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2018 Digital Trends

Whew! 2017 was busy! Time was fleeting and there were many moments where I closed my eyes tightly and just hoped, as hard as I could, that we’d figure it out and get it all done. And then I’d open my eyes and realize I should not be taking a break, there’s way too much to do!

The fast-paced changes in advertising kept us on our toes, constantly pushing us to learn more about how to translate creative ideas effectively into the never-ending variety of digital channels. Reflecting on the past year there is one key question that carries over for me.

With the volume of communication intake and output that’s expected of us, now that the smartphone is basically an extension of our bodies and social media participation is nearly as habitual as breathing, how can anyone be expected to make time for advertising, let alone appreciate it, engage with it and hopefully share it?  

With the digital media selection expanding at an overwhelming pace and free time and attention spans shrinking, creativity can be the answer to keeping audiences engaged.

Here are 10 digital design and advertising trends I think the creative industry will be striving to take advantage of in 2018… for the first few months at least, until everything changes again.

1. Big Data

It’s no longer acceptable to put forward ideas or messaging based on intuition alone. And the overwhelming stacks of available audience information is hard to ignore. Data can seem dry and daunting at first, but it can guide creative to speak directly to individuals within a variety of diverse audience segments. Instead of one message for all, multiple customized messages can be delivered to unique and specific audiences, making a greater impact.

2. Brutalism

No, this isn’t some kind of fetish. Actually, it probably is. But I’m talking about it in terms of design. This trend pushes simplicity to the extreme. By cutting out any unnecessary extra stuff that isn’t contributing to the message, your audience can get to the goods as quickly as possible.

3. Branded Content  & Influencer Marketing

Advertising has baggage. Some brands still play a short game, and employ cheap tactics to beat out their competitors. But this kills trust and perpetuates negative associations with advertising. Audiences are more likely to share something posted by a brand they trust rather than a message within a paid advertisement. Influencers can have a similar affect – it’s easier for audiences to trust a human than a large, faceless corporation or even the people who wrote the ad (*that’s us!*). If organic sharing and audience engagement is a key part of the strategy, good brand content and influencer marketing should be included in the mix.

4. Colour Craze

Lightening things up with colour is a design trend that was embraced in 2017 and will continue in 2018. Colour can affect our mood before we even read a headline or take in an image. Bright energetic colours can give us a lift, warm colours offer up a hug, and bold colours instill confidence. Creatives can use colour to cut through the clutter and produce a meaningful and feel-good connection between a brand and its audience.

5. Art Appreciation

Whether it’s striking modern still life, a larger-than-life mural or unique and whimsical illustrations, stock is out and custom art is in (Sorry, budgets). After years of stock imagery dominating the scene, clients again seeing more value in custom, well-crafted imagery. Thank the Gods of Creativity for this! Not only does this trend let creatives embrace their artistic roots, it makes our world a more beautiful, interesting and shareable place. No one is sharing that stock photo we’ve all seen of “ethnically diverse business team smiling” unless it’s to make fun of it.

6. Animated Details

Have you heard of a microinteraction? This is a subtle animation that happens as a response to a user clicking, swiping, or liking something. The follow up animation acts as a reassurance that the users action was received. Sometimes it’s the details that make the difference. Illustrated GIFs are another great visual enhancement that gave social media posts, emailers and websites a serious lift in 2017. With new and slick creative solutions, illustrated GIFs will undoubtedly continue to delight and decorate the digital landscape.

7. Super Fresh Duotones

Inspired by screen printing, duotone graphics are a smart looking solution when a flat digital aesthetic feels too clinical or bland and full colour images would over complicate the design. By layering images with a slight transparency (that’s what mimics the screen printing process), a ton of depth and dimension can be achieved. Plus, it just looks really cool. You’ll see more of it this year.

8. Digital Curves

After years of geometric sans serif fonts dominating the internet, curvy serifs are finally making a come-back. This, and the use of organic shapes free of containment, are helping web design to loosen up, feeling less robotic and more human. Interrupting the grid and finding ways to have a more natural aesthetic feels fresh and friendly. A more creative composition and the incorporation of serif fonts will help brands to stand out amongst the standard grids and containers we’re used to seeing online.

9. Ephemeral Stuff

Usually the term is “ephemeral content” and it refers to “stuff” that only exists or is available for a limited time. It leverages people’s fear of missing out causing them to urgently engage before they can’t. Snapchat was a great mainstream example of this. Another great way 2017 saw this strategy succeed was through limited edition swag. KFC proved that people want to show their appreciation for fried chicken not just by eating it but also by wearing it. Some cool type design and a clever headline on a limited edition anything, really, can give your audiences a new way to appreciate you.

10. Video

It ain’t goin’ nowhere. So get good and quick at creating it! In our shop, video has become almost an automatic addition to any campaign. We used to debate whether or not people still watch commercials. The debate’s over, they do. And television is still an impressive catchall for spread-out audiences. But with so many places to view a commercial online, and the endless ways a campaign message can translate into video, advertisers will be constantly exploring and innovating the use of this medium in 2018 and beyond.

Okay! These are the trends I see sticking around for at least the next year. What do you think? Seriously, let me know. And while you’re at it, what digital design and advertising trends do you see heading our way? Let’s keep each other in the loop.


iStock Photo


Interested in integrating these design trends with your marketing and communications? Get in touch! Send Nicola an email at to get started. 

About the author

Nicola Pringle
Recognized as one of Strategy Magazine’s top 25 Art Directors in Canada, Nicola has garnered many of the industries most sought after national and international awards. Her dogged determination to find the best solution for a client's brand can be attributed to her innovative strategic thinking—or perhaps her competitive spirit honed from years of demolishing opponents on the slow-pitch field.

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