The Ultimate Guide To Graphic Design Trends (2018)

graphic design trends 2018

The Ultimate Guide To Graphic Design Trends (2018)

‘Destroying is creating’ should be the graphic design mantra of 2018. From cropped and misaligned typography to scratched and weathered surfaces, ruining designs is all the rage. Another red thread that runs through this year has been to double everything: images, colors, and exposure.

If you’re a graphic designer, it’ll pay off to keep tabs on the current trends. The likelihood is that your clients have spotted them and want something similar — even though they might not be able to articulate it. It’ll win you brownie points to be up to date on the trends, but at the same time, you don’t want to get lost in the mix.

Use these favorite techniques to spice up your graphic design, but don’t use them as a replacement for your creativity. Trends come from somewhere, so don’t let current moods and fads prevent you from starting the next big thing in graphic design.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular methods in 2018, but it’s by no means an exhaustive list. Let us know in the comments if we’ve missed anything! Without further ado, here are the hottest trends in graphic design 2018.

Graphic Design Trend #1 – Chaotic Typography

Last year, we saw chaotic elements of all kinds represented in the graphic design. The trend continues this year, albeit in a more focused form. In other words, it’s time to calm down your OCD, throw out the rulebook, and create some chaos in the text alignment and spacing. Remember that you want to give a rough and raw impression without making it look amateurish.

Graphic Design Trend #2 – Color Channel Effects

Holograms have the all the rage for the past few years, but the enthusiasm is slowly petering out. Instead, graphic designers are using a lot of color channel effects in their work. Color channels are a great way to quickly create a visual of distortion that is slightly reminiscent of the hologram trend. Jump on the bandwagon if you’re aiming for something otherworldly.

Graphic Design Trend #3 – Colorful 3D Substance

There are many things a client shouldn’t say to a graphic designer. One of those things is “make it pop!”. And yet every graphic designer will have heard this at least once during their career. It’s perhaps mostly out of necessity that 3D elements have become a trend in 2018. More specifically, it is 3D elements (to make it pop) combined with really bright colors (to make it pop more).

Graphic Design Trend #4 – Color Transitions and Gradients

Operating systems and social media platforms all undergo constant design changes in tandem with the trends. We’ve seen shiny metallic 3D buttons being replaced with flat and stable colored buttons. Now the solid colors are being replaced with gradients and transitions. Instagram’s makeover is a testament to the popularity of this trend.

Graphic Design Trend #5 – Creative Typography

Sometimes words on a page are all that’s required to grab people’s attention. Less is more, and if you can get away with some creative typography and negative space, then you’re golden. No wonder then, that creative typography continues to be a popular trend in graphic design. A text will inevitably be part of most marketing projects, so you might as well make the most of it.

creative decor

Graphic Design Trend #6 – Cropped Typography

Cropped typography is an offshoot from the creative typography trend described earlier. It’s mostly the practice of erasing bits and pieces of the text without making it indecipherable. Cropping, slicing, deleting, and mangling the letters takes both practice and patience to get right, but is worth the extra effort when done right.

Graphic Design Trend #7 – Double Exposure

Double exposure is far from a new technique in graphic design. That, however, has not stopped it from becoming a continuous trend. Double exposure allows you to create stunning surreal images by combining two separate photographs. It’s a favorite technique because it’s straightforward to execute and produces impressive results.

Graphic Design Trend #8 – Double Exposure Duotone

Double exposure is such a favorite technique that it deserves double the number of entries on our list. We could do an entire post on double exposure given its possibilities when combined with other methods. One of those is the duotone effect, which is the practice of combining double exposure with color channel effects. Double the image and set it for two different color schemes — and voila.

Graphic Design Trend #9 – Double Light

The third double trend on our light is the double light effect. This effect can be done with either color channels or two different sources of light. The result is a very modern look, if not downright futuristic sci-fi.

