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Trendspotting: what’s caught our eye in design

The Frameworks

Trends tend to start slowly – then suddenly they’re everywhere. Out of nowhere, low-rise jeans are back, brands all have a playful tone of voice and comic book graphics fill our TV screens. 

But trends are, well, trends and they can leave just as fast as they arrived. It’s up to us to keep an eye on what’s emerging, what’s fading and what has longevity, so we can strike the right balance for our clients.

Here are some of the latest trends spotted by our design team.

Rose Stewart: the 90s revival

The 90s revival is still going strong and it’s about more than just comeback tours from the bands of the era: the aesthetics are here too. Switching on MTV now is like a trip down memory lane. Quirky, rich and brightly-coloured idents and animations hark back to a time when diaries and school books were covered in doodles, stickers and cutouts from magazines. At a time when design now is predominantly digital-first – or digital-only – it’s nostalgic to see a print-era aesthetic making a return.

It complements an anti-design trend, throwing minimalism out of the window in favour of layering rich visuals and colours together.

That said, the 90s aesthetic doesn’t have to mean busy, colourful and layered. Eurostar’s new branding nods to its archive, inspired by the letterforms from its 1994 wordmark, and offers a clean and refined aesthetic. It’s a nice touch to rebrand by bringing back something that nods to a brand’s heritage, especially as they roll it out in the lead-up to their 30th anniversary.

Crucially. Eurostar’s new identity has a nod to the past but is equally set to embody its passengers’ future journeys and stories. It’s a smart use of trend, blending past influences with modern aesthetics in a way that will remain current when the 90s revial inevitably fades. 

Ross Sweetmore: the abundance of 3D in graphic design

I was watching BBC Two the other night and was reminded of their idents created by Superunion. The use of 3D grabs your attention and imagination at exactly the point when you’re most likely to switch channels. It makes a channel nearly 60 years old feel new, fresh and modern. And it captures the diversity and creativity the channel has to offer.

Then you get something like the new Citroen logo refresh. After doing away with their skeuomorphic logo a few years ago, they have pushed minimalism even further, now referencing their first logo from 1919. But then they created these wild 3D animations, where they rendered their logo out of anything from water to plants. Is it indulgence or does it have a purpose?

I think it plays into the internet trend of “oddly satisfying” and the viral sensation ASMR. We don’t need to see a car badge made out of fur, but it sure is nice to look at. I don’t need a new phone but the inside of the new iPhone 14 camera looks gorgeous rendered in 3D. Just as products can now look hyper-realistic – even better than they do in real life – it seems like a logo rendered beautifully in 3D is now a prerequisite of a rebrand – presumably because it makes the brand feel that much more real and tangible.

3D boomed in the 80s/90s because it was possible: for the first time, we had the means to do it with computers. It was everywhere and it was overused. It faded away for a bit – but it’s come back better. 

Poppy Daniel: repurposing architecture in design

I love how DN&CO have repurposed architectural design into typography and graphics for Pier 70, a former shipyard in San Francisco that’s soon to become a happening new neighbourhood. The neglected steel-framed architecture has informed the linear graphics and the logo, while the vivid 70s colour palette – made up of sea blue, rust orange and steel-painted pink – nods to Pier 70’s industrial history.

Incorporating the environment – natural or manmade – into design is something I’m seeing more and more of. It’s a really effective way of grounding visuals in their physical environment and delivering a truly holistic brand identity.

David Alexander: bold design as an antidote to flat minimalism

Like Rose, I’ve seen a revival of 90s counterculture: energy, youthfulness and edginess. I see this as part of a broader trend of nostalgia, which particularly comes around in times of political, social and economic upheaval

The recent Pepsi redesign embodies this and gives the middle finger to the flat, minimalistic trend we’ve been seeing in design over the past few years. Volvo and Warner Bros. both fell foul to this trend – only 11% of consumers preferred the new Warner Bros. logo to their old one. And it was used as an opportunity to blast the flat design trend

It’s clear that bold, bright, 3D design is becoming a bit of an antidote. And in these difficult and uncertain times, nostalgia for “the good old days” is becoming increasingly influential on modern design choices.

Myles Walsh: breaking from minimalism and embracing eccentricity

There’s a new trend in the luxury brand space that started with Burberry's rebrand in February. 

The rebrand is a breath of fresh air for both the fashion and design industries. As David mentioned, the last five to ten years saw minimalist branding take over, especially within the fashion industry where sans-serif became so ubiquitous that the term “reblanding” was coined.   

With that reputation, the rejection of minimalism feels more like an inevitability, but the choice from Burberry is promising. It signals a break from the modern “sleek” trend and a return to tradition.

Aisling McComiskey: anti-design/interdisciplinary design

The anti-design trend parallels design styles of the early 90s, which emerged in tandem with the rise of the internet and a growing sense of irony and satire within art. It parodies modernist design styles and rejects hierarchies in grids in favour of abrasive collages, deconstructed type and clashing colours.

The continued entrenchment of social media into the lives of young people could be contributing to the resurgence of this bombastic design style. It plays on the concept of “doomscrolling”, the addictive act of endlessly scrolling through a nonsensical mix of memes, ads, news and images on social media. 

Anti-design is often associated with niche design spheres and marginalised communities as a way to push back against larger, one-sided narratives across the modern design canon. A beautiful embodiment of this, The Glossary of Undisciplined Design is a compilation of work by numerous young, queer designers. The book champions anti-design whilst also incorporating concrete typography, collages and visual essays, to shed light on alternative perspectives within the design community.

Ashleen La Malfa: the rise of ASMRtists

There are so many ASMR content creators now that a new word – “ASMRtist” – has been coined. 

As Ross noted, ASMR has gone viral. It’s on TV (The White Lotus season 1, episode 2) and in advertising (Audi advert). It’s the subject of exhibitions (“The World of ASMR” exhibition at the Design Museum), and, according to Google, is more highly searched for on YouTube than chocolate. 

So is it a science or a trend? Can ASMR be used as therapy? Could car ads help calm anxiety? Whatever it is, I think we’re going to keep seeing more of it across more platforms. 

What’s old is new

Could your brand do with a 90s makeover? Is it time to take your strategy from minimalist to maximalist? 

Using elements of trends can elevate your brand and bring it into the present, even when drawing on inspiration from the past. Our creative and strategic teams are always up with the latest trends so we can keep our clients at the forefront of their industries with design that is both current and ready for whatever the future brings.