The New Year is upon is, meaning it’s time for a round-up of our favorite design content from 2018. This is a collection of 10 how-to’s, tutorials, and stories about design that inspired and taught us throughout the year. We hope they’ll do the same for you in the year ahead.
1. Chobani’s rebrand signals a tide change in popular design
Read it at AIGA Eye on Design
Does yogurt have the power to shift design trends? Probably not, but Chobani’s recent rebrand clearly marks a shift in design thinking. If you feel like lately the packaging of your food looks the same as the website design of your insurance provider, which looks the same as the bus stop display ad of a clothing company, then you’ve noticed the inevitable homogeneity of design. The past few years have been a study in “millennial minimalism” as AIGA Eye on Design puts it, with an emphasis on flat design, lowercase sans serif, and of course millennial pink.
The fat, friendly letters of Chobani’s new wordmark might spell a new look for the brand, but they’re also a harbinger of the next big design trend that we’ll soon grow tired of. Eye of Design’s case study is a great read on the cycle of trends, the nature of psychology in design, and how society lands on visual consensus.
You can revisit the top creative trends of 2018, and watch out for 2019 Creative Trends, coming in January.
2. Aaron Draplin talks about life, design, and taking the work home
Read it here
In which our own Aaron White talks to Aaron Draplin about what it means to be a designer named Aaron.
But really, this interview is for designers and creatives at all skill levels, in all industries, and of all first names. Draplin is the legendary visual voice behind the Lost Type Co-op and big influence on the look of everyone’s favorite tiny notebook, Field Notes. With a portfolio so recognizable, and a couple of decades spent in the design world, his take on ambition, inspiration, and simply doing the work is truly enlightening.
3. Literally just 101 beautiful color combinations
Read it here
Color! We love it, but probably not as much as our Alex Clem, who researched, curated, and created a package of 101 color combinations for anyone to use. Use them to learn about color theory, use them to get inspired, or just use them — there’s a free swatch file included.
If you’re into color, we have even more resources for you. We’ve written about color psychology, color meaning, pairing color and type, how to design with black, plus this huge primer on using color in your designs. It’s also by our in-house color expert, Alex Clem, and it’s a great place to start if you’re new to design. You might also like our latest color trends report, which highlights the top colors you’ll see in 2019.
4. Paula Scher talks about open minds and gut instincts
Read it at Artsy
Having graced such New York institutions as the New York City Ballet, The Metropolitan Opera, the MOMA, and Shake Shack (the national chain started as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park!) with her design handiwork, Paula Scher is a New York institution in herself. She’s also an undeniable resource on getting started in graphic design.
From working with clients to the more metaphysical aspects of design, like finding your creative voice within your gut instincts, Scher delivers a career’s worth of insight in this article from Artsy. Read it if you’re a designer getting started, if you’re a designer who has lost your way, or if you’re a human being with a creative bone in your body.
5. Techniques to easily transform all those popular flat designs
Read it here
One of the best features of stock vectors is that they’re ready to go. You can hit download and use it as-is in your design. But, sometimes you’ll want to do more. That’s why we wrote this how-to, offering five really simple techniques to transform the popular flat vector design look into something totally unique.
Give smooth lines a sketched, hand-drawn look. Or, use gradients to bump up monochrome color palettes. Add grain for subtle art deco quality, or use halftone for more texture. This guide is not only an accessible step-by-step process instant changes, but also a testament to how small, quick changes can totally change the look and feel of a design.
6. All about risograph effect and how to get it
Read it here
Risograph, or riso, is a printing technique (and a type of printer) that marries the method of screen printing with the efficiency of photocopiers. With the help of Photoshop, we can translate this on-paper look to the screen by using some of the signatures of this technique. This tutorial covers just that, showing how to mimic the single-color layers of riso, how to add halftone dots for a photocopied look, how to use blend modes for the “overprinting” look, and how to add the customary noise and grain of the style. You’ll learn a lot about this popular style, plus how to manipulate some of Photoshop’s most powerful tools.
7. An expert’s view on working with — and for — clients
Read it at Dribble
Brand strategy is about so much more than a logo these days. With a proliferation of platforms and the rise of integrated customer experiences, brands need a tight, well-developed strategy to keep everything consistent and on-target. That means agencies need a similarly seamless approach to their customer — the client.
This is no new topic in the world of design, but as the industry evolves so do best practices. In this breakdown of the agency/client workflow, the brand strategist at Focus Lab discusses how agencies should tailor their approach to each client, with a close look at the psychological factors at play in this delicate relationship.
8. A ton of free stuff, like textures and keyboard shortcut sheets
Get them here
We think free stuff is great. Not only do we get to give it away with no strings attached, but it also gives our team the opportunity to get away from the keyboard and actually make something. That’s why we made a bunch of freebies this year.
Take your pick from a pack of 50 free distressed textures made from household items and ink, 13 free marble textures made from nail polish, 120 free light overlays for photographers and designers, or this free Adobe keyboard shortcuts cheat sheet. Or take them all! Be on the lookout for even more freebies in 2019.
9. What “good design” means in the 21st century
Read it at Co.Design
The saying goes that the only thing guaranteed in life is death. While we haven’t defeated that particular phenomenon, the 21st century brings with it an even more certain guarantee: change. We’ve already seen iPods come and go, the slow death of broadcast TV and its rebirth on streaming apps, and outer space is transforming from the great unknown to a commercial destination. With all this invention comes a new set of governing principles.
This revision of Dieter Rams’ 10 principles of good design is made for the digital age with an eye towards UX, AI, global communication, and the rapid growth in every industry.
10. How Field Notes (still) capture our addiction to ephemera
Read it at Chicago magazine
Field Notes are a staple of stationery, ten years after their catapult to fame they’re still a mainstay on the trinket, accessory, or branded paraphernalia display at any cafe or boutique clothing shop. This fascinating article tells the story of this tiny notebook’s rise to immortal design status. From its origins in functional, modernist design, to its serendipitous coupling with a new retail experience, these ubiquitous notebooks unwittingly capture three decade’s worth of design philosophy and innovation.