Graphic Design Trend #10 – Glitch Effect

You’ve seen it in every sci-fi or horror movie. The glitch effect is part of the larger distortion trend that includes cropped and chaotic typography. Use this technique to create gritty and eerie images that create a chilling atmosphere. Similar to the other distortion methods; the glitch effect takes some time and effort to master correctly.

person writing on white printer paper in front of silver iMac

Graphic Design Trend #11 – Hand-Drawn Illustrations

Musicians aren’t the only creatives who yearn for the days of analog gear and practice. Graphic designers have also gone on a journey of rediscovery. Hand-drawn illustrations have been one of the unavoidable trends of 2018. Not only does the drawing by hand come with fewer restrictions than digital, but it also stimulates the mind differently. Just like reading a real paper book, drawing by hand feels more real. Chances are we’ll see this as a trend that will never go out of style.

Graphic Design Trend #12 – Illustrations Over Photos

A picture says a thousand words, but an illustration over a view means even more. So it’s been with the use of drawings over photography in 2018. The most popular variation of this technique is to combine a clean image with some brightly colored cartoon typography. Use this method with care, however, as it can quickly start looking tacky.  

Graphic Design Trend #13 – Metallic Elements

The use of metallic elements in your designs is another way to show your client it pops. If done correctly, a metallic effect can produce a fantastic look when combined with 3D typography and bright colors.

Graphic Design Trend #14 – Negative Space Designs

Negative space isn’t going away anytime soon. Still, we feel like it deserves mention in this year’s graphic design trends. The use of space is widespread, and it’s the perfect way to draw attention to specific elements in your design. When used in conjunction with beautiful natural landscapes, negative space can be downright magical.

Graphic Design Trend #15 – Negative Space Typography

Just like negative space can be utilized in designs overall, it can also be used with typography. It’s a great way to let the background shine through — literally. With the image visible through the text, you can achieve an interaction between the two elements.

two gray pencils on yellow surface

Graphic Design Trend #16 – One Color 3D Design

One color 3D is the solution for the graphic designer whose client wants the design pop without looking tacky. It uses the same color for the foreground as for the background. The 3D effect makes it pop out of the frame without it looking like an eyesore. It also takes care of decision on a color scheme, as it’ll be the same as the product being advertised.

Graphic Design Trend #17 – Papercut Illustrations

Paper cutting art is making a comeback similar to hand-drawn illustrations. There are two ways to go about this technique: the old-school way and the more modern approach. By all means, go ahead and knock yourself out if you’re into cutting up some paper. But there are plenty of options to choose from in the digital domain.

Graphic Design Trend #18 – Ruined Effect

The final trend of 2018 that relates to things being destroyed is the ruined effect. The name covers over many different ways to make a design look weathered and worn. Apply some rust, scratches, rips, tears, discoloring, and whatever else can make your design look gritty.

Graphic Design Trend #19 – Typography as Real Life Elements

Combining typography with real-life objects or downright making typography out of them is a trend. This can be a great way to introduce customers to the team behind a company. It has also been heavily utilized in the fashion industry as a way to combine the showcasing of products with marketing copy.

To summarize, here are hottest the graphic design trends of 2018:

  1. Chaotic Typography
  2. Color Channels Effects
  3. Colorful 3D Substance
  4. Color Transitions / Gradients
  5. Creative typography
  6. Cropped Typography
  7. Double Exposure
  8. Double Exposure Duotone
  9. Double Light
  10. Glitch Effect
  11. Hand-Drawn Illustrations
  12. Illustrations Over Photos
  13. Metallic Elements
  14. Negative Space Designs
  15. Negative Space Typography
  16. One Color 3D Design
  17. Papercut Illustrations
  18. Ruined Effect
  19. Typography as Real Life Elements

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Brandon Stapper
Brandon Stapper is an entrepreneur and investor. He is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Nonstop Signs, an industry leading graphic design, print, and sign business with multiple locations throughout the United States. At 20 years old, with no formal education and only a few hundred dollars, Stapper turned a $400 custom decal machine in a garage into an international printing powerhouse focused on helping businesses improve their marketing and branding with everything from retail signage to packaging, to trade show displays.
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