Illustrations are a core part of modern design since they can add a nostalgic visual touch to any kind of media or platform. You’ve probably seen them all over the internet and used for a variety of purposes, whether that’s the header images for articles and blog posts or logos, as well as being used in much more creative ways.
However, this form of graphic expression has evolved endlessly over the last few decades and will continue to do so in the coming future. As a designer or illustrator, to ensure your work and your creations can evolve along with the times, here are the top ten illustration trends you need to know about.
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1. Line Art (Minimalism designs)
We’ve definitely seen line art designs making such an incredibly huge impact on the illustration industry due to the very obvious fact that these designs are so clean and have such an elegant feeling to them. Whether that just has a logo encompassed by a single line or a drawing made from a single line, the impact these designs have is huge.
Commonly, you’ll see this trend represented most commonly on postcards, in wall art and branding material, and even for logos themselves. Of course, having a single line means color options are limited, and they usually just stick with two colors, or a traditional black and white design.
If you’re working on a print job, this is also a very suitable trend to think about due to the low print costs, great for clients working on a budget.
2. Photography and Illustration Collages
Not just reserved for the scrapbooks of the world, the collage effect is now making its way into the mainstream areas of design thanks to the bold impact it was on the wider audience and the fact that technology can make the produced products just so damn good.
Paper-cut collages basically refer to the process of cutting a photo out from an original source tightly around the lines (which can now be done practically effortlessly in tools like PhotoShop) and then sticking multiple photos together to create a wider image.
These designs can be traditionally created by hand using glue or completely digitally, as we mentioned above. Most collages tend to take a realistic approach that uses photos and texture photos to create layered effects that add depth to the final images and are hard for people to ignore due to their uniqueness.
3. Geometric Designs
In 2020 and beyond, geometric designs are still going to be widely used thanks to their simple yet powerful look. Minimalistic, at first glance, a geometric design can be incredibly striking when used and designed properly. In fact, this remains one of the leading trends across pretty much every illustration niche.
If you research this trend yourself, you’ll find that color gradings used in geometric designs have remained somewhat monochrome and neutral. Earthy and pastel colors are also regularly used to create the effect that everyone loves so much.
4. Isometric Designs
In addition to geometric design, we have a ton of trending isometric designs that are currently hitting the mainstream and are having such a massive impact. By isometric shapes, we’re referring to three-dimensional images that have been displayed on a two-dimensional surface, which in the industry is obviously referred to as a ‘plane.’
These are extremely common illustrations that are used in UI designs and professional presentations that are great for catching the eye of the audience and portraying a simple yet powerful image of whatever the content is referring too.
When using isometric designs, remember to use bright yet neutral colors that are inviting but aren’t so bold that they look over the top or outlandish. If you want to grab your reader’s or audience’s attention in an impactful but not so overbearing way, an isometric illustration could be ideal.
5. Seamless Patterns
Another fantastic illustration design trend that has been making waves for a while now but is really starting to take shape throughout 2020 already is the seamless pattern designs. Usually found in a vector format, these are patterns that you can tile next to each other in any direction (usually, the images are originally a square), and the pattern will seamlessly repeat itself.
These are very creative pieces of which the boundaries of the niche are expanding rapidly. Used in creative packaging concepts, video, and mobile games, and plenty of other virtual applications where eye-catching detail is required, or even just a pattern that’s easy and clean to replicate because space needs to be subtly filled, a seamless pattern could be exactly what you’re looking for.
6. Flat Colours (Limited Palettes)
While flat illustrations may seem like something designers would have been talking about years ago, they are still very popular and very powerful today. Generally used in positive situations to create feelings of joy or an active kind of atmosphere, whether you’re using these illustrations in banners or headers, it creates a kind of effect you simply don’t get with any other kind of design.
“As an illustrator yourself, you’ve probably grown up around flat colour designs that use limited palettes, but that doesn’t mean that they’re old and overused. In 2020, using this kind of design will be just as important as they have been any other time in history, so always be prepared to use one when necessary,” explains Mary Southern, a tech blogger at Australia 2 write and Brit student.
7. 3D Illustrations
Of course, 3D illustrations are going to continue to dominate the marketplace and all kinds of online publications. This is, of course, all possible thanks to the fact that modern design and art technology is coming such a long way and is more capable than it’s ever been before.
There are all kinds of traditional media elements that are having their own 3D varieties created, including logos, web icons and objects, header images and background, fonts, and characters used to represent a business or their customers (case study examples), but how your business or website uses them is limited only by your imagination.
Typically in this age, we’re seeing 3D illustrations used primarily in the gaming and technology industries, especially those which have a futurist aesthetic.
8. Abstract Illustrations
More and more, we’re seeing abstract illustrations being used across the internet in pretty much every way possible. From logos and header images to publication post covers and banners, abstract art is everywhere. Check out top online publications like Medium with over six million monthly readers, a website that curates high-quality abstract artists to cover their own content to create a style like no other publication on the internet.
What makes abstract illustrations so unique is the fact it’s so simple but so unique, usually only needing some kind of shapes to create an abstract image in its simplest form. However, there’s an extremely high experience cap, which means illustrators can get as complex as they like for unique results, unlike any other kind of illustration.
9. Hand-Drawn Illustrations
Yes, hand-drawn content takes a ton of time and is incredibly difficult to get right unless you have a ton of experience, but this hasn’t stopped this trend from taking off in all areas of the world, especially in places you wouldn’t think of. Think Twitch, the world’s leading online streaming platform.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent every year on Twitch emotes on individual channels that uses can subscribe to the channel to acquire usage of. The growth of this industry over the last few years is unparalleled, and this is only one industry.
“The internet and commercial world are absolutely overflowing with digital content, but hand-drawn illustrations provide a much-needed break and change of pace that is making content and businesses stand out against the rest of the markets. If you want to leave a lasting impression in the eyes and minds of your audience, you’re going to want to consider doing your designs by hand,” shares David Harper, an illustrator at 1 Day 2 write and Next coursework.
10. Cyberpunk Colour Schemes
Finally, as you’ve noted from some of the trends above, the illustration trends are commonly tilting towards a futurist and modern mindset or look, and no trends confirm this more than the use of cyberpunk-themed color pallets.
In terms of illustrations, this means oversaturated colors and lots of bright and eye-catching palettes that are typically unnatural. These are common with cyberpunk colors, and if you really want to take things further and make your illustrations pop, you’re probably going to want to add some kind of neon glow effect.
You can get really creative with cyberpunk color schemes, regardless of whether you’re actually using them on cyberpunk/futurist type illustrations, or just trying to create a unique effect that will stand out in your productions and projects.
Regina Wheeler is a freelance illustrator, mainly working for Write my assignment and PhdKingdom.com. She has been involved in many projects around the world for small businesses and multinational companies.