Design Trends Predictions for 2020 From Top Designers
Design Inspiration

Design Trends Predictions for 2020 From Top Designers

Juraj MihalikJuraj Mihalik

Are you wondering what 2020 might look like for design?

Is your design ready for the coming changes?

Looking for expert insight to help you make better design decisions?

We personally asked Stefan Sagmeister, Mike Creative Mints, Gleb Kuznetsov, Jan Vu Nam, Adam Ho, Jane Davis, Teresa Man, Noah Stokes, and Ivy Mukherjee what they think you need to watch out for in 2020.

Here’s what they had to say.

Stefan Sagmeister

Stefan Sagmeister

New York-based graphic designer, storyteller, and typographer

Why Beauty will matter

Right now, most design-centric professions, be it architecture, product, or digital design don’t take beauty very seriously, with many practitioners seeing it as superfluous while concentrating on function.

I very strongly believe that the sole pursuit of functionality often led to work that does not function at all, the public housing projects of the 50ies and 60ies being a prime example: The goal was to house as many people as effectively as possibly resulting in projects that were not fit for human habitation, - they needed to be torn down again 20 years later.

This will change: We will discover deliberately designed form as important again. Beauty will add many functions, specially to fields that have been designed with nothing but function in mind.

Stefan Sagmeister formed the New York based Sagmeister Inc. in 1993 and has since designed for clients as diverse as the Rolling Stones, HBO, and the Guggenheim Museum. Having been nominated eight times, he finally won two Grammies for the Talking Heads and Brian Eno & David Byrne package designs. He also earned practically every important international design award.

In 2008 a comprehensive book titled "Things I have Learned in my Life so far" was published by Abrams. Solo shows on their work have been mounted in Paris, Zurich, Vienna, Prague, Cologne, Berlin, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago Toronto, Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, and Miami. The Happy Show attracted way over a quarter of a million visitors worldwide and became the most visited graphic design show in history.

He teaches in the graduate department of the School of Visual Art in New York and lectures extensively on all continents. In 2012 young designer Jessica Walsh became a partner and the company was renamed into Sagmeister & Walsh. A native of Austria, he received his MFA from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and, as a Fulbright Scholar, a master’s degree from Pratt Institute in New York.

Jan Vu Nam

Jan Vu Nam

Head of Design at Avocode

Digital design will come back to the traditions of the classical graphic design

A focus on expressive typography was already a trend that defined the visual directions of many websites throughout 2019. We can say that popular flat illustrations were so overused that they ultimately became passé. This disgust from overly remixed, generic illustrations drove designers to either pay more attention to the artwork produced or to completely abandon them - focusing on the rest of the visual elements on hand.

I feel that there is a deeper appreciation of the work produced by core elements of the graphic design world - small, independent, contemporary type foundries. Understanding the nuances of the type allowed us to drive entire visual directions more easily, but with more expression than ever before - a concept known in the graphic design world for decades.

I think that digital and graphic design will continue influencing each other to the point where ultimately both will become one, crossing the boundaries of virtual and analog and allowing us to look at any device or material as the same canvas - while utilizing the benefits of each media, case by case.

Jan Vu Nam is a designer generalist and currently a Head of Design at Avocode. He designed for many prolific companies backed by Sequoia, 500 Startups, or Thiel Fellowship, and was behind the design of Elevate, the Apple’s Best app of Year 2014.

Mike Creative Mints

Mike Creative Mints

Designer and illustrator with 17 years of experience

We’re going 3D!

One of the main trends in design in late 2019 and without a doubt in the upcoming year is the extensive use of 3D in illustration in commercial design. 3D has been increasingly popular lately thanks to numerous Instagram experiments of its enthusiasts, but 2020 will definitely be the year of 3D illustration in design!

BUCK Design / Anna Kajda / Creative Mints / Prateek Vatash

Here is where I can see it being used most:

  • Business/corporate illustration
  • Geometric primitives, arthouse, experimental illustration
  • HiTech and IT related illustrations
  • Illustrations for kids and 3D characters
Luis Yrisarry Labadía | Typography Alphabet

The reasons for this great trend are cheaper video cards (goodbye cryptomining craze!) and better rendering software products such as Octane, RedShift, and others, which make 3D illustration much easier. I’m sure we’ll see many new artists and great experiments in 3D in the upcoming year!

