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7 Design & Illustration Trends for 2018 – Top Predictions

Bye 2017, hello 2018!

This spanking new year is about to debut, and we’ve got our eye on plenty of exciting design developments in the pipeline.

Stay ahead of the curve with this breakdown of the top trends we think will define print designs and illustrations in the upcoming year. From modernized retro typography to hyper-real illustration, and a welcome return of all things maximalist, 2018 is going to be a burgeoning year for creativity.

Trend #1: Modern Script Typography

Ready for huge developments in typography? We definitely are. With type technology fast evolving (check out color fonts, Trend #7), type designers are going to be able to develop more advanced fonts which make complex styles, gradients and textures instantly accessible to print designers.

Tying in with the continued trend for all things hand-drawn, we’re starting to see more calligraphy-inspired fonts and lettering designs. This style in itself is not completely new, but the latest crop of script fonts are carving out their own niche. With a distinctly modern feel, these scripts make use of expertly drawn lines, colors and depth to create an especially unique mood.

This Lingerie XO font by New York designer Moshik Nadav embodies this modern script trend. Taking its cues from the romance of traditional calligraphy it nonetheless feels completely fresh, with exaggerated curves stemming from a perfectly designed serif.

Watch this space—we predict you’ll be seeing this splashed across billboards and fashion magazines everywhere next year.

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Lingerie XO script font — Moshik Nadav

We’re also going to see more designers blending hand-lettered typography with photography to create seamless, intriguing designs. Over the course of 2018, expect to see this sort of work, expertly demonstrated by type designer Dima AbraKadabra.

Image for 7 Design & Illustration Trends for 2018
Image for 7 Design & Illustration Trends for 2018

‘Integrate’ lettering designs — Dima AbraKadabra

Trend #2: Hyper-Realistic Illustration

When flat-lay photos and black and white portraiture start to give out cookie-cutter vibes, it’s time to discover a fresh take on photography. The trend path of illustration is starting to split along two lines—with devotees to naive, simple style on one side, and photo-realistic advocates on the other.

For the photo-realists, this is translating into hyper-realistic portraiture for 2018, facilitated in part by increasingly advanced digital drawing software. These illustrations make you do a double-take, as they are incredibly lifelike. As well as being skillful and beautiful, the added advantage of these designs is that they give designers much more flexibility in terms of how the subject can be depicted.

Posing a subject casually with a snarling wolf? No problem, as seen in these images created for Womankind magazine by digital artist Stavros Damos.

Image for 7 Design & Illustration Trends for 2018
Image for 7 Design & Illustration Trends for 2018

Illustrations for Womankind magazine — Stavros Damos

For print designers, hyper-real illustrations open a gateway to new possibilities for utilizing images in layouts. While stock photography will undoubtedly always have its place, commissioned illustration allows magazine and book designers to demand more creativity and interest from their images.

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Portrait for Stylist magazine by Mercedes deBellard

Trend #3: Retro Typography Reinvented

Our love for all things retro isn’t going away anytime soon. Having moved swiftly through an infatuation with the 1970s, then 80s (with Stranger Things and Bladerunner 2049 to thank for that) and a recent fling with 90s nostalgia in fashion especially, the design world is hungry for its next retro fix.

In print design, we’re going to see this in a reinvention of retro typography. We’re going to see a move away from a replication of authentic vintage styles to a cleaner, fresher take on retro styling.

These layout designs for GOOP magazine by designer Marta Cerdà demonstrate how retro typography can feel cutting-edge when paired with clean layouts and simple photography.

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Image for 7 Design & Illustration Trends for 2018

Layout designs for GOOP magazine by Marta Cerdà

This geometric font designed by Monika Gause also nods to retro type styles and colors but is brought forward into 2018 with its chunky, digital-inspired design. In your own designs, try setting a retro font on an otherwise minimal layout, like in this business card example, to make a vintage statement that feels relevant, not outdated.

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Geometric font by Monika Gause

Trend #4: Maximalism and Rainbow Color

2017 was a watershed year for maximalism, particularly in fashion and interior design, where Gucci, in particular, heralded a return to extravagant color and detail. This has sparked a love across the design board for all things ‘ugly’. Good taste be damned, minimalism is out (for now at least).

