It’s going to be an incredible year for graphic design and photography as digital technologies continue to evolve and an increasingly fast-moving world demands more beauty and functionality from visual design. Although much of 2017 will see design increasingly adapting to digital media, with a focus on sophisticated app design and drone-focused photography and film, print is also enjoying a nostalgia-fueled resurgence.
Here we forecast the upcoming dominant trends in graphic design and photography, to help you stay ahead of the curve.
1. Drone Photography & Film Will Become the New Norm
Drones are by no means new on the scene—drone technology has filtered down to the commercial market and become a readily available means of documenting the earth from above. For photography and film this is particularly exciting, with drone-obtained images and footage showcasing landscapes, cityscapes and monumental buildings in a dramatic, sweeping setting.
For photography, drones have the ability to make images appear artistic and even abstract in quality, bringing an almost unlimited array of new aspects to traditional overhead or aerial photography. Drone photography has a cinematic, heady quality that provides interesting backdrops for a range of print and digital media, such as posters, magazines, billboards and websites.
Drone footage will become increasingly popular in 2017, and will have more prominence in lower-budget videos, such as TV and social media advertising, due to the growing availability of drone footage on stock sites and the affordability of drone models on the market. Drone footage is utterly absorbing and gives a grand sense of scale and drama, making it the inevitable footage-of-choice for travel and lifestyle design in 2017.
2. Super Hero Mania Will Go Retro
With even more major movie releases based on comic books slated to be released in 2017, including Justice League, Wonder Woman, and sequels to Guardians of the Galaxy and Spiderman, super heroes are going to have a major influence over pop culture in 2017.
The conventional good-vs-evil format of the super hero genre is a traditional formula that provides a comforting effect in unpredictable times. Increasingly moving away from technology-driven characters, the movie studios are now looking to more old-fashioned heroes and heroines who have a timeless, retro appeal.
So how does this spill over into the design world? We’re going to see more optimistic colors, retro styling and pop art influences in graphics, which reflect the bold costumes and comic book styling of super hero movies.
3. Flat Design and 3D Design Will Merge
For the last few years flat design has completely dominated the graphic design world. While a year ago completely flat, matte graphics would have looked cutting edge in their simplicity, they now look a little dull and undeveloped. But the world isn’t ready to leave behind flat design completely—after all, flat graphics and type are clearer, simpler and more legible than their 3D counterparts, which makes them the ideal partner for user-oriented app design. Instead, we’re starting to see more designs which combine the best of flat and 3D design, merging icons, flat typography and solid color with elements that bring more depth and perspective, like highly-detailed photos, transparencies and shadows.
The combination of these two, once completely separate, styles feels fresh and relevant, and brings personality and sophistication back into flat design.
At the moment we’re seeing this trend appear more in website design, as it allows web designers to maintain the user-friendly interface of flat design with more visually interesting 3D details.
In vector design, this trend will translate to subtle 3D effects, like shadows and gradients, being added to otherwise flat graphics, to give a more real-world feel to cartoon styles.
4. Digital Design Will Mimic The Best of Print Design
As interaction with apps and EPUBs on mobile devices continues to increase, these digital devices will become not a threatening alternative to print media, but simply the evolution of print. Consumers are attached to print media, which retains a tangible, keepsake quality, so they will start to expect their digital media to feel increasingly like print. As a result, we’re starting to see a wave of websites, EPUBs and apps mimicking the typography and layout styles used in print magazines and books.
Beautiful serif webfonts will play a huge part in creating digital designs that would look equally good on paper. Teamed with thoughtful illustrations, beautifully shot photography and clean, classic layouts, this design trend helps websites to feel like familiar friends, not alienating tech rivals.
5. Low Poly Illustration Will Go Animated
You might recognize the low poly style from your gaming days back in the late Nineties. Luckily the new wave of poly design is a completely different animal, and is produced purposefully, rather than being a result of low-resolution technology. Low poly designs tap into the flat design meets 3D trend, but in a more specific style. In 2017 we’ll see the popularity of low-poly logos and icons continue to rocket, but the really fresh aspect to the trend will be found in animation.
