The practice of graphic design is one that is in constant flux. Although there are major elements that drive change every few years or so, industry trends often fluctuate year-to-year, or even month-to-month.
However, there are a few trends that have transformed the practice altogether, and it’s minor alterations of these trends that designers focus throughout their career. From the introduction of color schemes, to the introduction of sound, to the influence of technology, graphic design has been influenced by a handful of significant changes. In this article, we discuss the four major changes that have shaped the industry.
Although it can be argued that graphic design has been around for centuries or even millennia (think the Rosetta stone of 136 B.C. or newspaper design in the 1700’s), it wasn’t until the late 19th century that graphic design began to separate itself as a stand-alone practice. In the 1960’s, it really began to take off when then-Yale professor Josef Albers formed the basis of modern art educations of the twentieth century.
Albers book, Interaction of Colour, posed a theory that color in design changes in direct relation to its surroundings. Color produces deceptive and unpredictable effects, which allow viewers to engage in a dynamic relationship with two-dimensional space. The way graphic designers use color today is largely based on the ideas and theories put forth by Alder nearly half a century ago. Although it may seem obvious, the impact color has had on graphic design is one of the most significant and substantial trends of the industry.
In taking some of the theories put forth on the use of color, graphic designers over the past few decades began to expand on the notion that audiences can engage with pieces on a deeper level. While color produces subjective effects based on objective surroundings, motion takes this a step further.
Any believe that motion graphics are as important as typography, and the trend shaped modern graphic design. Pieces of animation or digital footage can create the illusion of motion and provide another way for viewers to engage with the piece. Motion has taken on a more significant role as it’s combined with many technological features that are available today, including audio.
When most people think of graphic design, they think of an image on a canvas or a well done website. Sound is usually not one of the main factors. However, when you consider graphic design as a whole, many of the best websites, for example, include some sort of audio dimension. Similar to color and motion, audio provides yet another way for the viewer to connect with the final product.
What’s more, viewers may not even realized the impact that audio has on their viewing experience. Take a few brand logos for example. If you were to look Intel’s logo, it’s fairly bland. However, the audio that’s associated with it launches viewers into a completely different dimension. Or the iconic “BWWAAHHHH” sound of THX. It may be subtle, but the introduction of audio into graphic design should not be understated.
Of course, what would this article be if we didn’t mention technology? Yes, technology itself is a broad category that can include everything from color, to motion, to audio, to 3D and virtual reality. But it’s technology that is the basis of practically every significant achievement in the field of graphic design, and as we get into a new decade, there’s no telling where technology will take designers in the future.
While technology gave designers the ability to incorporate motion or audio into their pieces, computers today allow them to create three dimensional portals for the audience to step into, or use sensory design to mimic the phenomenon synesthesia (tasting sounds or hearing colors).
Color, motion and audio were undoubtable three of the most impactful trends on graphic design today. And while technology helped establish these trends, the technology we have at our disposal today will produce some of the most amazing developments in graphic design we have ever witnessed. Buckle up!