The early 2000s looked different in almost every way, and graphic design is not an exception. We asked an experienced graphic designer to discuss how much the industry has changed through the years, which tools to take to 2022, and what practices he is going to leave behind.
Guillermo is a Senior Visual Designer at FreshBooks who believes in the power of diversity and inclusivity in design culture.
GUILLERMO, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE GRAPHIC DESIGN TO NON-DESIGNERS?
In a few words, I'd say graphic design is a craft that helps translate concepts and messages into visuals. It's pure visual communication composed of colors, typography, images, and shapes.
Traditional graphic design focuses on print design, logos, branding, magazines, and ads for social and packaging. Designers mainly use apps like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign.
Herding Tigers by Todd Henry is a short and great book with very useful advice for designers working in group environments. It's a great book with a lot of practical tips for becoming a good creative leader.
HOW MUCH HAS THE GRAPHIC DESIGN INDUSTRY CHANGED OVER THE PAST 15-20 YEARS?
It's changed a lot. For perspective, 15 years ago, the iPhone didn't exist. Technology changed the way we design; it created new channels and spaces for design and even new careers. Concepts like responsive design that are now fundamentals for web/app design didn't exist yet.
Better software allowed designers to explore tridimensional and realistic shapes and textures or even manipulate fonts like never before. In the late 90s and early 2000s, graphic design transitioned from hand-painted to digital art. It was a time of a lot of experimentation and innovation. The internet was also growing in popularity and accessibility, and social media was starting to emerge.
In the 2010s, smartphones and social media blew up, and it pushed graphic design to work on small screens, which led to trends like minimalism and things like flat design. However, minimalism and flat design aren't new trends. They were quite popular back in the 50s and saw a resurgence in the early 2000s as a solution for a clean and simple design on smaller screens.
Vintage design is another trend that technology brought back. Technology killed a lot of the experiences and processes of the past, like renting a movie or buying an album. Bringing back the look of something vintage or retro helps relive these experiences and claw back that more meaningful and simple nostalgia.
One of my favorite trends is neon gradients. They're a mix of fades from cyan, purple, and magenta. It has a very nostalgic holographic energy that takes me back to the Y2K era. This trend has been around for a while, mostly used in tech, music, and sportswear ads.
Another trend I've seen lately is geometric block-stacking, similar to Tetris but with all shapes. It usually follows simple color palettes and has a retro vibe. What I enjoy about this trend is its simplicity. You can easily apply it anywhere, from editorial to branding to photography and iconography.
EXAMPLE OF GEOMETRIC BLOCKS IN ACTION AS PART OF A BRANDING PROJECT
This is another trend I really like. Although it may have started as a trend, it's definitely here to stay as a best practice. Designing for people with disabilities is one part of it (the WCAG now sets guidelines and requirements for digital work). The other part is ensuring the design is inclusive not only from an ability standpoint but also in terms of things like gender and race.
As designers, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to redefine what's "normal" in the world by promoting, embracing, and encouraging diversity of all types and designing assets that represent reality. It's time to move away from designing with pink for women and blue for men. Every creation is an opportunity to redefine what "normal" means in a world full of wonderful diversity.
It's a tool that helps me keep my projects organized. I basically separate my boards into stages "briefs, research, WIP, review, shipped" and that helps me keep track of my projects
All my projects start with a brief on a Google Doc, it's great because I can share it with the client/stakeholder and make changes to it live. I also use it to gather all my information, HHO, inspiration and brainstorming sessions
This is a great tool that helps me track time spent on projects, invoice clients and get paid online easily
FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR GRAPHIC DESIGN IN THE NEXT TEN YEARS?
That intrigues me a lot; I think in 10 years we're going to see a lot of things designed by computers. We're not there yet. However, computers are learning fast. Just look at how much has changed over the past 10 years. We'll probably also see a lot of augmented reality design and even more sonic design in branding.
ANY FINAL TIPS FOR YOUNG DESIGNERS WHO WANT TO MAKE A CAREER IN THE GRAPHIC DESIGN INDUSTRY?
Don't be afraid of learning as many tools as you can. Don't forget your soft skills, and be confident in your design abilities. That will help you grow a lot faster in your career.