The word trend can roughly be defined as either a fashion or a general direction in which something is developing or changing. With respect to branding and logo design, I would argue that the first definition is a dangerous path to pursue. Why? Three simple yet very important reasons:
- If your branding and logo are designed with current trends in mind, your branding may not stand the test of time, something that is a crucial cornerstone to overall brand recognition
- Current trends don’t necessarily define what is good. We’ve all seen examples of irritating or/and frustratingly persistent trends across many mediums. Whether it’s the duck face selfie, the man bun, or the Gangnam-style dance, there will probably be several all-the-rage style trends you can list that you are very glad died out. A logo design trend, however, should never be on that list.
- Following a current trend when creating a brand may result in misrepresenting the entity you are trying to brand. Although it’s true that many business owners and other organizations may ask for similar treatments to those of other brands, from a designer’s perspective, treating a business as an individual is part and parcel of the branding process. Anyone requiring a designer’s help wants to know that their business will be given a treatment that speaks to their philosophy and mission statement. How can a current trend be relevant for all brands? For example, a retro-Victorian-era or “vintage” logo style that was popular in 2016 may well have befitted a trendy microbrewery, but would the same fashionable design style have worked as well for a computer repair shop? Unlikely.
The best trends are really just key graphic design concepts like simplicity, deliberate font choice, and design that’s fit for its environment. Let’s take a look at some examples of turning points in graphic design history and how they have helped inform what we see today. By looking at advancements in the field historically, we may be able to predict some of the future developments in branding in 2019.
Trends that have stuck and we are likely to see developed in 2019.
- Simplicity – It’s imperative that a logo be visible from afar, easy to grasp conceptually by an audience and expressive in a way that describes something about the brand. One of the key ways to achieve those things is to keep it simple. Good design should be just enough to do the job right without overdoing any single element to the point of confusion.In 1956, Paul Rand created IBM’s logo using the simplest of shapes and colors, an important step for logo design and the beginning of a trend that still thrives today. We can see in many of today’s iconic logos the extensive influence Rand’s work has had on logo design.
In 2019: We will certainly see more simplicity in logo design. Designers will continue aiming to strike the perfect balance between simplicity and descriptiveness. We’ll see more geometry, more clean and uncomplicated typography, and more clever space-saving techniques to achieve the maximum impact in smaller and smaller amounts of space.
- Typography – One of the most (if not the most) universally recognized logos worldwide is… you guessed it, the Coca Cola logo. This fanciful, curvaceous red script is a great example of a trend that has survived since the late 1800s when it was conceived by John S. Pemberton. Pemberton used a typeface called Spencerian Script which was popular at the time, and although it has been tweaked several times over the years, the lineage is clear and obvious to this day.
In 2019: As time goes on, we’re going to see more and more experimentation and creativity with fonts generally, but 2019 probably won’t be the year of the retro-Victorian. Why? Because we’ve recently lived that trend in the form of what I like to call “Pinterest-style-logos.” In 2016, there was a revival of highly embellished, Victorian-style font pairing that you’ll see a lot of at micro-breweries, boutiques, inside homes and of course, on Pinterest.
2017-2018 gave us sharp, severe, all-caps branding and logo design, and I don’t see that disappearing in 2019. Why? Because it conveys a substantialness and trustworthiness that people are drawn to in a brand. So, we have our typeface personality chosen, all we need now is the right color…
- Digital – Of course, brands today need to be able to speak in the languages of print and web, graduating to online platforms where clicks and conversions can be monitored with more and more granularity.In the 1980s MTV created an animated logo, and in the late 1990s personal computer use increased dramatically. As the transition from print to web continued, designers tried to emulate print styles in digital form.
In 2019: To satisfy the many formats any single logo needs to be able to inhabit, I think we’ll see brands employing more compact logos or logos that can be compartmentalized to be split up when needed or brought back together as a full ensemble. That’s because of things like apps which only have a very small amount of space to let a prospective user know what it’s for. But a format that’s right for an app may not be perfect for a printed banner or a piece of apparel, so a versatile logo and small set of colors and type that can adapt to their surroundings will be crucial to next year’s branding.
In conclusion: As we say goodbye to 2018 and get into the swing of 2019, my hope is that we’ll see more and more refinement of brand design methods and techniques that draw from the years before. I hope we’ll see ever more experienced, well-thought-out branding for a more exposed and often brand-wary audience that will be drawn to thoughtfully created branding, as opposed to the branding that shouts the loudest.