The 10 biggest trends designers need to know in 2022

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We don't have a crystal ball, but we did talk to experts. Here's what they have to say about the top design trends to expect in 2022.

8 min read

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In the past year, trends in innovation and culture have changed more quickly and dramatically than ever before.

It's no surprise, then, that many aspects of design moved in diverse directions. Physical activities like work, education, dating, and shopping have migrated online. The metaverse, a speculative virtual world navigated by our avatars, is moving full steam ahead. (At least brands seem to think so.) The web—and by extension, the way it's designed—became as much a part of real-life as the physical world. And despite the fact that we know more about the pandemic than before, it's unlikely that we will return to the “normal” conditions of life and design anytime soon. Certainly not in 2022—it looks like some changes are here to stay.

We don’t have a crystal ball to predict how the precarity of our moment will impact web design in the coming year, but we do have the next best thing—leading designers from across the industry. With their help, we’ve analyzed what's happening in terms of design, innovation, and culture, and forecast some of the biggest trends you can expect in 2022.

1. Dark Mode

Your phone’s dark mode feature saves battery and is perceived to be easier on the eyes, but it can also be a graphic move that creates visual interest—all important factors considering how our screen time has increased over the past 18 months. Monochromatic websites are becoming increasingly popular, used by brands like Apple, WeTransfer, and Spotify, and by studios like Pentagram for the Moholy-Nagy Foundation. Dark mode options are being used by personal websites and social media sites as well—Twitter has “dim” and “lights out” options.

“The internet has become very busy and with so many things competing for attention, circling back to a more pared-back visual aesthetic feels like a natural progression,” said Brandon Levesque, Art Director at Cusp, a collective made up of agencies from across Europe and North America. “Dark mode can act as a subtle easter egg on the site to peak the user’s sense of discovery. As it becomes an option on most devices, we will start to see it trickle down to other aspects of the digital design space, like sites that take an editorial approach or place primary focus on photography.

Images 1-3 courtesy Pentagram. Image 4 screenshot: Apple. Image 5 screenshot: Spotify. Image 6 screenshot: WeTransfer. Image 7-9 courtesy Matthew Fisher.

2. Evolution of corporate Memphis

Over the past several years, major tech companies like Airbnb, Hinge, and Airtable have adopted THE now-ubiquitous, abstracted, flat illustration style inspired by the postmodern Memphis movement from the 80s. The style’s popularity means that while it may not go away anytime soon, it is due for a shakeup: there’s increasing criticism that tech companies use the generic figures to appear more human-centered and friendly, despite their contradictory policies and business practices. Indian e-retailer Flipkart’s figures feature characteristics from an array of backgrounds, University of the Arts London’s whimsical humanoid forms, and this recent Chipotle ad featuring music by Kacey Musgraves, are examples of how this trend might evolve.

Writer and strategist Samantha Culp predicts that future-forward companies will begin to take risks, updating the Corporate Memphis color palette and leaning into “jewel-toned psychedelia and cosmic art, lesser-known figures from Impressionism and Expressionist art, art nouveau (and the way art nouveau is influencing Solarpunk, and just more ‘pastiche’ of various clashing styles and periods all at once.”

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Images 1-2 courtesy: Shivam Thapliyal. Images 3-6 courtesy: Alphabetical.

3. Typographic landing pages

Bold, prominent, and expressive typography will continue its reign over landing pages. While this trend made waves in 2021 as well—see Gawker’s relaunched website, DIA Studio’s type system for the Chaumont Biennale 2021, and Harry Styles’ beauty brand Pleasing—it will evolve to include many different kinds of applications, from portfolios and brand websites to online publications and microsites.

“In the last few years a lot of big brands have begun investing in their own type systems because they understood that typography is a powerful way to convey the brand’s tonality and persona,” said Laura Scofield, strategist and creative lead at Scofield adds that this trend can be interpreted as a throwback to modernist posters, Penguin’s iconic book covers, and movie titles like Wes Anderson’s use of typography as a storytelling device in his films. “Prominently displaying type has always been part of graphic design, but now more and more brands and companies are leveraging it on the web,” she said.

Image 1: Screenshot: Gawker. Image 2: screenshot: Pleasing. Image 3: screenshot: Centre National du Graphisme.