Crystal Yumumu / Website Design

The market is dying for new ways to emphasize and illustrate ideas, and 3D is just the right tool here - there are so many ways to reimagine old ideas and experiment with something new!

Mike (Creative Mints) is one of the most popular artists on Dribbble. Designer and illustrator with 17 years of experience and an author of a popular Patreon channel where he is sharing insights about his work and design industry.

Gleb Kuznetsov

Gleb Kuznetsov

Founder and Director of Product Design

How will AI impact graphic design in 2020?

I have a suspicion that the continuous improvement of smart “AI” assistants could result in a huge shift in the way we use digital services. A number of companies are already working to leverage these smart AI assistants to build a “smart AI OS” that would serve as the overlay to our mobile devices. In the world of the AI-OS, what we previously called “app” would be known as a “skill.” So where as the 2010s were all about mobile phones and their apps - the 2020s would be focused on the ways in which we design interactions with the AI that will power our devices and our environment.

Plus, the way we interact with these devices will change— we’re likely to see an ever-increasing preference for voice interactions and cameras as the primary input channels. This will require us to rethink the designed experience of so many interactions that are currently keyboard-based.

The role that design will play in this future extends far beyond how much emotion we might evoke with our cinematic 3-D ideations. Because like any other technology, AI can be used for good or for evil. AI-generated human personas such as the Samsung NEONs promise a whole panoply of emotionally interactive services and companions for humans in the future. Which can be a very good thing. At the same time, the rise of things like DeepFake videos prove that it’s possible for many people to create highly realistic experiences designed to distort our reality. So I think one of the big challenges ahead for our design community will be to encourage critical thinking from users.

I am confident that we already know how to create product experiences that evoke and charm and fool our users with cleverness and realism. But can we also make our users smarter, more careful users of these technologies? I hope so.

Gleb Kuznetsov is more than a designer — it takes an artist to make human and product interactions awe-inspiring. With over fifteen years of experience, Gleb has elevated product design to art, earning a stunning roster of world-class clients and one of the largest followings in the global design community. His signature style, inspired by the beauty of the natural world, is known for being exquisitely detailed and fluid, immersive, and full of life. Gleb brings us the future in a way that users can feel connected to.

His client list includes Airbus, Samsung, Huawei, LG, Twitter, Apple, Mitsubishi, Daimler, and many more. And Gleb’s work has been honored with numerous awards—including CES Innovation Awards for the last four years in a row.

Adam Ho

Adam Ho

A designer based in New York, worked at Airbnb, Zendesk, and Pencils of Promise

Editorial Styles Translate to the Web

Over the last few years, especially in the tech industry, we’ve seen the rise of homogeneity in our industry with reputable brands. As the web and the digital world continues to evolve, we’ll hopefully start to see a bit more complexity and taste for 2020 in terms of interaction and visual impact as trends and styles from the previous decade become tired.

Print design has always had complex grids, typographic systems, and unique art direction sensibilities. We’ll start seeing more of that transfer into web design. Instead of having a simple set of two contrasting typefaces for display and body fonts, we’ll see more intentional unique type systems that expand into even how metadata is treated, to how micro-copy and captions can be styled. Instead of having a standard web page displaying necessary information, we’ll see surprise-and-delight moments with the interactivity element of the story.

New York Times feature on office culture
New York Times feature on office culture

Over the past decade, print publications such as Bloomberg Businessweek and The New York Times Magazine have been forced to enter the digital age. Although these entities are not seen as digital natives, they have been able to take their intricate, varied, and quirky styles from print, and have been able to translate them into unique interactive and storytelling experiences. Companies like Dropbox and Mailchimp have already been providing more nuanced and intentional web experiences that set them apart from their competition.

