In our past insights, we’ve spoken about the risks of being trendy when it comes to branding, and how going against the grain and being true to your personal brand is always going to boost your profile, especially in the long run.
Recently, our design team met to discuss trends, past and present, in the design space and why they should be avoided, or at the very least, used with caution. Under the microscope were trends in logo design, typography, colour and layout, with the team providing some sound advice regarding best practice when it comes to design.
So if you are thinking of buying your brand a ticket aboard some of the biggest design bandwagons below, don’t panic – we’re here to help you make sure your brand’s design journey is a smooth one.
When it comes to creating a great logo, thinking ahead is crucial, but whatever you do, don’t overthink it.
One of the major stumbling blocks is looking at what is popular and trying to emulate a similar look and feel, ignoring the crucial fact that your brand is unique and its logo should emulate that fact. One recent and popular trend is the large badge ‘hipster’ logos that have become ubiquitous on Shutterstock. While they are definitely on trend at the moment, unless you can create a bespoke version, these logos typically feel bland and out of the box.
The flip side of taking an out of the box solution is going about a design with the intention that it needs to include everything about your brand – the end result is usually over complicated. Don’t get us wrong, a logo needs to be relevant to your brand; but the logo should be seen as part of the larger brand identity. You don’t need to communicate everything in the logo, e.g. you don’t need to have a paintbrush in it if you are a painter.
One trend that speaks to this trap of over complication is the negative space logo – logos that utilise white or negative space for symbolic purposes. This is hard to get right, and if forced, it can come at the detriment of good design. It’s a cliche – but keep it simple. They say that the best logos are the ones that can be replicated by a toddler which speaks volumes about memorability in even the most underdeveloped of minds. It’s simplicity that cuts through the noise and sinks in for the long run.
Be brave enough to keep it simple because this will typically mean that the logo is legible, scalable and still recognisable on its own. Remember to take a holistic approach and think about how the logo is going to appear across a number of different collateral. For example, if someone makes a logo in RGB, you should be thinking from high level to low level ‘how is this logo going to be used?’. What if it’s going to be stacked? What if it’s going to be really small, or really big? At the end of the day, it’s not just the brand mark – it’s the whole company that needs to be considered.
Like logos, when it comes to typography it can be easy to follow something popular without considering whether or not that type fits the overarching brand identity. With the evolution of type and the plethora of new display fonts available, it’s easy to take something on face value and think ‘that looks great!’ without considering what your target audience is going to think, or even if they are going to be able to read it it at all.
It goes without saying then that legibility is paramount when it comes to typography and as such some highly popular hand drawn typefaces such as Wanderlust or Brainflower, ‘hipster’ typefaces, retro grunge and badly done watercolour and calligraphy fonts should be used with caution.
Another thing to consider with overly decorative hand drawn fonts is how they look when you take them off the lot and really put them to the test. A lot of the time, when they are scaled up, you can see a lot of imperfections because kerning hasn’t been done properly. Our designers always check kerning, tracking and ragging, trusting their eyes, not the computer. In general, make sure it’s legible.
Additionally, one font may look great for print, but finding a counterpart that looks good for screens can be a real challenge. Know the medium that it’s going to appear on and always give yourself plenty of breathing space with a font that has plenty of weights. Pick something that has anything like thin or ultra light all the way up to bold or demi bold and everything in between; then you’ve got a really good toolkit.
It’s never a matter of complete avoidance – in some instances a particular decorative font will work, but you need to know your audience first. You’ve got all the classics – and you know that they are going to work well. But if everyone used the same typefaces, it’s going to be a pretty bland world; so the challenge is trying to inject something different that resonates well with your audience.
When it comes to picking colours, again it’s not a matter of just stopping at what looks good on initial inspection – and that’s where trends can become risky. Colours are a powerful tool in communicating a message about a brand and should be chosen with intent.
Like typography, there are no real do’s or don’ts when it comes to colour, just ‘is it right for the brand’. So always consider, is the colour communicating something worthwhile, or is it just design for design’s sake?
It’s easy to get hung up on colour psychology; at a broader level, we have a lot of preconceived notions about colour and as such, choosing them seems instinctual – but you need to consider the audience. Will different cultures see colour differently? Will one tone of blue communicate something completely different to another?
So again, planning ahead is key – there are a lot of colours that work for some brands, and not for others. Bold bright colours are in at the moment as well as neon gradients – but if they don’t fit with your brand identity, we recommend proceeding with caution. Additionally, putting things in red or yellow for the sole purpose of making them stand out should be avoided for the same reason – if it doesn’t fit your brand pallette, consider other options.
Planning also comes into play when thinking about accessibility. One trend we’ve seen is using one colour for everything – text etc. Accessibility is a big issue when it comes to colour (the contrast between the text and the background colour). There are a lot of people with colour/vision impairment, so there are some colours for screens and particularly in print that shouldn’t be used together. You need to take into consideration the density of the colour – for example yellow and white. Sometimes you’ll need to tone a colour down a few shades, and the problem that arises here is that the end result isn’t the actual brand colours. So always plan ahead and keep legibility at the front of mind.
When it comes to layout, There are a number of trends that have popped up recently that have been developed with the intention of making content appear more exciting, but while a creative approach is important, it shouldn’t disrupt the flow of the content, or worse, it’s legibility. Practicality should be at the top of the priority list.
Some trends we have seen become popular of late include white squares and boards around everything as well as having images in geometric shapes, and ‘chaotic’ designs that see a lot of overlapping and collage style designs that can easily be done improperly.
Additionally, while not so much related to layout – there has become an unnecessary desire for icons and infographics for everything when standard copy would serve to deliver the message more clearly. Again this is a problem of design for design’s sake without prioritising the audience and the need to make the passing of information as simple a process as possible. Plan ahead, think about the messages that you want to send out and the best way to say them.
When it comes to best practice, there should be a good contrast between text and background and line lengths shouldn’t be too long and breathy. The layout should always follow a hierarchy and should never be overcrowded. A common misconception is that a lot of white space is a bad thing and that it should be filled – but white space can actually look quite good, and more importantly, give the content room to breathe.
The journey ahead…
Although we’ve torn into a few different trends across logos, typography, colour and layout; as we said earlier, trends shouldn’t be avoided all together. Sometimes a trend can match your brand and your content and this is a great thing because at the end of the day, trends become trends for a reason. They are genuine reflections of what the larger majority of people want to see. So if it fits the right target audience and has a reason and a purpose (communicating something about the brand) beyond just being ‘cool’, going with the flow and following a trend can actually work.
If you have any other questions about design or are looking for help with design, get in touch with us!