as well as the growth of virtual reality. This has opened up new ways to engage customers through motion and animation, as well as chances to improve the way we tell stories.”
And, as he points out, this tendency is impacting static materials like the packaging. “Until the epidemic, QR codes were all but dead,” Martin continues, “but now people have the behavioral knowledge of’scan for information.'” “It’s intriguing to think about what this implies for AR and how its connection with packaging may change. I believe there will be a surge in ideas to extend a brand’s online momentum to the shelves; for example, can the ever-popular unpacking experience be digitized?”
But why is motion so vital in the first place? DIA Studio’s partner and creative director, Mitch Paone, explains. “A static image can’t compete with a looping gif on the surface.” The movement develops identification on a deeper level, just as we can tell a salsa dancer from a hip-hop dancer. Even though the dancer is the same, their movement conveys the tale.
He continues, “A brand may now have ownable choreography, or a behavior, that conveys incredible individuality, all facilitated by the screen.” “This transformation has far-reaching consequences for the design sector. The two worlds of design and motion have collided. On top of all the usual design talents, designers need to gain a deep grasp of movement, rhythm, and time, as well as motion software skills.”
Trend 2: The new Wild West
If you go back five years, you’ll see that design was dominated by a minimalist, geometric style. Yet, in a world ripped apart by pandemics and economic crises, that utopian aesthetic appears to be fading fast. Instead, Space Doctors assistant director Julius Colwyn predicts a shift in the other direction.
He continues, “The movement is all about alive, invigorated chaos.” “It’s a reaction to a growing number of brands and organizations adopting a unified, uniform graphic design. There is a burgeoning market for startling collage, stark contrasts, intense neon, and irregular frames — something jagged, raw, and genuine.”
This strategy, inspired by the early internet’s wild west, seeks to move away from harmony and toward a joyous collision. “Acid green and terminal typefaces, screen captures, and digital artefacts are key parts of the design in this environment,” Julius explains. “This energy isn’t entirely the unbridled neon anarchy of the internet 1.0; they are designs from new abilities in the age of the creative economy. It’s a more sophisticated form of digital chaos, moulded by digital natives.”
Breaking down (design) boundaries is the third trend.
It’s become a cliche rapidly, but only because it’s true. “While the worldwide epidemic hasn’t been nice for anybody,” says Ali Ozden, design director at Universal Favourite, “it’s made us all think and create in new ways, and it’s given us possibilities to collaborate internationally: either for an international client or cooperation with international talent.”
And he sees the most intriguing potential for the design industry in 2022 as the breaking down of internet borders. He extols, “It’s opening up chances to engage with people you could only dream of working with, on that client you’ve always wanted to work for.”
“Working with customers from Korea to the United States and engaging with designers and artists from New Zealand to Berlin has been a highlight for Universal Favourite. The most exciting aspect of this is the sharing of experiences and abilities, which will aid in the development of more creative results that will influence culture as we emerge from the epidemic into a new world.”
The fourth trend is a move away from self-indulgence.
There was a time when every other session at a design conference was about how to increase your income, either by increasing your freelancing rates or starting your own business. People’s interests have evolved since March 2020, though.
As Natalie Redford, Robot Food’s creative strategist puts it: “There’s been a noticeable shift away from ‘hustle culture’ and the material things that used to legitimise us in favour of evaluating success based on how happy you are now. Self-care and self-prioritization are hot topics these days.”
She speculates that as a result, we’ll see increased eclecticism in design. “Is a clean, pared-down look appropriate for a sense of pleasure and self-indulgence? Is the phrase more, more, more’ compatible with a rejection of overconsumption? Perhaps we’ll see more raw, unprocessed aesthetics. Perhaps a yearning for simpler, happier times will cause nostalgic looks to develop and expand. Or perhaps aspirations become more simple, pleasure will become more accessible.”
Of course, whether or not next year will be a good one remains to be seen. ThoughtMatter’s creative director, Samantha Barbagiovanni, puts it this way: “Is this the summer of love? Partying? Celebrating the end of a pandemic? On that one, the crystal ball was a little cloudy. However, with the occasional, semi-risky trips into what currently feels like the ‘old world,’ 2022 will embrace more sensory, diversified, and emotionally rewarding moments of astonishment that we’ve missed in our safe yet limiting houses. Our senses are ready to be piqued.”
The same cautious optimism may be seen in Ellen Munro, creative director of BrandOpus. “In a world where everything is serious, we’re seeing businesses shift to a more cheery and light-hearted design and feel. On a deeper level, we’re seeing an increase in businesses centring their meaning and marketing on happiness and positivity.”
Trend 5: Back to the 1990s
The 1980s were a watershed moment in American culture. For decades, we’ve been engulfed in nostalgia for them. But, at least in terms of design inspirations, June France, design director at CPB London, says it’s finally their successor’s turn.
“This is what I’m calling ’90s MTV nostalgia,” he says. “Aesthetics of retro idents, green screen, and memes.” CPB has tapped into this in its latest work for Ballantine’s whisky. “The early internet style has been around for a long,” he continues, “with TikTok filters and lo-fi DIY content influencers fanning its reach even farther.” We drew inspiration for this project from MTV idents from the 1990s, bringing back a sense of nostalgia for couch surfing at home.
