Digital Design Trends: What to Expect in 2018

Our tastes and needs as consumers change as quickly as technology develops, and it’s the job of great design to keep pace.

But, although design is evolving in response to our needs, it’s not always easy for the average internet user to point to current or upcoming trends in design. Trends come and go, but they are a reflection of what we perceive as normal, usable, and attractive at any given time.

In 2016, we saw digital design fully embrace the medium of the screen with an emphasis on responsive, flat, and mobile-friendly designs. In 2017, we saw the functional trends of previous years take on a more colorful and dynamic character with playful color palettes, gradients, and bold shapes. This year, design is pushing us even further.

The design team at Coastal Creative predicts that 2018 will be a year filled with contrast, a theme that speaks to the ever-blurring distinction between the real and the digital world.

Combining the playfully nostalgic with the ultra-futuristic, here are the digital design trends we can expect to see a lot more of in 2018:

1. Intersecting Elements

Bold typography made a huge impression in 2017 and will continue to do so in 2018. We’re beginning to notice more typography leaving the text box to interact and intersect with other design elements.

design trends 2018
RESISTANCE by Brenda Louiza Oliviera Goes

It’s not just typography that’s wandering –lookoutt for an uptick in vectors, charts, and photographs overlaid with one another to create bold and beautiful contrasts.

2. Duo-Tone and Double Exposure

Spotify may not have invented this trend, but they were certainly the catalyst for it being propelled to the mainstream. This is an effect that lends itself incredibly well to digital services that curate the content of others, which makes perfect sense in light of Spotify’s playlists. A two-color palette can bring aesthetic unity to images that might otherwise look unrelated.

Design trends 2018
Spotify’s Duo-Tone Portraits on Behance

Contrast is a defining element of duo-tone and double exposure, but contrast doesn’t have to be loud. Though the Spotify aesthetic is incredibly bold with bright colors and edgy imagery, this effect can be used to achieve a much more subtle and sophisticated look as well.

ux trends 2018
Amaio Swimwear

3. Retro-Modern Illustrations

Since the birth of the internet, we’ve witnessed quite the evolution in generic imagery. From clip art to stock photos to flat design to montages, digital spaces to this day continue to demand this imagery for visual interest. Using this imagery tastefully, however, continues to be a challenge. 2018 digital design trends point to a fresh new take on this decades-old development.

ux trends
Ruya Branding and Digital Agency

These retro-modern illustrations take the best from every generic image solution to date. Using the clean lines and changeable color palettes of flat design alongside subtle shadows and elements of storytelling, these illustrations are at once focused and whimsical.

4. Creative Background Patterns

Tiled backgrounds were huge in the early days of blogging and online profiles, but they quickly fell out of fashion as the web began to favor minimalism and stacked web templates. But just as wallpaper is re-emerging as a trend in home design, 2018 will see a resurgence of background patterns, but with a much-needed makeover.

design trends 2018
For Better Coffee

Unlike the kind of background pattern you might have used to personalize your old MySpace profile, the background patterns of 2018 actually interact with the foreground, whether through thematic similarity or negative space. This interplay between the foreground and background creates a visual contrast that makes for an immersive browsing experience.

design trends
FIFA Russia World Cup 2018

5. Bright Gradients

Gradients took over digital design in 2017. They were everywhere, from logos (like Instagram’s redesign) to hero images and Snapchat filters – it was as if we were all seeing the web through rainbow-tinted glasses. Gradients aren’t going anywhere in 2018, but you can expect to see some changes.

ux trends 2018

Gradients are shifting out of the foreground that they dominated in 2017. Where the last year saw gradients as overlays, 2018 will see more gradients used to create subtle shading and depth in backgrounds and 2D imagery.

6. Thoughtful Animations

We are thrilled to see that animations are making a comeback on the web in 2018. But these thoughtful, tasteful animations are a far cry from blinking banner ads and cumbersome Flash creations from 15-years ago. 2018 design trends in animation take on a more living character.

digital design
Foreigner’s Guide to the Polish Alphabet

Animations are a great strategy for services that utilize Gamification as they are truly delightful for users.

7. Isometric Design

Representing three dimensions on a two-dimensional medium is a challenge that has occupied artists for millennia. Isometric imagery in 2018 will generally fall into one of two categories: hyper-realism or digital surrealism.

Hyper-realism can be seen everywhere in modern advertising, making products look absolutely irresistible. As CGI capabilities advance with every year, it can become increasingly difficult to tell the difference between photographs and digitally rendered images. Such images can have a visceral effect on viewers, even when seen on a hand-held device.

2018 web trends
Inspira Ice Cream

Surreal 3D, on the other hand, doesn’t attempt to resemble or improve upon reality. It creates its own world filled with fantastical geometry and depictions of depth. Rather than eliciting visceral desires (like hunger, in the above images), surreal 3D incites viewers to play and explore.

2018 design trends
Campo alle Comete

8. Split-Page Design

Hero-images featured heavily in almost every drag-and-drop website design tool from the last 5-years. 2018 is finally moving away from this overdone website design element and literally turning the concept on its head.

Like the hero-image, split-page design also divides your screen in a way that is incredibly helpful for delivering information but does so via vertical columns rather than horizontal blocks.

2018 design
Jam3 Design & Experience Studio

Split-page design is another design element that makes use of contrast. By placing elements side by side, they exist on the same plane and are given equal visual importance in the overall design scheme. Where the hero-image takes precedence over all other content, split page design lets all of the content on a page play off of one another. This is an excellent design strategy for presenting users with distinct scenarios or choices under one umbrella.


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