What Graphic Designers Should Know Going into 2018

From year to year, it might not seem like a lot changes. When you look back five or 10 years, though, you realize just how drastically technology and the global marketplace has evolved. Staying on top of industry trends, learning new skills and continuously changing and upgrading is the key to a long-term successful design career.

There are some things you’ll definitely want to brush up on or learn before you head into the new year. Some of your work will involve finding new skills, relearning old skills and paying attention to the trends. Here are 12 of the top things you should consider as you head into the new year:

1.      VR & AR

If you haven’t noticed, more websites, apps and games are using virtual and augmented reality than in the past. While this technology has been around for a while, expect to see if become more and more mainstream as the younger, more technologically oriented generation comes of age. As the cost of this technology comes down, it will also become more commonplace.

Even if your coding skills aren’t quite to the level of creating a VR game, you should still brush up on your knowledge of this type of design environment and find someone to add to your team who is an expert on VR and AR. Learning the basics can help you best understand how to implement this into your designs, even if someone else does the heaviest part of the coding.

2.      Bright Colour Choices

vibrant colour image

You may have fallen into the rut of using neutral or more muted colours as minimalist designs took over the last couple of years. However, many designers are turning to brighter colours to make a real impact in the world of muted reds and washed-out blues. Think deep jewel tones, a splash of neon here and there, and colours that really grab the eye. At the same time, when designing for websites, keep in mind that some colours do not translate well online, such as yellow.

3.      Obstructed Text

A design trend we’re seeing more and more often is obstructed text. You can’t just plop any old image in front of text and expect to get a good effect, though. There are many elements to consider with this type of design. Take the time to study examples of obstructed text done well alongside fails, so you can figure out what works and what doesn’t. For example, it is important to use words that are common enough that the person can easily figure out what the word behind the image is.

Another way to incorporate obstructed text is by using a full-width background and adding text overtop. A small portion of the text would be similar in colour to the background, and thus would create a sort of reverse obstructed text effect.

4.      Geographical Living

working from home

If you want to work for a company instead of being a freelancer, then you’d do well to position yourself in a geographical location that has a need for graphic designers. This will allow you to not only find jobs more easily, but to also command a higher living wage. If you are going to freelance, it still might be a smart move to locate yourself near such as an area, as it will be easier to pick up overflow work from local companies in need of your services. For example in the US, New York City and Los Angeles are both great locations, where as the UK have these top locations for designers.

Another option is to live within driving distance of some of the top locations for graphic designers. This will allow you to go into the city to meet with potential clients or commute for short-term or long-term jobs with various companies. Again, even if you don’t want to work full time for a company, this is a smart move because it places you where designers are most in demand.

5.      Flat Designs for Product Packaging

Did you notice how flat designs made a comeback in 2017? This trend is likely to continue, as many people prefer this simpler approach to presenting their products and their websites. This means you need to learn how to put the focus on simpler text and images. The key is to keep everything simple so the focus stays on the product and message alone.

Some designs simply utilise flat elements alongside more creative features. For example, you can create flat icons but have more dynamic images for the logo or the other features on a page. You shouldn’t be limited to only one type of design trend. Blending two or more can work well as long as the overall aesthetic still works.

6.      Colours That Transition

Not too long ago, Instagram used colour transitions in its redesign — think about an ombre-type look where the colour has a high rate of pigmentation on top and then fades almost to white on the bottom. This is a trend that is likely to be adopted by companies as they utilise bright colours but then fade them down to something more muted so as not to overwhelm the consumer. Learning how to transition from a bright colour down to a faded colour requires some tinkering around with graphic design software, so now is the time to figure out how best to work on this type of design.

7.      Animation

2018 is a great time to learn more about 3-D animation techniques. As more and more people turn to storytelling to get their company message across, they will also turn to 2-D and 3-D special effect to help them with this task. One emerging trend is a mix of both 2-D and 3-D graphics. This might mean a 3-D background with a 2-D overlay, for example. By combining the two, designers open up a whole world of possibilities.

8.      Productivity

As a graphic designer, you can only complete the amount of work you can put the hours into. It isn’t as if you can clone yourself. However, what you can do is focus on your overall productivity as a designer. This advice is for both those working for a private company and for freelance designers. The start of a new year is a great time to check out new productivity tools and to refine some of your work processes.

9.      Refresh Drawing Skills

Drawing with a tablet

Over time, it is easy to fall into the habit of using stock photos and tweaking things that are already created. Your drawing skills may suffer if you don’t use them. Taking a refresher course is a smart task to complete. In addition, spend a bit more time away from the computer and design gadgets and use pencil and paper instead. If you want to continue to create unique designs into the new year, then you need to refresh those drawing skills and perhaps add a few new ones.

This will also come in handy with the trend to include hand-drawn elements in designs. Because your drawing skills will be updated, you’ll be able to create truly unique, one-of-a-kind designs for your clients.

10. Depth

Expect to see a design trend the pulls together hierarchy-type elements along with shadows to give designs a sense of depth. This has a bit of a 3-D effect, but is different from 3-D animation as it is static design. Pulling on basic drawing concepts that pull in elements such as distance and optical effects, you can create a truly unique logo or header for your clients’ websites.

11. Design Shapes

Geometric shapes never truly go out of style. They are classic and make a good starting point for any design. In 2018, they will be used in more unique ways, such as to allow a background image to peek through or as part of the header design. You’ll also see geometric shapes show up in muted tones as part of the background design.

12. Cinemagraphs


Learn how to best create and use cinemagraphs this coming year. This is simply a very short and almost static video. The first and last frame of the video short are likely to match one another. Imagine a glass of water with very slight waves, which creates a nonstatic effect.

It is predicted that cinemagraphs will become more of a trend in 2018. Now is the time to get a head start so you’re ready to run with your own cinemagraph designs.

In addition to the multifaceted information people need to know to do good design work, you must find time to learn new skills. As you move into a new year, it is vital that you pay attention to current and emerging trends. Start integrating these elements into your designs now and you’ll be ahead of the competition.