Five Visual Design Trends for Memorable Campaigns

To create stand-out campaigns, graphic designers and brand managers need to stay on top of the visual trends that are resonating with today’s consumers.  A close look at the most successful ad, Web and in-store signage designs of the past year reveal five key trends to embrace now: real-life photography, motion video graphics, flat page designs, soft color schemes, and bold, textured fonts.

Below we explore in detail top visual design trends in photo, video, color, illustration, and typography and why they make the accompanying examples so memorable.

  1. Photo: Real-Life Imagery

Instagram filters have taken the social media world by storm and have expanded into all areas of visual design. Signs, magazine ads, email ads, landing pages, and even website design often include photographs of both people and food that have an Instagram-like look to them in an attempt to appear authentic and trustworthy.

For example, Burt’s Bees Baby uses light and color filters in the majority of its Web advertisements and even crowdsources banner ads through Instagram contests.


Another interesting visual design trend is the depiction of real people in real-life scenarios, including women of all walks of life, not just the petite, flawless model-types. When designs do include models, they represent all ethnicities, ages, and body types. Ads that are believable and realistic are increasingly ranking among the top sales generators.

American Eagle’s sister brand, launched an “Aerie Real” campaign featuring unretouched photos of everyday women. Aerie first introduced its Photoshop-free campaign in 2014. At the time, it was refreshing and markedly different amid a retail landscape in which airbrushing is the norm. In addition to sparking conversation, its parent company saw the rewards (and potential) in this initiative from the get-go: Comparable sales went up 9% for the lingerie brand in Q2 of that year, Business Insider reported. Third and fourth quarter results from 2014 also saw growth.

In the two-plus years since, the campaign has evolved beyond a seasonal set of photographs featuring Photoshop-free bodies.


  1. Video: Motion Graphics

The combination of smartphones and video sharing through YouTube, Vimeo and other social media sites has made online video popular. Landing pages, ads, and website designs are all incorporating some form of motion graphics. Trends in motion graphics include full-screen video backgrounds, flat design, GIFs, compositing, and real-object stop-motion graphics. Above all this medium helps your brand come across as human and sincere and has proven time and again its ability to drive sales. Still not convinced?  See the stats below:

  • YouTube reports mobile video consumption rises 100% every year.
  • According to Rhythm and Insights, combining video with full page ads boost engagement by 22%.
  • 90% of users say that seeing a video about a product is helpful in the decision process.


  1. Illustration: Flat Design

The flat design trend that took off in 2014 is still going strong, especially in illustrated visuals, such as full-screen backgrounds and video as mentioned above. Flat designs take the minimalist approach by dropping many of the traditional interface design techniques that give objects a 3-D appearance, including drop shadows, gradients, and textures.

Havaianas Sandals and Oreo both use flat design to place all the attention on their products.

havaianas oreo

  1. Color: Soft Pastels

The experts at Pantone just announced the annual Color of the Year and—big surprise—it’s not one, but a combination of two shades, for the first time ever. Indeed, the color authority chose the combo of soft blue (Serenity #15-3919) and the blush pink (Rose Quartz #13-1520). By selecting two soothing, airy pastels, Pantone has a message for us all: Chill out.  With our hectic lives and the frenzy around us, there is an increasing demand for tranquility. The combination of a cool and a warm color brings a sense of balance.

Backgrounds, videos, photographs, fonts, and other graphic elements in Web and print design alike seem to be sporting not-so-loud colors and are often using gradient backgrounds.


  1. Typography: Textured Fonts

Print designs have always had the advantage of dynamic, textured fonts over flat fonts found in Web design.

Now, though, typography design can be as influential in conveying identity as the photography, video, and illustration techniques outlined above. Textured fonts can push the boundaries on normal, 2-D designs and give new meaning to brands, as they did for Chipotle and Triscuit.


Triscuit Cracker Campaign by c1ank

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From magazine ads to website design, these are the visual design trends of 2016 that marketers should embrace now. The next time you take on a new design project, consider how real-life imagery, motion graphics, flat illustrations, pastel colors, and textured typography can elevate your brand.

Consumers are constantly being stimulated with exposure to hundreds of different advertisements and in-store visuals daily. To break through the clutter, marketers need to focus on trends that resonate with customers. By using these popular design strategies, brands will more easily catch the eyes of their target audiences.

At CrossCap, we see variations of these concepts continuing to seep into the marketing plans of more and more brands we work with. While marketers need to stay on top of the industry to predict how to be successful, that is only half of the equation.  Insuring the design elements they employ are uniformly applied across all elements of their campaigns including in-store visuals, takes powerful tools.  Marketers rely on CrossCap’s digital media wall and promotion planning products to make sure their designs are impactful AND consistent.  Contact us for a demo.

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