By Michelle Barnett
07/01/2019
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Predicting the future: our 2018 review

Last year we made some predictions about what would be happening in design throughout 2018. And like any honest experts, we want to see how much of it turned out to be accurate!

First, the obvious ones…

Design continues to be increasingly mobile-led.  Surprise!  Shocking absolutely nobody, phones are still where technological and design advancement happens first.  This was an easy one to call, but it’s becoming more true every year.  Mobiles have become so quintessential to every area of our lives – fun, news, transport, diaries, finance – that web designers would be crazy not to make them a priority.

The natural challenge of getting information onto such a small screen means that consideration is needed from the get-go.  It simply can’t be left as an afterthought.

Calling this a ‘trend’ seems a bit naive, because trends by definition come and go.  I can’t imagine our phones going anywhere.  They’ll have to pry them out of our cold dead hands.

We also said that motion graphics (gifs, videos, cinemagraphs, and animations in general) were here to stay, and that file sizes would shrink as web design evolves to accommodate them.  Another no brainer, but it bears repeating.  Video content just keeps picking up speed as a way to grab attention.  Users keep demanding it, and designers are getting smarter about how to implement it.  It’s a toss up as to whether the increased functionality of video content is more due to better phones or better design.

Now, onto the meaty stuff…

We said:  We’re getting used to online data collection, and it’s going to be increasingly tailored to us.

Two major events happened in 2018 that you’d think would have wrecked our trust in data collection. Firstly, Facebook was taken to court for harvesting way too much user data without permission, and then not deleting it when they were supposed to. Investigative reports uncovered that Cambridge Analytica, employed by Facebook for this purpose, had used profile information from over 50 million Facebook users to target them with tailored political ads.  There are also sneaky data sharing agreements going on with companies like Amazon, where mined data is used to advertise products to us.

Secondly, and partly connected to this, a British data protection act was introduced, commonly known as GDPR. Companies were required by law to check that clients wanted their online data to be stored, and delete it if they didn’t.

Initially this looks like a pushback against egregious data collection, right? But just ask yourself… even after the court case, did you delete your Facebook profile?

Nope. Neither did we.

And do you check all the data settings when browsing websites, even avoiding pages rather than letting them have your data? Or are you already bored and just click ‘Agree’ automatically. Yup, same here.  So even in the face of hard evidence that the big companies are misusing the data they do collect, as a society we’re too used to it to try and bother trying to avoid it.

Some website are even (illegally!) making it deliberately tedious to find those settings and switch them off, so that users will get lost or bored and give up. It’s a phenomenon called ‘dark patterns’. This may mean, ironically, that more data gets collected than before GDPR.

Not that we can talk. We have an Alexa in the office now.

We said:  We’ll see less carousel menus and more parallax scrolling

I asked our web designer Dale about this one too, since he brought it up last year.  His response?

We’ve done more parallax this year than we’ve ever done.

Well I guess that’s that!

Projects like the Helter Skelter Arts website worked really well with the dynamic floaty effect of parallax.  However, we aren’t being asked for, or offering parallax across the board, and that’s a good thing.  If an effect doesn’t serve the functionality or theme of your website, there’s no point in having it.

Always use your gimmicks responsibly, kids.

Helter Skelter website a dozen eggs

We said: We’ll get most of our fonts through online services, but this might lead to popular fonts being used too often

I’m quite proud of this one, and I’m going to quote myself to show you why.  This is what I said last year:

“Many websites organise their fonts by how popular they are, so the ones at the top of the list risk being overused… Think of Lobster 2.0, a perfectly good font that nearly became a design contagion!”

Just a few days ago, our web designer Dale found this image of recent fashion rebrands, originally tweeted by JoRoan Lazaro.

Logos from fashion brands who have recently rebranded

I’m surprised to see this from the fashion industry in particular, as they have a strong vested interest in what’s happening in the design world.  Did nobody think to google the other companies before signing off on these?

And I’m not saying anything against a neat, boxy sans serif.  I’ve definitely enjoyed some of those typefaces myself.  But look at the variety in the original logotype fonts.  We’ve got serifs, sans serifs, even a bit of script, thin line, each differentiated from its neighbour.  Even the serif fonts are different to each other.  In the new set all the unique character has just been sucked right out.  There’s no customisation, no clever playing with the shapes.  It’s strictly utilitarian.

Brand New points put that this could have been because the logos don’t scale down to small size very well (mobile first!).  But even if that’s the case, there are other ways to make them work without losing the individuality.

What’s interesting to me is why they’ve all gone for that exact same style.  Maybe, in a world of climate change and Brexit, we need a nice sturdy sans serif.  Perhaps this move away from flamboyant serifs and scripts is just an outward expression of our internal desire, in these uncertain times, for something reliable.  Something… strong.  And stable…

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