Digital design trends 2017 header


Every new year at Coastal Creative, we look forward to reviewing the design trends from the previous years and making predictions for the year ahead. So we’re proud to introduce our Design Trends 2017 Infographic here.

This process is always a neat examination of the way that our needs evolve and how design adapts to meet us where we’re at. In 2015 and 2016,  we saw how flat design and responsive web templates came to dominate the digital design landscape. And this made a lot of sense!

Minimalist, easy to replicate or personalize, and aesthetically pleasing on every screen size, flat design embraced the medium of the screen and created a new standard for harmony between usability and aesthetics.

2017 has its own spin on the paradigm of flat design that is less minimal with the welcome additions of new depth and color.

But before we get started on the new, let’s take a look at trends from 2016 that are still alive and kicking in the new year. These are designs that are popular and established and will go on to inform new trends in 2017:


Continuing Design Trends in 2017:

Card/Title Based Design

We are a society of endless scrollers who consume a ton of information. All of this is made possible and not entirely overwhelming by the popularity of card and tile-based designs. Cards are a stackable, expandable, and collapsible way of curating lots of content all together.  Hugely prominent for blogs and portfolios looking to present their unique content in an organized way, Card-based design is also a common means by which companies can create searchable indexes of other peoples’ content. Pinterest, Yummly, and even now Twitter are all examples of massive aggregations of information made navigable by cards.


card based design trends


Bold Typography

Cards certainly do their part to help users prioritize what is important to them. Bold typography, on the other hand, is how a designer can command user attention and direct it towards what they deem important. And given digital design has in recent years trended towards either minimalism or a collage of cards, big and bold typography is a perfect means of contrast in either case. Digital consumers have famously short attention spans, and bold typography is one way to ensure the most important idea can’t be glossed over.


bold typography digital design



Experimental and Throwback Colors

A handful of years ago digital design was filled with textures, colors, and patterns that replicated nature: earth, jewel, and metal tones; wood, cork, stone, or cloth background tiling. Today, these designs feel really dated; just think of the standard water droplet or grass lawn backgrounds that came standard with earlier generations of the iPhone. Today designers recognize that digital spaces and nature just can’t compare, so color palettes should instead evolve to fully embrace the digital environment they inhabit. A tiled photo of wood paneling as seen through your computer screen will never quite achieve the same look and feel as real wood. But an edgy and warm shade of yellow? That’s something that can really shine through digitally.


experimental throwback colors digital design



Thin Icons

As part of design’s infinite pursuit to curb information overload and simplify usability, Thin Icons have emerged as a marriage of nostalgia and futurism. They are nostalgic, on the one hand, because the image is almost always a loose and dated metaphor for the action it symbolizes. You don’t use literal paint brushes to paint in Photoshop, nor do we store files on floppy disks when press save. This kind of abstraction is how complicated technical processes become digestible for any Average Joe with a smartphone. Thin Icons make it possible to intuit the tangible, everyday functionality of something as complex as the Cloud.   


thin icons design trends



Emerging Design Trends in 2017:

So those were four design trends from years prior that you have likely already grown accustomed to. Here are four trends to look out for as they bring some bright new dimensions to the way we experience design in digital spaces:


Neon Gradients

Jokes about Microsoft Powerpoint backgrounds aside, Gradients are back and in a big way. These brightly colored spectrums are ultra timely in a number of ways. Firstly, when so much of the web revolves around aggregating and curating content from a wide variety of sources, Gradients can bring aesthetic unity to what may otherwise look like a jumbled collage of photos. Secondly, in a digital space dominated by flat design, Gradients add subtle shadows and depth to 2D images. And finally, neon gradients take advantage of their digital medium’s capacity to showcase bright, contrasting colors. As nature-inspired photo backgrounds fade into design history, gradients promise to make our digital experiences more colorful.


neon gradients design trend



Compared with the edgy and funky colors of neon gradients, pastels are back in fashion as a softer and more calming color palette for use in digital design. Pantone deemed two pastels as the Colors of the Year in 2016, with a huge proportion of their color pairings being pastels as well. But where pastels may have once been associated with housewives and country clubs, this new manifestation of pastels contrasts well with asymmetry with plenty of unisex and urban appeal.


retro pastels design trends



Bold Shapes

Yet another example of 2017 adding new depth to flat design, bold arrangements of simple geometrical shapes are emerging on the digital horizon. Angled and overlaid, polygons can create the appearance of three dimensions using clean lines and perspective rather than contouring and coloring. And just like the responsive web templates that have become super common in recent years, bold shapes look great everywhere, on any medium and any screen size. This is great news for logo design and branding, as these shapes look just as good online as they do on storefronts and pieces of clothing.


bold shapes design trends



Renewed Emphasis on Originality

Perhaps we have arrived at a point in digital design where it is often difficult to distinguish one website or app from another. This is in part due to the prominence of tools like Bootstrap and WordPress, and partly due the fact that it is almost obligatory for every business and individual to have a functioning website.  When everyone, regardless of design inclination, needs to create a digital space, and everyone uses the same tools to create it, we end up in a sort of template vacuum. In 2017, however, we expect to see a departure from this norm. The most exciting and unique examples of design will be those that are impossible to directly replicate or make with a drag-and-drop website builder.

emphasis on originality in digital design trends

What digital design trends have you spotted recently? Are there any that you are ready to see go? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts about the current design landscape!


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