Five Graphic Design Predictions for 2019, and an Update on Last Year’s Prognostications

2019 arrives with two overreaching design trends on the horizon, seemingly at odds with each other: bold experimentation and risk-taking on the one hand, and a continued reliance on—and evolution of—historic design elements on the other. This year should be a particularly interesting one for graphic design, with one foot in the future and one foot in the past.

But first, let’s see how last year’s predictions held up.

A year ago, I felt that interactive “print” design would become increasingly common. This has turned out to be TRUE.

In my little corner of the graphic design world, the demand for interactive PDFs, e-books and online, customized interactive experiences keeps growing. Anything that engages the viewer and distinguishes itself from competitor output, whether it’s through sound, video, or interactive infographics, continues to prove it is worth.

I was pretty confident about the death of “concepts” and the rise of all that is authentic. I was right on the nose, this was TRUE.

Absolutely, this is the case. And, it’s a trend not limited to graphic design. Whether it’s in fashion, automobile design, or, the restaurant industry, brands are finding success through appearing genuine and incorporating signifiers of honesty and value. Contrast the uncertain future of the Buick brand—which strives for aspirational luxury—in the US, with Jeep—a brand that banks on authenticity—which, just had its best sales year ever.

And the graphic design trends that I think will be big in 2019?

Bold, geometric designs

All signs point to bright colors, large geometric shapes, duotones and asymmetric layouts making a big splash in the coming year. We’ve already seen inspiration taken from 1980s designs, but there’s new ground being broken as well. There’s an optimism that comes with risk-taking and using bold colors and design, and it’s refreshing to see.

Disruptive design

Two years ago, I predicted the rise of cinemagraphs (still images in which a minor and repeated animated movement occurs”) in graphic design. And while cinemagraphs didn’t quite prove to be the force that I expected them to be, they did blaze the trail for a similar trend: static disruptive design, or, any sort of deliberate, incorporated gaffe or clever visual inconsistency that catches the eye. Think of it as graphic design’s equivalent of “breaking the fourth wall.”

Serif typefaces

We’re already seeing serif typefaces nearly everywhere, not only in advertising, but also more and more in the corporate world. There’s the nod to vintage design, of course, but there’s also the simple fact that serif fonts tend to be very readable, particularly for longer assemblages of type. After years of what’s felt like nothing but sans-serif and semi-serif fonts, particularly in the corporate world, there’s no doubting the appeal of something that’s just… different.

The design grass is—and will always be—greener on the other side.

Dimensional type and hand drawn elements

Perhaps a response to the “flat design” push of recent years, but also in harmony with the illustration push we’ve witnessed recently, I believe that we’ll be seeing more complicated, illustrative, dimensional type. Look for this in logos and headlines, of course, but also in applications as seemingly counterintuitive as information design. Decorative doesn’t necessarily have to mean unclear or messy, and anything that can hold someone’s attention for a little while longer will always be considered.

The return of custom photography

Over the past couple of years, there’s been increasing consolidation in the stock photo industry, prices have shot up, and licensing has become increasingly restrictive. Clients are (finally) rediscovering the value of custom photography, a trend that I expect will continue in the new year. For my photographer friends, it’s been a long time coming.

2019 should be a compelling year for graphic design.

See you in twelve months, to see how it all plays out.


ABOUT Ryan Bahrke

One of Wordsmithie's senior designers, Ryan has more than 15 years of experience in creative direction and management, working with companies like Google, Quantcast, RSM, Navigant, Starbucks, and Ace Hotel. Ryan is the principal of Auslander Creative in Denver.