Printing and Design Tips: April 2019, Issue #213

Trends in Color and Design

I used to get a print magazine called GD USA. I believe it started as Graphic Design USA. Regardless, it eventually stopped coming to my mailbox, but it has continued to show up in my email (, and I have been grateful. It has been an unusually helpful "magazine" (even as an online periodical) in that it discusses trends in color and design and highlights a handful of current marketing initiatives in each issue. I think it offers a wealth of information.

Yesterday, I read a article entitled "The Next Macrotrend: Escape Into Everyday," by Kate Perez, Design Director, and Andrew Shepherd, Brand Strategist, Interbrand. The article intrigued me because it captured the ethos of our country at the moment, turned this awareness into a list of what kinds of marketing design would be effective for today's young people, and then even quantified this insight (on a granular level) in terms of colors and graphic design approaches that would speak to young consumers' tastes, interests, and values.

That's a lot to do in three pages, so I wanted to share this information with you.

Cultural Trends

Perez and Shepherd note that "we are bombarded by a sea of noise. Our world turns at an alarming pace. It's spinning faster each day, out of our control" ("The Next Macrotrend: Escape Into Everyday"). In response to this, according to the article, we now seek a number of things in our lives:

1. We want authentic emotional connection.

2. We want to be a part of something larger than ourselves.

3. We seek ways to express ourselves.

4. We want to address the chaos of the world both by confronting it (fixing the problems) and by escaping from it.

5. This desire for "escapism," as Perez and Shepherd identify it, is a significant cultural trend.

6. We seek to control our minds and bodies, and to approach life with hope, inner tranquility, and optimism. "We seek out a sanctuary to provide personal calm and tranquility to cope. Instead of focusing externally, we draw inward, improving our minds and bodies because that we can control" ("The Next Macrotrend: Escape Into Everyday").

7. This desire for sanctuary manifests itself in everything from meditation to napping to taking herbal supplements.

Design Trends

So how does this cultural ethos translate into trends in design?

Perez and Shepherd note the following:

1. On an interior design level, a product and packaging design level, and even a publication design level, this translates into a growing use of soft, muted colors along with minimalist design and lots of white space. A prudent designer will give today's consumers a place for their eyes to rest.

2. On the physical design level (such as product design and interior design), this translates into smooth, organic textures to create "a naturally calming environment" ("The Next Macrotrend: Escape Into Everyday").

3. Since we want to express ourselves authentically in an increasingly impersonal world, we look for brands that are more human and less impersonal. This translates into such design elements as handwritten text and headlines (because they seem more personal and approachable). It also includes artistic renderings, which highlight self-expression.

4. The desire for personal expression is also evident in "colorful, saturated palettes" ("The Next Macrotrend: Escape Into Everyday") that reflect the multitude of today's cultures that exist side by side. Perez and Shepherd also note that gradients and blends echo the fluidity we seek in today's world.

5. "A mixed use of patterns and together to create new and unique compositions with depth, dimension, and an individualized character of their own" ("The Next Macrotrend: Escape Into Everyday").

6. Since truth is often hard to come by, 91% of today's consumers will "make a purchase, investment, or an endorsement of a brand as a reward for that brand's authenticity" ("The Next Macrotrend: Escape Into Everyday").

7. The desire for truth can be seen in current design trends of contrast and light, and black and white extremes.

8. Other graphic design trends reflecting this search for truth include transparency and reflectivity, with mirrored and holographic substrates gaining in popularity.

9. Young people want to improve the world around them, to make a difference. This leads them to prefer relationships and experiences over consumer products. Because of this, they gravitate to "purpose-driven brands" ("The Next Macrotrend: Escape Into Everyday"). According to Perez and Shepherd's article, "55% of consumers expect brands to be a force for positive change."

10. This presents itself in "sophisticated digital brights, neutral wood tones, and soft metallic finishes" ("The Next Macrotrend: Escape Into Everyday") in product design and packaging. Buyers also look for the familiar in simple, geometric shapes.

The Implications

The takeaway is that people buy products and services from brands that reflect the values they themselves espouse. This makes consumers feel they are part of something larger than themselves. It also allows them to express themselves in an increasingly impersonal world by aligning themselves with the brand.

From the point of view of the brand, this means that by reflecting certain design trends, colors, and ways of communicating with consumers on a personal and pertinent level, as well as expressing the same values, brands can continue to remain relevant.

To quote Perez and Shepherd, "Brands that embrace creative expression and individuality through design will elevate themselves to a more creative space, increasing differentiation and recognition" ("The Next Macrotrend: Escape Into Everyday").

When linked with effective storytelling, a brand can use design in general (and product and package design specifically) to connect with consumers on an emotional, human level.

[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]