Five design trend predictions for 2020

Using more genuine and realistic stock photos is one trend expected to grow in 2020.

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash
Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

By Allison Krieg

B2B publications rely on their designers to create eye-catching, elegant designs that accurately represent the companies, businesses and topics featured in their magazines. To do this, it is important to keep up to date on the latest popular designs. By keeping up with the latest popular design styles, designers can build upon those trends and design pages that are relevant, artistically appealing and appropriately represent the companies and topics featured.

Design trends are ever-changing, though. Movements in the design community tend to build on each other, year after year. As the industry changes, the desire to stay relevant and original continue to be important for many reasons. A publication with compelling design offers the best chance to engage the readers and leave a memorable impression. Not every design trend that emerges translates well to publication design. Some design trends are more meant for specific areas of design mediums. But while some specific trends only apply to certain genre of design (such as web for example), there are some core elements that can be applied to all methods, including print publication design.

Here are predictions of five design trends that will continue to grow and evolve in publication design in 2020:

The use of more genuine & realistic stock photos: Each year’s design trends are typically built on the previous year’s trends—they continue to push the trend to new heights. This trend has been years in the making, but in 2020 this trend is likely to continue to grow. The days of perfectly polished photos of models in studio-like settings have been on their way out for a while. While there will probably be more of a surge in customized illustrations and photo shoots for stories, it’s not always within time constraints or budgets to be able to outsource for art. Stock photography is popular for a reason: it’s convenient and easy for art when there’s nothing else to use. However, most people want to see people in relatable, everyday situations. With stock photos, imperfections are being embraced. The more candid and the less retouched the photos are, the better they are for your publication design.

© FG Trade /
Realistic stock photos are expected to be a popular design trend in 2020.
© FG Trade /

Pops of vivid color: This design movement goes hand in hand with the minimalism trend. Although minimalism is usually associated with neutral and muted color schemes, the minimalism trends as of late haven’t been afraid to break this rule. Using strong contrasting colors has become a popular way to direct attention in a layout. There are also a lot of bright duotone gradients being used as a color pop in layouts. Use of colors such as hots pinks and corals (Living Coral was Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2019), electric yellows, lush greens and vibrant blues (Classic Blue is Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2020) are all great options to use for that pop to add to one’s design. Choosing one or two bright colors in a layout and having the rest be black and white is one of the better ways to execute this design style.

Minimalism design: Minimalism certainly is not new in any regard to design per se, but it has been gaining popularity as a design theme as of late. In an oversaturated world where people are getting thrown information in every which way, there is a sense of burnout occurring. Trying to attain attention spans of readers has become more difficult. Simplifying and using more white space helps to obtain readers’ attention much more successfully. By using only necessary elements for functionality and giving layouts air to breathe with plenty of white space, you can have one focus while all the other details fall to the background. Whether you decide to let a spread’s focus to be the photography or typography treatment, choosing one and letting all the other details be small and simple is great for achieving minimalist design and creating strong hierarchy. Less is more in the case of using minimalistic design in your publication. As a bonus, it’s a design trend that will withstand the test of time because it’s a core design principle.

© Lepusinensis /
Simplifying and using more white space in design is expected to be popular in 2020.
© Lepusinensis /

More use of illustration: Use of more digitalized and stylized Illustration continues to grow. It adds a humanistic touch to a generally digital-feeling medium. As the design community continues to move away from stock imagery, incorporating more illustrations adds a more unique feeling to a layout. Custom illustrations can help tell your story by being tailored to your specific content. Illustrations are also a great option when abstract themes or topics are being discussed in an article and such dry subject material doesn’t lend many visuals. Illustrations also are being used along with more statistic-based data than they have in the past. Along with graphically representing numbers and statistics, adding visual illustrations can break up the monotony of a fact-driven layout and give the layout a sense of approachability. There will be a better chance that the reader won’t feel overwhelmed with information and become engaged with the layout.

Strokes/blocks of color and doodles: Organic, hand-drawn shapes of color or pattern can add an illustrative feeling without having custom illustrations. Using these elements can give your layout depth and character. They also serve well to play up photography by layering the elements over photos. Adding doodles to your design makes the layout feel friendly and more playful. Blocks of color are great additions to your layout to emphasize an element of the design or story that acts as a call-out.

These are some of the top trends that will continue to grow in 2020. Trends form out of recognizing the needs of those that engage and interact with our designs. Adding your own personal touches and styles to design movements are just important as the trends themselves, however. Using innovative techniques with your own personalized touch helps tell the stories of your industry and further pushing solutions to common challenges the design community continues to face. When building upon these movements further each year, you become a trendsetter in the design community, making your publication a key leader in the industry as well.

Allison Krieg  is a graphic designer for Greenhouse Management and Produce Grower magazine at GIE Media in Cleveland.

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