In 2018, we are seeing the emergence of at least three key trends in graphic design and branding: the mobile-first mindset; the shift toward artful, authentic, personable imagery; and the continued rise of the social employee as a brand ambassador. Let’s take a closer look at each of these trends:

The mobile-first mindset

As responsive design is quickly becoming the Web standard, creatives are focusing their energy on yet another sea change in design: the mobile-first mindset. Here, the smartphone and the tablet are at the center of design and branding decisions, finally taking the crown away from the laptop and the desktop once and for all.

Although one can think of the mobile-first mindset as an extension of responsive design, it ultimately takes over where responsive design leaves off. By shifting the center of gravity from laptops and desktops to smartphones and tablets, designers are also turning the idea of a responsive website on its head. Before, a website was responsive if it could adapt to the smaller screens found on smartphones and tablets. But with the emergence of the mobile-first mindset, a website is responsive if it can adapt to the larger screens found on laptops and desktops.

The idea behind mobile-first is that you design your site assuming that your users are primarily accessing it on their smartphones and tablets. They are tapping instead of clicking; using their thumbs and fingers rather than a mouse and scrollbar; and so on. And this changes a designer’s approach to almost everything from menus to logos. Of course, this is not to say that the laptop and desktop experience is a mere afterthought, but that the mobile experience is now the one that matters most.

Artful photos and illustrations

Stock photography is by no means gone, or even on its way out. Yet it is certainly losing steam this year as designers are preferring original, personable, authentic photography for their sites. After all, the photos represent the brand. So if the photos look staged and generic, then so will the brand and the company.

What’s true of photos is also true of illustrations. In 2018, we are seeing more attention placed on highly original, hand-drawn illustrations that give sites and brands in general a down-to-earth, even folksy quality. Dropbox‘s consistent use of simple, charming, hand-drawn illustrations is a perfect example of this approach. And the trend toward authenticity is informing the design of infographics as well. Pie charts and graphs automatically generated by software programs are giving away to artful, fun, hand-drawn data visualizations with a campy, poster-like quality.

As a whole, any imagery that reminds the user of the impersonal, heavy-handed, staged stereotype of corporate branding is on the retreat this year.

The social employee: a brand ambassador

In ever-greater numbers, companies in 2018 are viewing their employees as brand ambassadors. Long gone are the days when companies routinely banned and blocked employees from using social media at work. In fact, many companies are now encouraging their employees to use social media. This is only natural, as companies no longer see usage of Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs and so on as a time sink for their employees. Rather, they see that time as an opportunity to expand their brand’s presence as their employees get the word out about their company. And employees are increasingly willing, even eager, to do it.

This eagerness can seem surprising, given the sharp divide between work and play, public and private, that was once the norm. Yet in recent years, employees have been more likely to switch careers, change positions, join startups, and so on, until they find the perfect fit for themselves. As a result, employees are more likely to strongly identify with their company and embrace the brand ambassador (or even brand evangelist) role.

Other strong trends in design and branding this year include increasingly personalized user experiences; a bold use of color and typography, the ubiquity of video; experimentation with AR/VR; and creative use of GIFs and other animation. However, the mobile-first mindset; a strong preference for authentic imagery; and the rise of the social employee certainly lie at the heart of design and branding in 2018.

Want your site and brand to keep up with the latest innovations in the industry? Drip Drop Creative lives and breathes modern graphic design and branding. Reach out to us to bring bold new life to your site and brand, while giving your company the edge it deserves. We serve clients all over the world and the United States, including Houston, Bryan/College Station, Austin, San Marcos, and all of Texas.