These graphics feel distinctly game-like, adding a virtual reality touch to websites and film. Incorporated into EPUBs and other digital media will help to bring a more interactive quality to user interactions, while retaining a stylized illustrative look.
Meanwhile in still graphics, high poly design will bring tech-inspired detail to natural imagery, such as landscapes and animals. These make stunning backdrops for websites and magazine spreads, and provide an unexpected alternative to conventional landscape photography.
6. Pattern Will Make a Big Comeback
This trend has been brewing in the interior design world over 2016, but next year will see the fashion for beautiful, vintage-inspired patterns become even more popular and spill over into other sectors of design. Patterned wallpaper and textiles allow consumers to buy into a nostalgic design style with a modern twist, that feels at once both familiar and completely refreshing. From William Morris-inspired botanicals to Seventies geometric shapes, the new wave of interior patterns reference a range of decades to create something fresh, exciting and undeniably striking.
Pattern will find a place in graphic design by providing both beautiful detail and graphic repetition. As a backdrop to posters, book covers and websites, pattern will find a completely new audience who have until now been receptive to minimal, pared-back design for several decades.
This is an exciting, liberating trend for designers who will find that a broad range of vintage styles can be modernised with digital design techniques, contemporary color palettes and modern print finishes.
To make your patterns look cutting-edge now, team unusual color choices and modern subjects with painterly textures.
Photography will also be influenced by the pattern trend. Images of geometric architecture and repetitive objects will be used as substitutes for illustrated patterns.
7. Street Photography Will Go Mainstream
Natural, authentic street photography has been a favorite medium for many celebrated photographers over the decades, but 2017 will be the year that it overtakes studio photography as a dominant stock style. The inauthentic feel of much studio photography simply doesn’t gel with the current trend for authenticity and ‘realness’ in advertising. In part due to the growing popularity of street photography in documenting fashion and style, this fly-on-the-wall style of taking photos feels suddenly less journalistic and more commercial.
We’re going to see lots of images of people going about daily activities, and using products in natural, everyday ways. This is a refreshing contrast to airbrushed, posed advertising images that now feel a little outdated. It’s also an effective stealth method for targeting increasingly skeptical consumers who prioritise functionality of products and the social status these products bring in everyday interactions.
We’re also going to see a lot more of images that show people interacting with technology in everyday situations. With more smart technologies being developed and released in 2017, businesses will want to show how their products have become integral to everyday life, moving away from pitching them as inspirational, luxury products.
8. Wanderlust Photography Will Go Solo
2017 will see cultural trends for mindfulness and wellness continue to grow, which connects with a desire among millenials to ‘unplug’ and go off grid for soul-searching travel experiences away from a WiFi connection. Travel photography with a wanderlust emphasis has had a more social feel for the last few years, emphasising connectivity and the potential to meet new friends. 2017 will see the wanderlust trend continue as young people battle with the dynamics of changing work cultures and social insecurity, but the emphasis of the photos will reverse, highlighting solo travel and spiritual, awe-inspiring encounters with nature.
These images feel calming, not lonely, and present travel and lifestyle concepts in a completely refreshing light that connects with individuals on a deeply emotional level.
Cultural trends towards more unique travel experiences, with an adventure emphasis, fueled by the growth of accommodation providers with a more community-centric and local feel, like Airbnb, and cheap air travel will keep this trend burning bright over 2017 and beyond.
Looking Forward—2017 Graphic Design and Photography Trends
We can’t promise to be fortune tellers, but we feel confident that these trends will make a significant impact on the design world in 2017, which looks to be a particularly creative and inspiring year for designers and photographers.
We can see some influences spilling over from popular culture, including movie releases, while other trends build on existing cultural norms, taking them in a new direction that feels completely fresh and relevant. As technologies develop, we’re also seeing these have an increasingly significant impact on design trends, and even some trends, such as the solo wanderlust trend, are emerging in reaction to this technological dominance.
Stay ahead of the curve in your own designs and photography by delving into these trends early and exploring their potential. Here’s to a very creative new year!