Essential design trends, July 2016
There’s a lot of overlap in the biggest design themes of July. In many of the examples below, you’ll see that multiple trends are used in many of the examples. That’s because many of the trends are simple techniques that can be added to almost any type of design. This is a showcase of micro-trends. What’s particularly nice about these small-scale trends is that you can use (or remove) them without having to do a full-scale redesign. They can serve as little tweaks to help you freshen up a page for a short time with an on-trend element. Here’s what’s trending in design this month:
1. Color overlay on imagery
Color overlays are a visually interesting way to draw the eye when the art is less than stellar. It can be a good way to add color and intrigue to a plain photo, stock imagery or add color when the image is lacking that certain spark. Use of color overlays varies greatly. While bright colors are one of the most popular options, a muted or sepia overlay can change the mood of a project or add just the right vintage feel, such as with the Lyrix website, below. When it comes to color overlay, solid colors are typically the most popular option. Bright colors are common and many of the same hues that are popular with other design trends such as flat and material design are commonly used. (Here’s that layering of trends mentioned in the intro.) Finally, when thinking about a color overlay, consider a gradient, duotone or multi-color effect. This technique can work particularly well with an image that’s easily identifiable or with imagery that’s flat on its own, such as the photo for NYC Pride, below. The reason you are drawn into the website design is the bright color overlay, not the image itself. (Note with NYC Pride’s website, in particular, that another trend is making a comeback — the gradient. More gradients are starting to show up in design projects and we’ll look at this trend in greater detail next month.)
2. Tiny corner logos
For a while logos were one of the most dominant elements in a website design. Designers were using oversized version of brand names and logotypes to create interesting aesthetics. Now they are taking to opposite approach. Logos are being used smaller than ever. But that’s not the only commonality when it comes to the way small logos are being used. They also appear in the same location in almost every example of this trend – the top left corner. The placement is not that surprising. The top left is a common logo placement location in website design and has been for some time due the the idea that users will read the site from top left to right in an F‑shaped pattern. What is surprising is how small the logos actually are in relationship to the rest of the design. In some instances, these logos are designed to symmetrically match the hamburger menu icon. So they are exceptionally small. The Brave People logo, for example below, is only slightly larger than the menu icon and is designed to look almost like an icon in itself, with white novelty text inside a black box. What’s nice about this technique is that it gives the rest of the images and text on the canvas plenty of room to be showcased. Brave People uses plenty of video snippets and layered boxes of information to draw users through the website design. Having a small logo helps the eyes stay in the right place and move through the content with ease. Coats uses a similar concept, balancing the tiny logo on side of the screen and the menu icon on the other. The design further carries the concept of the logo in iconography throughout the site so the user always has a visual reminder of what website they are on.
3. “Make you look” images or video
“Made you look!” That’s what many of the hero images and videos on websites are screaming as you land on them. Images that are odd, unusual or just require a little thought are becoming a popular way to draw users in and keep them on the website for a longer time period. You want to understand what is happening in the image or whether that’s a dog or wolf (Instynct, below), what an out of place element means (Bullhorn, below) or what is going to happen next as in the video painting for Nachume Miller (below). So what makes a make-you-look image? It has to be different and interesting. It has to be high quality and contain a visual that you don’t see every day. The visual should make you wonder about something, ask a question or desire to learn more. The image or video will grab your attention and hold it just a bit longer than a picture of a cheeseburger on the McDonald’s website. It’s that element of surprise or whimsy or wonder that makes it something users can turn away from. When you go back to it, or watch the entirety of a video loop or just can’t get the image out of your head, then you know it will make others look as well. (Go big and bold, or go home!)
It’s fun to see multiple trend converge as many of these websites exemplify. Tiny logos might be one of the elements that most dominant right now. It’s one of those things you might not even notice until you start looking for it, and then you notice this concept being used everywhere. Plus, it really gives the design some room for other elements by getting the logo out of the way, which is why is works in combination with other trends so very well.
What trends are you loving (or hating) right now? I’d love to see some of the websites that you are fascinated with. Drop me a link on Twitter; I’d love to hear from you.