Adam Ho is a designer focused on visual design and web interactions currently freelancing and contracting on the Dropbox design team. He previously worked at Airbnb, Zendesk, and Pencils of Promise.

Jane Davis

Jane Davis

Head of UX Research at Zapier

Design Operations will drive outsize innovation and impact

Design Operations have traditionally been brought in to companies at the point where teams can no longer function efficiently without them. This has disregarded their potential to serve as drivers of innovation, rather than facilitators of existing work. In 2020, expect to see the most interesting Design work coming from places that invest in these functions proactively and use them to unlock the full potential of the Design team. Organizations that hire operations early in their scaling process and let them develop an ambitious vision will have a huge advantage over companies that wait until they start experiencing gridlock.

It’s not enough to just hire a DesignOps team, though. A mistake I see companies make when they’re creating operations roles is to be overly prescriptive about what Design Operations is. To really reap the benefits of DesignOps, you have to let them tell you what your team needs, and how they think you should get there. If you’re hiring DesignOps because you hate dealing with POs or you don’t want to do your own participant recruiting, you’re wasting your resources. Ops, as a driver of innovation, is about finding ways to elevate Design teams and their work.

This certainly can look like offloading some of the tool or vendor or process management, but if you relegate the role of Ops to being your administrative dumping ground, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Rather than hiring DesignOps and saying, “Make us faster,” teams need to start hiring DesignOps and saying, “Make us the best version of ourselves.”

In this coming year, investing in forward-looking Design Operations functions will be the key differentiator between companies that are at the forefront of design, and those that are playing catch-up. But that investment has to include the support, resources, and, most of all, the latitude they need to define and execute a vision for the entire Design team.

Jane Davis is the Head of UX Research at Zapier. She leads a small (but growing) team of amazing researchers, content designers, and research operations specialists. Prior to joining Zapier, she was the Design Research Manager for Growth at Dropbox. She and her team specialize in conducting foundational work, connecting product teams to humans, and having opinions.

Teresa Man

Teresa Man

Lead Designer at Superhuman

In 2020, Dark Themes Will Be Delightful

In 2019, a number of popular apps and platforms launched their own dark themes after persistent user demand, including Twitter, Slack, G Suite, as well as iOS. Fans of the once rare visual theme cite benefits like relief from eyestrain, improved reading in low light, and lower battery consumption. In 2020, I don’t see this trend going anywhere. In fact, users should increasingly expect apps and devices to offer dark themes.

As designers are tasked with building dark themes in 2020, it’s important to remember that not all dark themes are created equal. For instance, a dark theme that is merely an inversion of the existing “light” theme can actually achieve the opposite of what we want — it can increase eyestrain, be harder to read in low light, and may even break information hierarchies.

To create a dark theme that is as delightful, readable, and balanced as its counterpart, designers must be thoughtful about every element of the user interface. Here are our Superhuman guidelines on how to design delightful dark themes:

  1. Darken distant surfaces: Rather than inverting every color in your existing light theme, invert the main surface color to produce the main surface color of your dark theme. Then, lighten this color for nearer surfaces and darken it for distant surfaces. This maintains physicality and will feel much more natural.
  2. Revisit perceptual contrast: Consider each item of the user interface individually, and reassess contrast ratios to prevent fatigue and ensure readability.
  3. Reduce large blocks of bright color: In dark themes, large blocks of bright color can pull focus away from your most important elements.
  4. Avoid pure black or white: Realism, black smearing, depth, and halation are all reasons to avoid these colors. In fact, Superhuman’s dark theme consists of five shades of gray.
  5. Deepen colors: Colored accents and buttons used in the light theme may be too bright for the dark theme. Reduce brightness to prevent these colors from overpowering nearby text. Increase saturation, so these colors keep their character.

As dark themes become increasingly prevalent in 2020, users will want (and expect) delightful dark themes that actually deliver benefits. The steps above address common pitfalls and will ensure that your dark theme doesn’t seem like an afterthought.

Teresa Man is the Design Lead at Superhuman, the fastest email experience in the world. She is also a community manager at Elpha and a mentor at Lambda School. Previously, she was Experience Director at Konrad Group. Teresa loves to travel and shares photos from her trips around the globe with her social media followers.

