Design Trends: The Year In Review

As we prepare to close the book on 2017 in a just a few days, most of us will spend some time looking back on the events that transpired during this most recent trip around the sun. It’s unlikely that anyone will have indifferent feelings about all that has taken place in this year but, beyond all the calamity and noise, 2017 will no doubt be remembered as the beginning of a strange era where our most sacred institutions and our very way of life came under attack by a crude, irreverent despot—I’m speaking of course about THE INVASION OF THE BLOBS.

Ever since they landed earlier this year, blobs have been slowly infiltrating our screens and cultural aesthetic as they multiply and spread across our shared visual space, choking out refined illustration styles and exact geometrical designs. These imperfect, recklessly fashioned color fields first began to infect cool, hip branding marketed towards youth but now have become mainstream and are now even popping up in the corporate branding sphere.

We’re not sure why they’ve come here or what they want. Perhaps they are a natural reaction to a now fully digital life; young millennials and Gen Z’ers who have never cut and glued paper with their hands nor put a pen to actual paper before, yearning for that organic quality that they didn’t know they were missing in their internet-consumed lives. Perhaps they stem from the tense socio-political climate and the crassness of our discourse infecting the zeitgeist with nihilism; a mirror reflecting our imperfect times. Perhaps the popularity of the blob can be chalked up to that classic James Dean devil-may-care nonconformity that has always had an undeniable appeal, now incited by a landscape of screen grids. Regardless of where they came from or how long they plan to inhabit our world, it’s clear to me that blobs were the defining trend of this past year in graphic design.

After some consideration (and a mild case of Stockholm syndrome), I’m ready and willing to submit to our new amorphous aesthetic overlords. My reasoning: so often, designers will stick iconography or stock photography into a layout for no real strategic reason other than it provides something nice to look at and makes the whole package a little more visually exciting. We are always striving to find ways to break up content with a little splash of color, a breath of fresh air, a shot of energy to make the experience a little more pleasant, yet we feel compelled to disguise that trick with a cloak of relevance as not to seem cheap. We half-heartedly tell ourselves,“it’s not filler, it’s visual communication!” Meanwhile, the blobs are just distilling that successful concept down into its purest form and making no apologies or excuses for it. Long live the blobs! Long may they reign!