Design industry predictions for 2020

28 November 2019

Design industry predictions for 2020

Simplicity, sophistication and intrigue feature heavily in our design industry predictions as we look to 2020.

Like all good design, this article does exactly what it says on the tin. What follows is quite simply Third Floor’s top ten predictions for how brands will be built in the year ahead. Which leads nicely into our top contender.

2020s design trend one: simplicity

It sounds like a paradox, but simplicity will definitely shout loudest in 2020. The trend goes wider than graphic and brand design and relates to consumer behaviour. It’s something Apple has pioneered over the years, not only in the usability of its products but also through its packaging and brand position. This idea of space is everything. And it’s not only about simple design but simple communication.

As a design agency that specialises in building brands, Third Floor recently collaborated with a new, gender-neutral cosmetics company. We always begin with in-depth industry research. For somebody that doesn’t buy cosmetics, I’m amazed at how anybody would go about it. Compared to other retail sectors, it just seems to me to be utterly bonkers. There’s not as much brand loyalty as there could be – because nobody’s really making any real promises – and it’s just so confusing. We looked into general consumer behaviour, specifically in terms of simplifying, and we uncovered some great stats. 61% of people would recommend a brand that gave them a simple experience and 64% of those consumers would pay more for a brand that, again, delivered a much simpler, user-friendly experience for them.

So our graphic design team took it back to basics, in the smartest possible way. We made the product code much, much clearer on the packaging and we indicated colours with complete clarity. These two basics are much more likely to stick in a customer’s mind than some weird and flamboyant name that they can never remember, which seems to be a trend in the beauty sector. We pulled out every stop to make it super simple for somebody to buy and also repeat purchase our client’s products.

The average adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions a day. American Psychologist George Mellor said that ‘seven plus or minus two’ bits of information is all we can comfortably be aware of at any one time. He said that in 1956. Add today’s multi-media onslaught, which well known to be distracting and hugely diminishing on our attention spans. It’s a noisy world.

So, largely down to how much information our brains have to sift through on a daily basis, every brand we connect with now needs to be very simple and it needs to make its message crystal clear. Simplicity will be, in both design and communications, 2020s biggest trend.

Trend two: offline

In a hold-the-front page-moment, print is seeing a huge resurgence. Again it’s largely down to the digital noise in our lives. This presents a fantastic opportunity to be heard because so few brands are actually doing print today. Third Floor is filling that void, and I expect many other design agencies to follow.

Trend three: finishing

This will be a very specific trend in print. Finishing really brings a piece of print to life and due to advances in software and printing techniques, we can now produce much more dynamic designs. Metallic design is going to play a big role in 2020.

We’ve recently branded a new premium rum called Neptune. We spent a lot of time looking at different finishes and the tactile aspect of the product. Being a superior rum, Neptune’s bottle had to reflect the quality of the contents. So by adding some layers of context with things like metallic ink, foils, debossing, we were able to create more of a narrative and we didn’t stop there. We took the design well beyond looking good on the shelf. The entire Neptune bottle is three-dimensional. When consumers pick that bottle up and interact with the product, their whole experience is incredibly tactile.

Trend four: sophisticated cider

Similarly, we’re very proud of our branding for Dunkertons, a local-to-us Cheltenham producer of multi award winning organic ciders and Perry. It’s a little known fact that the production process for cider is as long as wine and, add to that, Dunkertons is a superior product, the design had to be just as considered. We made every bottle unique. Every label is hand drawn. We’ve used multiple layers, metallics and embossing on the printed labels. One of the bottles even has a wax seal, which is unexpected of a cider but indicative of the quality of contents. All of this was made possible by cutting edge software and printing capabilities. In the early 2010s, print was famously declared dead. In the 2020s it’ll be very much alive and kicking.

Trend five: mid-century

The mid-century, Scandinavian theme has been a massive trend in recent years, both inside and outside of the design industry. Will the trend stick around? I think it’s only set to grow. What we’re seeing through the revived popularity of things like Wes Anderson’s films, is this really kind of retro, 60s-70s colour palette – lots of oranges and browns and naturals as opposed to the lurid fluorescent, largely sparked by Wolf Olin’s 2012 Olympic logo. The craft beer market went more towards those garish rainbows but a lot of retro colours are being used in packaging now as well, and for good reason. It’s bucked that garish trend a little bit.