In print design too, the mood for next year is maximalist, with designers starting to be more creative with color, embellishment, detail and metallic foiling. However, this trend is anything but ugly in the print design world; rather it celebrates the more colorful and ornate styles of other cultures and centuries past. You can channel the look in your own designs by taking a more-is-more approach. Look to Wes Anderson movies and Eastern folk design for inspiration.

These UN ‘Peace Stamp’ prints by packaging design studio Stranger & Stranger are a beautiful example of this trend for maximalism and rainbow color. Referencing a heady mix of cultural references, from Asia to Eastern Europe, the jewel-like color palette and symmetrical layouts bring these designs bang up-to-date.

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Image for 7 Design & Illustration Trends for 2018

UN peace stamp designs by Stranger & Stranger

Trend #5: Flat Design with Depth

Flat design won the hearts of graphic designers some years ago, and it’s been a constant fixture in illustration and print design ever since. While other graphics styles have tried to topple its crown, such as line art and low-poly, its versatile and stylish format has proven a hard act to follow.

What next then for this long-lasting trend? 2018 will see flat illustration continue to evolve, pushing the boundaries of what can be termed as ‘flat’. Illustrators are starting to bring in more depth to their work, with textures, shadows, and gradients, creating more immersive images which bridge the gap between flat and 3D.

In some designs, this gives a mid-century vibe, such as in these house illustrations by Russ Gray. Grainy textures and clean-cut shadowing lend the images a screen-printed style, which would make them a pretty sweet fit for editorial layouts or book design.

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Image for 7 Design & Illustration Trends for 2018

House illustrations by Russ Gray

Flat illustration will also branch out into more abstract, artistic territory this year. These illustrations by Ruslana Mirzaalieva show the potential of flat illustration to blur the lines between art and graphic design, and between print design and animation.

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Animated illustrations for a TV channel by Ruslana Mirzaalieva

Trend #6: Bold Color Tints

Spotify started the craze for duotone layouts, a style which has become synonymous with the streaming brand. Duotone may be enduringly popular, but that’s because it has such transformative potential. Applying a color filter to images and layouts is an instant technique for stylising the design, injecting it with a distinct personality and mood.

Next year, we’ll see duotone evolve into a stronger style. In photography, gradients will give way to flatter, bolder and singular colors, like in these photographs for Lucy’s Magazine by Aleksandra Zaborowska. This strong style works particularly well for fashion imagery and magazine layouts.

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Image for 7 Design & Illustration Trends for 2018

Fashion photography for Lucy’s Magazine by Aleksandra Zabrowska

We’ll also see duotone being applied to more type-based layouts, like in these poster designs by Vineet Kumar. This allows the color wash and typography to take center-stage, creating a dramatic, vintage-inspired look. So if you can’t imagine a world without your trusty duotone filter, consider this your 2018 upgrade.

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‘No’ poster designs by Vineet Kumar

Trend #7: Color Fonts

If you only know about one trend for the coming year, this is it. Color fonts are the trend set to take over the print and web design worlds in 2018.

Color fonts, sometimes referred to as chromatic fonts, are OpenType fonts with additional data attached in SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) format. In plain speak, this means that color font files store extra stuff, such as textures, gradients, and, yep you guessed it, colors. So rather than relying on creating or downloading a complex vector type design when you want something extra-special for your layout, you can get all of this by using a color font instead.

In line with the new maximalist mood in design (see Trend #4 above), color fonts aren’t for the faint of heart. These typefaces are brash, bold and, above all, fun. Some reference the bold, retro type designs of the Seventies (like Bixa Color), while others look to circus type or neon signage for their style cues.

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Bixa Color color font by NovoType and Roel Nieskens

Color fonts are a little on the rare side at the moment, but more are being designed as each month goes by and demand increases. Adobe keeps track of the latest color fonts available for download via its dedicated color font Typekit. One of its latest and most enjoyable additions is the color font version of Emoji One, allowing users to add colorful emoji icons into their designs.

Color fonts are usable in most recent versions of Adobe design software and are a super quick way to bring the fun back into typography.

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Bungee, a signage-inspired color font by David Jonathan Ross

Looking Ahead to 2018

Next year is shaping up with an exciting tempo for print design and illustration. With a distinctly maximalist mood in the air, it’s definitely not a time to be a shy and retiring designer. To take full advantage of the year ahead, start getting creative and experiment with bold color, adventurous typography, and detailed illustration.

Want more? Check out our take on the pastel color trend and the ultraviolet color trend!

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