2020 Vision: Five Graphic Design Predictions for the New Year,  And an Update on Last Year’s Five Predictions

Has it really been a year?

2019 has been an interesting year in the world of graphic design, and 2020 should prove to be a compelling one as well. There are five graphic design predictions that I’m quite confident about for the coming year. But first, let’s see how last year’s forecast played out.

I predicted that bold, geometric designs would be all the rage in 2019.

TRUE

Bright colors, large, geometric shapes, duotones, and asymmetric layouts were seemingly everywhere. Not only did 1980s inspiration play a big role in these designs, but there was innovation, too, with today’s techniques being applied to yesterday’s aesthetic.

I thought that we’d see disruptive design everywhere we looked.

FALSE

Disruptive design, as deliberate, incorporated gaffes and visual inconsistencies designed to catch the eye, were predicted by me and many others. It seems that blog posts about graphic design predictions were as far as this trend made it, unfortunately.

I was certain that serif typefaces would make a big comeback.

TRUE

After years of typefaces like the ubiquitous Gotham, with its slab sides and (typically) all-caps usage, there really did seem to be a comeback for serif fonts, in particular the more delicate serif typefaces, in both advertising and branding.

I figured we’d see lots of dimensional type and hand-drawn elements.

TRUE

This one proved to be a big one, with illustrative elements ranging from simple icons to full-page, hand-drawn illustrations common everywhere from packaging to editorial design.

I was confident about the return of custom photography.

TRUE

With all of the consolidation that has taken place in the stock photo world, and the higher prices and increasingly restrictive licensing that seems to have come with it, custom photography has become a value proposition. Expect stock photos to ape the look and feel of these custom images, too, with a more naturalistic approach than what we’re used to.

So what do I think is on deck for 2020?

Monochromatic layouts

Technology has improved and cost has come down to the point where monochromatic layouts are a design choice, not an economic one. There’s a no-nonsense vibe to a monochromatic layout, and I expect to see many examples of this in the year to come, especially in financial industry communications. Monochromatic layouts don’t have to be one-dimensional, either, when gradients, patterns, and textures are integrated.

Metallic inks and papers

Metallics seem to be a trend that comes and goes every few years, but they’re back in a big way for 2020. As digital printing took over for offset printing for many applications, metallic inks, which were always a challenge to print digitally, fell by the wayside. The technology has advanced enough now to allow for these inks to be digitally printed, reliably. Expect to see more metallic inks and papers with business cards and other identity items.

Dark, neutral color palettes

Perhaps in response to the bright colors that reigned supreme in 2019, I predict that we’ll see a good deal of dark, neutral color palettes, especially in the corporate world.  Think earthy tones like greys, browns, and greens, especially in tandem with the metallic inks mentioned above.

Heavy typefaces

Typography seems to have made a split for the new year, with layouts going either the thin, elegant serif typeface path that I touched on above, or, taking the route of heavy “humanist” typefaces with small x-heights, low contrast between strokes, and tight kerning and tracking.

Graphic designers as strategic articulators

In the corporate world, graphic design was often thought of as a last step. More and more, I see graphic designers and illustrators being brought in earlier in the process, to both help think through and articulate concepts and ideas. This is an awesome and welcome development. 2020 should see some interesting graphic design innovations. Be sure to check back next year to see how my predictions panned out.

Ryan Bahrke

One of Wordsmithie's senior designers, Ryan has more than 15 years of experience in creative direction and management, working with companies like Google, Quantcast, RSM, Navigant, Starbucks, and Ace Hotel. Ryan is the principal of Auslander Creative in Denver.