Maximalism takes a major step forward in trend number six.
If minimalism is on the decline, it comes to reason that maximalism, its polar opposite, will be on the increase. Clara Mulligan, Anomaly London’s head of design, verifies this.
“After years of graphic sameness brought on the previously restrictive practical constraints of living in a digital realm,” she adds, “there is a visual revolution unfolding.” “A definite yearning for a more luxurious approach now exists. We’re living in a maximalist era, in which emotional tales and exhilarating visual experiences are displacing flat, geometric, austere brand systems, with individuality eclipsing modularity. However, what’s most intriguing is that these maximalist universes aren’t simply for show.
Molly Rowan-Hamilton, BrandOpus’ strategy director, paints a similar image. “Brands are shifting to monochromic, strong hues to produce a punchier, more ownable appearance and feel,” she says. “There’s a possibility for businesses that have been associated with a single colour to branch out, even if it’s simply to catch people’s attention for a little period. Tiffany & Co., for example, replaced its ‘Tiffany Blue’ with a bright ‘Tiffany Yellow’ as a method of signalling a step shift in order to engage with a younger audience and shake its dusty and old fashioned reputation.”
Trend #7: Typography is becoming more colourful and fun.
Chris Algar, a senior designer at Design Bridge London, predicts a good year for type in 2022. He thinks that “typographic styles will tap into extremely exaggerated characterful letterforms, dialling up the contrast between flowing lines and stark angular shapes.”
He argues that the above-mentioned motion design trend will have an impact on typography. “From individuals, binge-watching Killing Eve to more recently Squid Game, title sequences shown across streaming platforms during lockdown will almost surely have influenced designers. Both take extremely distinct approaches to typography, yet their fascinating movement and accentuated personalities bind them together.”
Trend #8: Creative cross-pollination: the fusion of design, fashion, and brand
Design, branding, and fashion are all evolving and, in some circumstances, beginning to blend. Brands are discovering that, like Apple with Beats by Dre, they can partner their way into becoming hip, or at least cool-adjacent.
“With so many brands investigating how they may exist off-pack and come to life in a variety of inventive ways, we’re seeing them look to streetwear in particular,” says Molly Rowan-Hamilton, BrandOpus’ strategy director. “With Panera’s’soup’ swimwear, Pizza Hut’s ‘taste wear,’ and Our Lady of Rocco, Carbone’s new fashion company, eateries can manufacture a bomber jacket and sell it for more than $500.”
In the same vein, BrandOpus collaborated with Oscar Mayer on their recent street meats’ collection, which includes a 13-piece capsule collection inspired on the renowned Hotdogger outfits. “The brand’s main belief: ‘never square’ – a celebration of its famous rhomboid emblem – is being brought to life yet again with this streetwear collection.”
Trend 9: Eco-aesthetics and environmental activism
There’s a lot of discourse about the environment right now, in case you hadn’t noticed. And the design business is ahead of the curve in many respects.
“Consumers can now recognise greenwashing a mile away,” says Matthew Gilpin, creative director at Free The Birds. “Brands must do more than utilise the colour green to indicate they’re putting the earth first.” “Not only that, but with the government’s Extended Producer Responsibility programme set to take effect in April 2022, firms will be under even greater pressure to use more sustainable materials in their packaging or face additional taxes if they don’t.”
And that has to be expressed in terms of aesthetics as well. Designers and package engineers will have a challenge in selecting materials and finishes that are sustainable, recyclable, and have the lowest carbon footprint while still meeting customer expectations, brand ethos, and environmental regulations – all while maintaining a great aesthetic impression. Manufacturers of metallic foil have already taken steps to make their goods biodegradable. Water-based inks are becoming more popular, but putting them on virgin paper and then adding a soft-touch laminate will nullify their environmental benefits. The idea is to make judicious use of these processes. That will be the distinction.
Unapologetic realism and rebellious design are the tenth and final trend.
We anticipated that nostalgia will have a big effect on design in 2021 last year, and we were very much right. But, according to Samantha Barbagiovanni, things will be different next year. “If cautious optimism characterised 2021, unabashed realism characterised 2022,” she forecasts. “We had high aspirations for 2021, but these trends, along with a few others, will reach their full potential this year as we become more psychologically, physically, and socially prepared.”
To put it another way, “2022 will no longer be a yearning for the past, but rather a desperate desire to realise our untapped potential and avenues revealed during our quarantine and a meditation period, which lasted far longer than we imagined. As individuals and communities come together for a greater, fine-tuned purpose, backed fully by value-driven design, a new breed of entrepreneurs will emerge.”
So, what does this mean in terms of application? “Subversive design necessitates action and engagement. It asks you to reconsider your own behaviour as a designer or a consumer. Dark patterns, strong persuasion, and dishonest branding are also avoided. It will no longer be acceptable to create in order to challenge or reject public opinion.”
“This new movement will employ design to deconstruct design, aiming to demolish the power structures that have been developed and crafted over history to enrich the few while repressing and weakening the many. Contrarianism has become the norm, and norms flatten ideas. They are freed free through subversion.”