What’s Hot, What’s Warm, and What’s Next for Design in 2014

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We see a lot of ads every day, just like you. We really see a lot of websites every day. A lot. Content sites, micro sites, ecommerce sites, sign-up-landing pages, news sites, retail sites, wholesale sites and book-your-[name here] sites. As we see site after site, day after day, we see a lot of the same things. News sites tend to have one of three looks – the spread out, white space wonderland, a cool blue or two thrown in here & there for accents, and teaser headlines are more and more common. Icons instead of photos, less graphics and more large type…full width sites giving more playroom and real estate for less imagery. What a trade, eh? Some look more winning than others, but what you’ll notice over there, you’ll also see done up on some retail sites. And some wholesale sites. Real estate sites, banking sites, review sites. And so on. We consciously try not to design just like any of these other sites, but often times – that’s what the clients see, so that’s what they ask for. Here are some things that the public expects, some things to come, and some elements to look for. Good, bad, awesome and ugly:

Hand Drawn fonts – gaining more ground this year, this is a cool, hip, young way to look creative and “real.” Don’t expect to see your local credit union to change its logo, but you will definitely see it used in their marketing if you haven’t already. Maybe even wiggling around on screen or on the big screen in whatever campaign about the working folks and 2% financing on a boat loan or something. The point is that it’s folksy. People like folksy. They respect it and have fun with it all at once. Used appropriately, it can still look assertive without losing the cool factor. Take our friends at the Texas Beard Company – their logo uses a handdrawn font that is a perfect match for their logo and branding. Thin, wiry, anything but formulaic in structure and expectancy from the tips and stems, it’s just like a random and fun-loving strand of a well-groomed beard. It’s also more prevalent in organic-related fields like produce, small family-owned joints, t-shirt shops and southern roots style marketing. Look for more of it. Those scribbles on the back of your Trapper Keeper? Yeah, they’re in.

Large, tall sans serif fonts - it’s nothing new, but it’s not dying from what we see. Sans serif typefaces can bring a younger, no-fluff attitude for some brands and sites. Long, tall, big, bold, proud, young and hip, these typefaces have an anti-establishment look even for “establishment” websites and brands. Antonio, FJalla, Bebas, Open Sans, and League Gothic are among popular ones because many of these have the look, but they’re also web friendly fonts. Verdana and Tahoma are already the old designated hitters on the bench that get playing time every once in a while. The new guys are going to be in a while racking up points until all our stuff looks the same. Tip – these are good typefaces with the right assertiveness for what you need with still being soft enough to not intimidate or come off too aggressive. Use for headlines, call outs, titles and such. Open Sans has been a strong body copy font so stick with those for the paragraphs and fine print.

Spirographs seem to be getting attention. Why? LaRue here has a theory that the existential and spiritual discovery for a certain generation has been growing, as seen in art, film, pop culture and clothing – termed “spiritual” but not “religious” or at least added to religious endeavors. The imagery that goes along with this is often line elements woven into one another and spirographs fit right in. Things of this nature work its way into art, fashion, culture and so forth – why not business identity and marketing, eh? If art is the imitation of life, then marketing just found some inner peace for a trending design element. Look for this in technology related websites, music and media.

Orange is everywhere. It is IN. But it’s been in for a while. Others are coming in. We think orange is here to stay for a while because the various shades of orange do so much for younger audiences and brands. Red is thought of as such a harsh, hard and emergency color that more brands are afraid to use it as their action colors. Think of a website, especially a rigid one like a bank or patriotic themed business where the decision makers behind it are more than likely anything but artistic and audience-minded, but rather numbers-driven and data-convinced. Red is often their action color, because it is a warm color, often accent color, and makes “logical” sense to be the HOT button. But with younger audiences, designers and schemers, they don’t want the visitor to think “stop” or “bad” when they see red; so they’ve substituted orange. It’s still a hot button color, but a softer sell; a little youthful and playful. Also, the shades of orange cannot be discounted. Its flexible tones can command attention and respect – like burnt orange of the University of Texas. UT is one of the top 3 selling merchandise schools in the country, and outside of Texas it’s very popular; a novelty, even. Orange like our friends at AmeriCommerce has a youthful, playful, light, and tech-savvy personality and really looks strong on white or black. Softer oranges more like a salmon color give way to a feminine quality that a lot of brands gravitate towards, especially because it’s an alternative to the overused pink. Tropical oranges are popular among designers for fashion and interior design, home décor, and so forth, so you can see it popping up in business graphics as well. Purple is kicking in from what we see. Violet, orchid and soft blues have been strong spring colors thus far for fashion design and Sherwin Williams announced the Plum is the color of the year. Sophisticated and soothing, this color compliments the strong, silent types and luxurious brands; pairs well with gray, white, cream and black…look for it particularly in home décor, auto sites, fashion, jewelry and what we term “life choice” fields – funeral homes, insurance, finance planners. It’s a little depressing, but it commands a few extra bucks.

Handdrawn look – with stock photos and stock icons, illustrations and imagery so mainstream nowadays, the leading brands that want to stick out for creativity and innovation are the ones with organically designed looks. Be it hand-drawn logos, icons, how-to videos, etc. Think back about 6 or 7 years to the UPS commercial with the white board. Remember those? People flipped out over it. Why? Because it was captivating to see someone draw on a whiteboard – old school style - when so many things tell us to find/use/develop/adopt something to do that for us. Our creative director, Lance LaRue, remembers in high school when there was one girl classmate of his who brought her laptop to class, while everyone else was still using #2 pencils and spiral notebooks. It really, really wasn’t that long ago, but she was the odd ball out. He says, “We’d be in class with our heads down or all scribbling notes while trying to keep up with the teacher quietly. But then she’d click click click click away on her laptop. And this isn’t MacBook Pro – this is the old Compaq thing that weighed 65 lbs!” But all eyes were on her because she was the different piece in the room full of sameness. The UPS spot and campaign had a fantastic dynamic in that they were promoting newness, technology with their logistics and how they’ve found the answer – with the contrast of basic, simple, roots style pen-to-paper logic. The hand-drawn look is valuable. Do a search for it and you’ll see it more prevalent even in things that you wouldn’t normally associate with it. If everyone’s competing for the polished, corporate, squared-off look – go opposite. You may not prevail over everything, but you’ll gain an audience and carve out your personality by the time the audience recognizes that the others are all the same. Draw it, scan it in, show the flaws and show the imperfections. Chances are, that’s what people will find special for your website, business reports, logos and icons and more.

No matter what trend you’re following or avoiding, keep your eyes peeled for what’s out there and don’t afraid to go against the grain on some things. Branding is not easy and there is something to be sai for staying true to your brand’s colors, type, design, makeup, etc; but it should evolve – or at least elements of it – because your audiences are evolving. Let them follow you and let them lead you. Whether it’s a Bebas font or a violet hue, make it your own and keep up with the joneses all at once. Don’t blink…

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