What were the leading design trends in 2015?

Now that 2015 is over, we can look back at the good and the bad. 2015 was a great leap from the “hipster heritage“ of 2014/15 trends, moving more towards the use of design grids, block grids or even the use of “call card layouts”, helping to organize a large amount info in a bite size format. 
Geometric shapes and pixel play was a large part of layout design during 2015 and may evolve even more in 2016. Flat design also grew into “material design”, creating space and depth, using long shadows and making vector images look more 3D, through simple techniques. 
Bright ethereal pastel colours were big, as well as single shaded colours in both print and digital designs. Hand drawn fonts and illustrations gave some fresh raw honesty to design while dramatic typography used in big blocks of text gave an aesthetic design appeal and efficiency to both digital and print media. The use of hero background images added a bold, freshness to design, creating a sense of intrigue in telling a story. The use of “hamburger menus” and “ghost buttons” also contributed in bringing major simplicity to website design. 
However, there seems to have been an over-use of vignettes (I must admit I did it once or twice myself) and stock photography as well as transparent and fake imagery.

What changes do you expect to take place in design within the likes of colour, graphics, imagery, typography, and web?

Everyone seems to be going digital, digital and digital. As more companies find that online is the place to interact with their audiences, online digital branding and mobile-first design will come to the forefront of the process. The approach to print has changed from digital leading print rather than print influencing digital. 
Even logos are moving away from being static and becoming “living logos”. Designers are starting to approach logo creation differently, thinking about how a logo look as an icon and how it will be animated. Identity seems to have changed from what consumers need to know to what they want to feel. 
Even typography in 2016 will be influenced by digital, as the use of web-based fonts are increasing. Typography will evolve from 2015 with a focus on big bold typography. Fonts will be clean, but I do believe there will still be a need for hand-drawn fonts. This will give the design personality and individuality. 
Graphics will still involve grids/card/block design for simplicity. Geometric shapes and flat design will evolve to more minimalistic layouts in 2016. Material design will continue to grow in digital and print. The increase in craft gives a design a realism, a connection by designing through the use of “object layouts” rather than digital comping or software layout. The human creation of a design and the process will thus become more evident.

Hero photography is still a big part of the design process, as photography slowly moves away from stock and fake imagery. Audiences are craving honest storytelling, rather than the fake, posed, smiley stock photos we are constantly bombarded with. 
Sites like Snapwire, Death to Stock, and 500px give designers more options. Colours schemes are becoming more “evolved modern retro” – rich, vibrant, and bolder compared to 2015. RGB is the colour of choice as digital is becoming the primary medium. Colour use in 2016 will also be minimal.

Website design will evolve the “hamburger menus” and “ghost buttons” as UX is being challenged constantly for simplicity. The need for designers to take on content creation is also becoming more apparent as the interaction of brands and content are becoming greater.  
Are there any particular reasons the trends have shifted as they have between 2015 and 2016?

As more and more people grow their relationships with the social and digital space, trends will continue to change throughout 2016 and beyond. This has forced designers to move away from “the typical” which now has very little impact. 
Designers are becoming more multidisciplinary, telling visual stories over all platforms. Designers’ responsibilities have changed as there is more emphasis on solving business problems not just through design but also strategy and content. 
Do you forecast any big surprises in design in 2016?

It is tough to tell. The more technology and social issues seem to change, so does our approach to design and branding. But I do think that more and more people will move away from typical software based design to hand-built, crafted layout, typography and using photography. But let’s hope there are a few big surprises this year.

You can view the full Grey Trends 2016 report here.

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