January 23rd 2018

Digital design trends 2018

by Josh Kimnell


It is that time of year.

Dean Martin's gentle crooning about how much it looks like Christmas is a distant memory. Now it's just cold and wet, gets dark at 3PM and doesn't look much like anything. Oh joy.

Luckily for you, January the 23rd is the perfect time for me to turn into a weird & bearded Mystic Meg - consulting my crystal graphics tablet, for some digital design trend predictions for 2K18. Using that totally scientific method I have compiled this list of things that you can expect to assist in rinsing your data in the coming year...

1 — 3D


Good news for those among you dissatisfied with two dimensions. Here comes WEBGL (a 3D API for your browser). It’s been around for a bit but has largely been confined to experimental projects such as falling pasta and the timeless wiblr - the practical applications of which are… questionable.

But I have started to see more polished examples such as Infinitown, admittedly still an experiment, but much closer to something you might put together as a brand experience. Utilising open technologies both for the production of the art and the eventual delivery I expect more of these artfully constructed 3D experiences in 2018. Elevating 3D in the browser from a techy gimmick to a meaningful tool.

2 — Brutalism


Everybody's favourite anti-design trend continues. Brutalism, for anyone who hasn’t been on the internet lately, is the trendy intersection between the naivety of the early web, some mad avant-garde design choices and a healthy dose of CSS trickery. Picture in your mind's eye a rotating three-dimensional marquee tag slowly fading through a rainbow of colours. The resultant websites look and feel pretty erratic but deliver a lot of attitude, putting your cookie-cutter three-column website in the bin and then chucking the bin out of the window. I expect that this trend will evolve in 2018 with brands subsuming some of this aesthetic and reproducing it in a less edgy fashion.

After all, who doesn’t want a massive pixelated cursor that blocks out your website?!

3 — Proper Illustration


I think icon fatigue has well and truly set in. If I see another grid of icons with… a heart, a globe, and a thumbs-up, someone’s getting punched in the face. People are switching onto the idea that you shouldn’t pollute your online presence - or worse - your entire brand - with generic, forgettable iconography. You should instead invest some time and effort coming up with a visual language that is your own and represents your brand voice. So lots more unique and characterful illustration in 2018 (please).



I have a bit of a reputation for setting my headlines as massive as I can get away with. Luckily with some nice web fonts, CSS calc() + viewport units, it’s now pretty easy to pull off. With the introduction from Adobe of variable fonts (allowing for adjustment of weight, width, slant angle in a single dynamic font file), I expect to see designs with braver typographic choices - making good use of that cinema display you have sitting your desk.

What do you mean 11-inch netbook?

5 — The Return of the Shadow

Shadows can be useful

Following our violent allergic reaction to skeuomorphism about 5 years ago, shadows are now creeping back out of the shadows (wait, that metaphor doesn't work.) It's less from the standpoint of trying to make digital products feel like their real world counterparts and more of a stylistic choice. Adding depth to a design can actually be useful in communicating hierachy of information. To package this observation into a prediciton, I would say I expect to see more 'layered' designs utilizing the full shadow repitoire long, drop, contact and soft.

I offer you all a spontaneous high-five in the street if any of these predictions actually come true.