What to expect from the next year in… Graphic Design

We sit down with Dinamo, Notamuse, Emily Oberman, Chantra Malee and Mak-Kai Hang to discuss the changes they’d each like to see in the graphic design industry when it comes to both creative work and attitudes.

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The design world has in the past been accused of being apolitical. As Adrian Shaughnessy said to us recently: “Some critics go as far as to accuse designers of conservatism – they see a discipline so embedded in capitalism that it dares not bite the hand that feeds it.”

It’s fair to say that that state of affairs is changing, and changing rapidly. Many designers today (although admittedly not all, by a mile) are becoming increasingly outspoken and using their voices and creativity to uncover inequalities within the sector and to point towards much-needed solutions. In 2019, we saw designers worldwide demand equal pay, equal gender splits, and fair representation across the board. Although there’s still a lot that needs fixing, the industry is gradually becoming more responsible and socially engaged.

And if the designers we spoke to below have anything to say about it, 2020 is going to see a continuation of this. Here, Pentagram partner Emily Oberman, type foundries Dinamo and Sharp Type, book designer Mak-Kai Hang and designers and activists Notamuse discuss their hopes for the year ahead, and provide an inside glimpse at what’s coming their way.

GalleryEmily Oberman

Above

Warner Bros.

Left

Wizarding World

Right

The Wing

Above
Left

Wizarding World

Right

The Wing

Above

The Wing

Emily Oberman, partner at Pentagram

It's Nice That:Is there something in particular you would like your industry to discuss or tackle this year?

Emily Oberman:The conversation has started, but I’d love to see us all work harder to increase the number of women in positions of leadership in the design community. There are so many talented, hardworking women in design, we should work towards increasing the voice and the power they (we) have so we don’t have to talk about it anymore. 

INT:What trends or stylistic attributes do you think we’re going to see in graphic design this year?


EO:Well, I hope there aren’t stylistic trends, as I am a believer in ideas first, style second. But if I had to guess I’d say as the discourse in the country gets harsher, design might get funkier and weirder – which would be great. 

INT:What would you like to personally do within your medium in 2020?


EO:Use my power to do my part to get this idiot out of the White House and start moving forward as a society again – instead of moving backwards (ditto about climate change).

INT:What tool or tools would you need to make positive changes within graphic design this year?


EO:A brain, an idea, and a great team (which I have).

GalleryDinamo

Johannes Breyer and Fabian Harb, founders of Dinamo,

It's Nice That:What’s the biggest change in graphic design that you would like to see this year?

Johannes Breyer and Fabian Harb: More interest and trust in unheard voices, more fairly paid work and more established designers lifting up less visible designers!

INT:Is there something in particular you would like your industry to discuss or tackle in 2020?

JB + FH:Itself: balancing job opportunities, the gender gap, equal pay, access to education at reasonable costs.

INT:What trends or stylistic attributes do you think we’re going to see in graphic design in the next 12 months?

JB + FH:We’d wish the one and only trend of 2020 to be self-confidence and that nothing looks like anything else!

INT:What would you like to personally do within your medium?

We’ll try to keep working on variable font projects and developing tools to realise, simplify and/or improve them. Fingers crossed we’ll also finish them in 2020.

INT:What tool or tools would you need to make positive changes within graphic design this year?

JB + FH:More transparency and dialogue about how to work, how much to charge and when to say no!

GallerySharp Type

Chantra Malee, co-founder of Sharp Type,

It's Nice That:What’s the biggest change in graphic design that you would like to see this year?

Chantra Malee:The design aesthetic of the last decade was unmistakably influenced by big tech, valuing efficiency above all else. Thanks in large part to Apple, we exist in a somewhat sterile moment of design. The logic behind stark white backgrounds, golden-ratio logotypes, and perfectly symmetrical layouts has infiltrated the design zeitgeist, from which all new startups and rebrands seem to reference. While successful in communicating a message most adequately, much like a coder would with zeros and ones, I believe there is so much more that a human being can understand and appreciate. I’d love to see the industry take a step away from the digital influence that guides a lot of our design decisions and find a way to integrate a broader palette of tools that hark back to the craft of graphic design.

