Graphic design is an ever-changing industry. Even in the last five years, I've seen massive changes. When I first started doing design work, I started in the corporate world and then migrated into freelance work.
Whether you're just getting started in a corporate career or want to start your own design firm, it's vital that you stay up-to-date on current trends to remain competitive and relevant. Here are five of the trends moving us into the future.
1. Remote work rises.
When you first break into the industry, you're eager to prove yourself. One of the drawbacks of working for a corporation is that they tend to already have standards and guidelines in place. If you don't follow them to a "T," then you risk getting in trouble. While they do want your work on trend, they also don't want to think too far outside the box of what they know works for the majority of their clients or their business model.
Fortunately, remote work has become more accepted by companies around the globe. Instead of being tied to a desk, workers are taking their laptops home or designing on the fly from a coffee shop or library workstation. You're still bound to the company's guidelines, but at least you can complete work from the convenience of home and save on commuting costs.
2. Millennials are interested in freelancing.
The average pay for a graphic designer is about $48,700 per year, but just starting out, my salary was much lower than that. Entry-level pay meant I had to take on some side gigs for a little extra income. The more you work for yourself, the more attractive freelancing becomes, but there is also some uncertainty that comes along with working for yourself. Will my income remain steady? What about insurance and a 401K?
Out of more than 250,000 graphic designers in the U.S., almost 25 percent are self-employed. Expect this number to rise in the coming years due to the desire of millennials to ditch the corporate culture for a freelance lifestyle.
Before you jump in as a freelancer, it's a good idea to at least intern at a local company and gain some experience in the industry. Basic management skills are another vital part of running your own business.
3. Experience takes the stage.
In the last few years, flat design made a comeback, but it seems to be making its way back out, replaced with three-dimension designs and experiential graphics. One of the innovations in visuals includes a more immersive experience for consumers. Imagine wrapping every element of a shopping mall in visual property, including the water fountains, or adding signage to the floors and ceiling.
4. Mobile becomes more vital.
Mobile responsiveness has been a buzzword for a while now. Each year, more people access the Internet via mobile devices. Plus, studies show that smartphone ownership jumped from 35 percent in 2011 to 77 percent in 2018.
As a graphic designer, I access my work on the run more than ever before, whether I'm using my phone to respond to a client's question or jumping on team boards to see what we've completed so far on a particular project.
When I look back on the perhaps dozen times a week I used my phone five years ago compared to the dozen times a day I use it now, I expect mobile access to become even more important, both in the tools I use as a designer and for the design itself to be mobile responsive.
5. Artificial intelligence shapes the future of design.
As technology advances, we have more tools at our fingertips than ever before. Taking the time to analyze data shows me how well-received any particular design element is. With cold, hard facts, it's easier to tweak a design, so it has the most impact possible for the brand.
Expect to see designers spending less time on creative endeavors and more time figuring out which features work to increase traffic and convert site visitors into customers. The nature of design work has slowly been changing for the past 10 years, and this trend is likely to continue into the 2020s.
The world of design is ever-changing. Even in the short time I've been a graphic designer, the market has shifted toward a mobile focus and innovative trends every year. The best way to stay on top of trends is by studying the work of designers you admire. It will be interesting to see where the future takes graphic design.