One of our clients is a chocolate and wine pairing service, Oh Be Joyful. When we designed the brand, we took a lot of inspiration from Wes Anderson’s films. Largely The Grand Budapest Hotel, which despite its 2014 release is being re-shown at some of the UK’s most hip arts centres. That whole mood features quite heavily through our design work for this client. And again, this retro, vintage vibe is definitely here to stay.

Why? If you look at what it’s based on, and what the influences are, they’re very dense and robust brands that have a real longevity to them. People are now trying to recreate some of that possibly because it enters the physical world through the rise in popularity of mid-century interior brands. Ercol, G Plan and Arne Vodder, for example, are hugely influential. They’ve stuck around and so too will the retro resurgence.

Trend six: layers of intrigue

Image masking is a design technique that focuses on the layering of visuals, almost hiding imagery behind graphics. The effect reveals an area of the image, covering enough to create intrigue. Our design studio applied this approach to this year’s Christmas campaign for Visit Cheltenham. The concept revolves around people looking into the world of the perfect Cheltenham Christmas. We’ve covered up a lot of the image so it has an enticing depth. Image masking will be everywhere in 2020.

Trend seven: sound branding

Unlike a logo, which is purely visual, sound is dynamic: it can be used across media, without any need for to see something. As a case in point, Intel Inside’s sound is probably more recognisable than its logo.

Just two years after Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, Intel Inside’s own, now instantly recognisable audio clip came in 1991. In the year 2000, 90s indie band Shed Seven got involved. Not with Intel – I mean, imagine that – but by re-recording their song ‘Speakeasy’ with the lyrics ‘At The Link it’s easy’ for mobile phone company The Link. For better or for worse, I don’t think anyone can forget that. And of course there’s McDonald’s. In 2003, the fast food giant paid Justin Timberlake $6 million to sing its famous ‘I’m lovin it’ jingle, which has become absolutely synonymous with the brand. Almost 20 years later, it’s still going strong. The term ‘jingle’ is deceptively breezy for such a powerful brand asset. We’ve had several new clients approach us, mostly from the tech sector, to say they would love a sound that they can own. We’ll hear more in the months ahead. 

Trend eight: special effects

As a design and branding agency, we’re diversifying the media we work in more than ever before. Right now, we’re producing some impressive photo-real CGI (computer generated imagery), which are special visual effects created through computer software. We’re currently working on a campaign for a tech company that’s all about connecting people. It will feature real people using the product in kind of an obscure, weird environment, using lots of different images combined together and also using CGI to bring that to life. This means that not only have we got a really immersive still image to use on the campaign, which in itself is very surreal, but we can then animate that for the all the digital, cross-media platforms that we want to use it on. This brings the whole brand to life, making it a much more immersive experience for the target audience. The use of CGI and composition and retouching is having a real moment. With advances in what design software can do, this trend’s only set to get bigger. 

Trend nine: (even more) 3D printing

Here’s another advance in printing’s increased abilities that is having a very real impact on the design world. As an agency that builds brands, Third Floor doesn’t just get involved in what’s classically considered to be the identity. We’re capable and experienced in helping to design and brand the whole product, which often includes rapid prototyping. 3D printing has made that both possible and affordable. We employed 3D printing to design a bottle cage for a cutting edge e-bike. We used it when designing Neptune’s one-of-a-kind rum bottle too, which started life as a resin mockup before its final iteration.

Our clients are very quickly able to tweak and approve designs and through very efficient, very basic prototyping we can make impressive, 3D-printed mockups that looks like the finished article. Clients use these mockups and, even in beta, it’s winning them business.

Trend ten: return on investment

With everything we do as an agency that builds brands, that’s our ultimate goal: a bespoke win for our clients, whatever that uniquely means to them. Whether it’s setting their brand off on the right course to win customers, to win support, to win investment, to win a buy-out, or to simply (spot the call back) win at breaking the mould – delivering for our clients is a trend that we take great pride in, and I see absolutely no chance of that changing.