Noah Stokes

Noah Stokes

Creative Director at Brave Care

Designers Will Focus on Meaningful Work

In 2020, designers will be looking to work on more meaningful projects, and at companies whose mission and purpose aims to have a positive impact on their community, their country, or the world.

A quick glance at Y Combinator batches from the past year shows a trend in startups aiming to tackle more significant problems compared to years past. Gone are the superficial startups looking to solve "first-world" problems in it's place are highly ambitious companies looking to solve "real" problems. Modern medical billing, small loans for Latin Americans, technology to better learn how drugs will affect patients, building better immunotherapies, a platform for curing inflammation and age related diseases--the list goes on and on. Of course, design will play a critical role in all of these companies, and there will be no shortage of designers lining up to help solve these very real problems.

What will bring about this shift? More than the fact that these startups are being funded or that the time is right for certain technologies to advance, designers, in general, have been growing tired of unethical practices (dark patterns) they've been required to build in the name of growth. Furthermore as design ethics becomes more of a discussion amongst our community, designers are starting to look inward and think more deeply about the work they are doing and if it's truly being respectful to their end customer.

It's with these topics top of mind that I see designers looking to move towards more meaningful projects or companies that have a mission that is both ethical and purposeful. Designers will play a role in changing the world for better through design and it will come through the movement of designers to companies solving real problems that face all of humanity.

Noah Stokes is a veteran designer with over 17 years of experience who is passionate about product design, user experience, and building great products–without compromise. After building and leading design teams at Creative Market and Dribbble, Noah is now the Creative Director at Brave Care—helping build the future of pediatric care.

Ivy Mukherjee

Ivy Mukherjee

Senior Designer at GRAB

Provide emotional intelligence in softwares and make them more humane

There is a huge wave around Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and how designers jobs might be changed or how design will be changed in the coming days.

Technology will change with time, but I am coming to believe that designers who are building systems (be it software, hardware, tools, etc.) will be more mindful and sensitive about the users, their motive, their goals and more over the only thing which will matter is the emotional intelligence and sensibility you will provide to the users. Designers will have to proactively reduce making dumb systems, which doesn't provide positive value.

Different companies have started addressing this, for example: Pinterest showing mindful content to the users.

Complain less

To provide emotional intelligence in the softwares designers will need to complain less about not understanding/knowing the content, business and product. We will need to understand content better as we are serving real humans with real emotions and needs.

Acknowledge and understand the value of the privilege

Often times I have seen (including myself) and observed that POCs undervalue themselves as they are believed that they don't come from a "traditional" privilege background which includes economic stability, which then draws the facet of the ability to take risks as well. What intrigues me is that everyone - regardless of age, race, region, geography, tradition etc should have "certain" types of privileges. This is what I would like to inculcate in women, which would ideally help them associate and appreciate the privileges they have and how it can be helpful in defining their future.

Diversity in communication

I have grown up in a small village in India and studied there till my high school in the native language knowing a handful of the English language, let alone the speaking part, however, as a kid, I always loved drawing, which inculcated as my daily habit.

Being trilingual is somewhat rewarding plus a pain, as to communicate and to feel comfortable within people you are constantly struggling with yourself, where you are thinking in your mother tongue and talking in English. This has been a sheer obstacle for ages, but irony is that it is the one thing which kept me where I am today.

Making others confident

I would like to contribute and create design communities for every such woman who doesn't feel confident about themselves or their decisions as their ingrained belief system are supposed to believe "they are not good enough."

From hearing stories about each other’s communities, backgrounds, home countries to making an intact group of informal chats to being friends, instead of just acquaintances.

Communication is one of the foremost soft skills required to feel and see accomplishment, and communication has never gotten a bigger boundary than speaking a mono language: English.

Ivy Mukherjee is the Senior Designer at GRAB exploring Toolings and Support Experience. She is also a former Product Designer, Growth & Onboarding at Shopify.

Do any of these predictions surprise you? What are your predictions for the upcoming year?
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