INT:Is there something in particular you would like your industry to discuss or tackle in 2020?

CM:This past year, I initiated a scholarship funded by Sharp Type that grants women of colour financial support and mentorship to pursue their ambitions in type design. In its formation, we had the chance to work with an international team of talented designers, most of whom were female. I would love to see more initiatives like this occur in the industry and overall see more female designers and other minorities appear and thrive in the industry. Like I say on the Malee website, “With a more culturally, ethnically, and gender-diverse community in type, we will introduce new ideas and inject new meaning into the field, further enriching and growing the industry both commercially and artistically.”

GalleryMak-Kai Hang

Above

Seeking New Lands

Left

Zansyu

Right

Lolososo

Above
Left

Zansyu

Right

Lolososo

Above

Lolososo

Mak-Kai Hang, graphic designer

It's Nice That:What’s the biggest change in graphic design that you would like to see this year?

Mak-Kai Hang:Where I am [Hong Kong], there have been many problems in the society in recent months. Design in society has produced an unprecedented power and it has really affected many people. It has also given me a new perspective on design. This year, I would be more than happy to see more designs that bring true value to society, more than just commercial works that only see the surface.

INT:Is there something in particular you would like your industry to discuss or tackle in 2020?

MKH:In recent years, there’s been a lot of experimental and very stylish work all over the world. It is very interesting and I appreciate it as it produces a lot of fresh works. But at the same time, it also produces a lot of complexities. A design that is not user-friendly and difficult to read or use somehow gives me the feeling that it’s superficial. I think it’s time to stop and think about whether we need more truly functional works.

INT:What trends or stylistic attributes do you think we’re going to see in graphic design in 2020?

MKH:In the past, Asian design has always been inspired by the West. But recently, Asian culture and design have been noticed and recognised internationally, as well as treasured by its own people. I hope that in 2020, Asian-style design will become more and more influential, and perhaps more such works will be seen.

INT:What tool or tools would you need to make positive changes within graphic design this year?

MKH:Most people are looking forward to advances in digital, screens, and software. But I believe that good design needs to be felt by hand. I have been looking forward to the improvement of printing. If there is a machine that can produce high quality with small quantities of printing, that can reduce printing waste, it will really be a big improvement for the entire design world.

GalleryNotamuse: A New Perspective on Women Graphic Designers in Europe

Silva Baum, Claudia Scheer and Lea Sievertsen, co-founders of Notamuse,

It's Nice That:Is there something in particular you would like your industry to discuss or tackle this year?

Silva Baum, Claudia Scheer and Lea Sievertsen:We would like to see the industry reflect even more on the chances and benefits of allowing different voices and positions to be heard and to participate in the design discourse. In general, design schools should focus more on making their students think about the social connection and effects of their design work as well. We should reflect on our biases and be aware that nobody can be truly objective, but that we have to start listening to people – clients as well as designers – who are historically not from positions that are considered “normal” in order to adequately address every person that is part of the society we live in. We should start seeing a diverse industry as a chance to meet demands in a better way and to have more varied, interesting design solutions. 

INT:What trends or stylistic attributes do you think we’re going to see in graphic design in 2020?

SB, CS + LS:Currently, we see trends that go against those very popular modernist or international style of ideas, embracing more experimental approaches. In Germany, this “Bauhaus” year has shown how many different ways there are to interpret the Bauhaus today. We hope that this trend of design that doesn’t follow strict rules and allows a broader understanding of what good design is could go on to reach more mainstream media as well. It is important for us not to blindly follow so-called design rules that were made decades ago, but question what is still relevant and what will meet the demands of society today.

INT:What would you like to personally do within your medium in 2020?

SB, CS + LS:The first thing in 2020 for Notamuse will be an update of the study on gender balances at design conferences worldwide that we do in collaboration with AIGA Eye on Design. We are also discussing some loose ideas at this very moment about collaborations with other inspiring initiatives that share similar interests to figure out how to keep the discourse around intersectional feminist aspects in design alive. 

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.

jo@itsnicethat.com

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