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Graphic Design

Muted Color Palettes

After years of bold, neon, and bright colors being used on millions of graphics, things are going to look a lot more reserved this year. In fact, this year vivid colors are going to be replaced by more muted color palettes across the board.

Brands like Apple, LinkedIn, and more have actually already added these more nuanced colors to their graphics. Here’s how Apple does it:

Once Apple does something new, the world is bound to follow.

If you’re not aware, muted colors are basically the opposite of vivid colors. These colors are created by adding black, white or complementary colors to a base color.

This shift actually will influence, as you can see in the other sections, the rest of the design trends for 2020. That said, just because the dominant colors are going to be more reserved this year, that doesn’t mean graphics are going to be less colorful. For example, check out the variety of simple colors used in the examples from eBay‘s Instagram:

As you can clearly see there are still a plethora of different colors used across their graphics. If they would have used popular bold colors from the past few years, the graphics would have felt very abrasive.  But with these muted colors, each graphic feels very modern and genuine.

Muted colors are often viewed as very authentic and large brands can use that to their advantage, especially on social media. Check out how LinkedIn uses them below in their Twitter shares:

Each of those graphics looks very approachable and like it was shared by one of your colleagues. Not one of the largest tech companies in the world. Now because muted colors are usually created by adding white or black to vivid colors, they pair exceptionally well with neutral colors. As you can see in the example below from Ellevest, the muted colors blend well with the white background instead of overpowering the graphic. Again these graphics feel a lot more genuine as well.

You can also use flat muted backgrounds to make text or content easier to consume. Especially when you use a bold or heavy font, like Fast Company:

Again, instead of overpowering the graphic, the muted colors blend exceptionally well with the dark text. You can even use your brand colors as a starting point and create almost a secondary color palette full of muted colors to use. That’s exactly what LinkedIn does.

Abstract & Dreamy Illustrations

I always recommend using custom illustrations and icons in your marketing or social media campaigns. No other brand is going to be able to copy those graphics exactly, and they look about a thousand times better than a boring stock photo. Over the past few years, the prevalence of these custom illustrations has exploded. Casper was actually one of the first large brands to embrace this trend:

Many brands quickly followed their lead and the effectiveness of these somewhat simple illustrations decreased just as quickly. So to really be seen in this year you are going to have to take your illustrations up a notch.

Go ahead, embrace the exaggerated, the abstract and the dreamy in your illustrations. This year the weirder, the better when it comes to illustrations! Not sure what I’m talking about? Check out the examples below:


As you can see in the examples above, using muted colors in your illustrations is always a good idea!

Especially if you want your graphic to feel more genuine or down to earth, like in these Instagram stories from Bon Appetit:

Plus in a crowded space, like the food industry, your custom illustrations are going to stand out like a beacon of good content.

Taking the time to create something this unique for a simple Instagram story is why they are killing the content game lately. Imagine how boring it would have been if they would have just shared stock photos of a desk or a shot of food. Yet so many marketers think that they can just share one of those low-effort visuals and call it a day.

Doist is another brand that uses custom illustrations across their blog and marketing efforts. However, their illustrations aren’t as crazy as some of the other examples in this section:

I like to bring them up because their graphics always fit the topic of their blog post or share.

They strike a nice balance without turning off their readers with random illustrations. Each is very eye-catching and it also gives someone a preview about what each blog post is about.

Crafting something that fits your topic nicely is one of the best parts of using these custom illustrations, in my opinion.

The only problem with using illustrations like this is that you can’t really keep your branding consistent across every graphic. If that’s very important to you, just add your logo or brandmark to each image, like Slack does:

Eventually, your brand might even be known for the wacky illustrations they create. Like MailChimp!

Minimalist Landing Pages

Most popular design trends are driven by changes in consumer behavior and attitudes.

The shift to more minimalist landing pages is the only one that I can confidently say was driven by Google’s algorithm. Yes, you’re reading that correctly, this design trend has become very popular partly because of a search algorithm.

Google rewards pages that load quickly and efficiently on mobile devices with better rankings in search.

That means there’s a huge incentive for brands in competitive industries, like Buffer, to have a landing page or home page that loads rather quickly.

The higher your brand appears on popular terms usually leads to more traffic and customers. They also used a few of our other graphic design trends on their homepage!

The perennial design innovators over at Slack have used a minimalist home page as well:

As you can see in both of these examples, they keep the layout and design rather minimalistic. A layout like this will not only decrease the load time but it can be used as both a mobile and desktop landing page.

The flat background, simple illustration and more will easily shift from desktop to mobile. Sometimes, when a brand uses a high-quality photo or video, that shift isn’t as seamless as it should be. Then mobile users are left with a poor user experience, which Google takes note of. And it could hurt your search rankings if not addressed.

Another fantastic thing about landing pages like this is you can keep your messaging very focused and push customers to a single call to action. As you can see in the landing page below, Calendly uses a very simple message and sign up form to hopefully convert their viewers into customers.

This is a true minimalist homepage because it uses

An uncomplicated landing page also makes it very easy for new and old users to immediately get value. Instead of hiding their sign-up and login pages on another page, Dropbox placed it right on their homepage:

Now you can quickly access your files or documents when it’s crunch time. Think of all the other sites that take you through a bunch of pages just to view a document or file that you own!

Small user improvements like this can really help convert passive viewers to customers and even evangelists in 2020.

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