By 2018, an estimated 84% of communications will be highly visual. With Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat rapidly expanding the horizons of visual content, this trend is certainly not slowing down any time soon. We are swiftly moving away from soulless corporate stock photography and closer to authentic and relevant brand visuals to create a unique brand story that connects with consumers. The current trend of using unfiltered, candid photography to capture the spontaneity and emotion of a moment is likely to continue next year.

The big take-out: As communication becomes increasingly visual, here are the brand design trends to be aware of in the year ahead.

As with photography, original brand illustrations and graphics will play their part in creating stronger social brand assets. Graphic design will move towards a more natural feel with sketchy lines, hand-drawn graphics, hand-drawn typography and more unique design elements becoming increasingly popular.

This year there was a move towards more outlined icons, images and logos instead of solid images. This trend will carry on in 2018 and we can expect to see more companies shift their branding to modern and simplified outlines and graphics.

Colour

There will be a bold shift to bright colours instead of pastels. Brands like Spotify and Instagram use gradients to give a simple yet bold look and feel, and we can expect other brands to jump on board, particularly in the digital space.

Pantone Color Institute executive director Leatrice Eiseman says metallics will remain a classic, but will move into neutral shades. She also predicts a continued infatuation with iridescence, since "the human eye can absolutely not avoid" anything pearlised or translucent.

Typography

As a design element typography will be taking centre stage. We’re already seeing colourful, playful and artistic fonts outshining images. Eliminating images altogether and relying on expressive typography to create cleaner layouts with more negative space is on the rise, as is using big, bold typography for headlines or visual texture. Serif fonts alone or in combination with a sans serif will also be making a comeback. Expect to see variations of text over images – or hidden under them – to create the illusion of depth, as well as the highlighting and underlining of words to give prominence to some.

Mobile first

Making a brand part of the user’s lifestyle will become increasingly important. The digital trend is certainly nothing new, but as we move into 2018 brands can’t afford not to have a strong mobile presence to remain relevant. Designing with mobile in mind should be nonnegotiable. Identifying your audience as majority mobile-based is the first step, followed by stripping content and visual hierarchy to the bare minimum to create a simple, functional user experience.

Life happens at scrolling speeds in the social media realm, which means that brands need to work even harder to cut through the clutter and create thumb-stopping content. Making information quick and easy to consume has become an imperative. It’s not just about reduction, it’s about creating impact. According to trend analysts, brands will be looking at even more disruptive ways to become top of mind.

With augmented reality and virtual reality becoming more accessible, 3D and experiential design is now something brands can use to create a stronger brand journey.

The rise of brand ideology

Successful brands stand for more than just a great product; they stand for a great idea. Brands need to create meaningful interactions in order to connect with the aspirations, beliefs and lifestyle of its target market. It’s no longer good enough to build brand loyalty. It’s about creating passion brands through active brand advocates. In the future brands will need to look at more innovative ways to connect and turn consumers into brand believers.

Brands in hearts and hands

More than ever, brands need to become lifestyle partners. Content needs to be placed in users’ hands, in and among the rest of their likes and lives, so that it feels like a welcome addition to their timelines and eyelines rather than just an ad that takes up space.

Simone Rossum is the executive creative director at Shift Joe Public.

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