This year’s small business design trends are contradictory. Between full-figured fonts, delicate illustrations, futuristic typography, and vintage neon hues there’s seemingly endless scope for creativity—so how are small businesses adopting these eclectic styles? In this article, we unpack the biggest small business design trends for 2019.
When it comes to establishing what graphic design trends you will follow for each year, it can be hard to establish who the design authority on the matter is. While there are always the latest logo trends and color trends you can follow, when it comes to graphic design or creating marketing material for your small business, we think the ultimate authority are those within the industry who design every day.
That’s why we’ve gone straight to the source and surveyed Canva’s small business users to find out which design trends they’re using in 2019 to successfully market their offerings. So take a look, have a play and pick up some fresh design ideas for small business.
What are we designing?
Digital is king, of course, in this hyper-connected age, but don’t discount print as ‘dead’. In a sea of intangible social content (much of which only sticks around for 24 hours) the staying presence of print media—be it a beautifully crafted brochure, poster, flyer or business card—can give your small business the edge.
Print brings a level of luxury and intimacy that digital can’t deliver (think about how you feel on receiving a calligraphed invitation or handwritten letter), and it also makes a lasting impression—certainly according to Global research agency Millward Brown, that found physical media leaves “a deeper footprint in the brain” than its digital contemporaries.
A printable brochure, for example, can be quickly customized and resized to roll out across your business’s digital channels as a social media post, an e-newsletter, e-brochure or a downloadable resource from your site.
The Colorful Shapes Creative Trifold Brochure riffs on current design trends with a vibrant aesthetic, bold typography and 3D elements, while the Minimalist Real Estate Trifold Brochure keeps things sleek and straightforward.
Graphic design trends in 2019
Trend-watchers have flagged a diverse mix of influences shaping design this year, many of which include gradients, 80s color palettes, and custom illustrations.
When surveyed, Canva’s community of small business owners and employers highlighted the graphic design trends they’re predicting will be big for 2019:
- Hand-drawn illustrations
Bye-bye bold brush strokes. Brands are styling their offerings in soft, whimsical fashion by way of hand-drawn illustrations. Intricate botanicals and nature motifs abound and bring a touch of yesteryear to digital mediums, but really come to the fore across print and packaging (all the more so when coupled with opulent elements such as textured papers, embossing and gold foil).
- Bold fonts
Sans serifs, in all their crisp-and-clean austerity, are still plentiful. But 2019 has been dubbed the year of the bookish, quirkier serif. In contrast to the light and dainty illustration shift, fonts are filling out and fattening up. Those familiar titans of the typography space are still around (we’re looking at you Bodoni Bold and Aileron Heavy), while customized and handcrafted styles are also making their mark.
Design tip: Pair a gutsy serif with a lean, all-capped san serif for a contemporary feel. Choose an on-brand font from Canva, or upgrade to a business account to upload your own.
- 3D design and typography
Advances in tech trends, such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), are infiltrating graphic design and propelling brands into new, eye-catching dimensions. This is a trend best worn on digital platforms, and although almost any font can be rendered in 3D, treat this one with a less-is-more approach. Stick to only one or two words with minimal letters for maximum impact.
Design tip: Use Canva to create text with a 3D effect by layering copies of a word or letters in graduating shades.
- Gradient colors
A gradient is a graduated blend between two or more colors, and since certain big names took this trend to their logos (*ahem* iTunes and Instagram), brands have been going crazy for the rainbow effect. Gradients are super versatile and work as well in the way of soft-and-subtle as they do bold-and-striking. The usual color fades and merges are still getting around, and ‘duotones’ —an image composed with two colors, prevalent in the ’60s—are making a comeback thanks to Spotify’s vibrant rebrand.
Design tip: Create a gradient effect in Canva by searching for ‘gradients’ in elements. Drag and drop your selection into your template as the background, or place it beneath or over an image and adjust the transparency to your liking.
- Neon colors
Hold on to your highlighters, the neon trend is here to stay. Very much in harmony with 2019’s dramatic inclination (and with a nostalgic nod to the ’80s), neon hues are especially fun to apply across more traditional mediums, such as print. Season to taste with a cheeky flash or go all out for the full, fluorescent effect.
Design tip: For a modern take on the trend, contrast neon text and elements on a dark background.
Design elements to consider
So you’re ready to take a trend to the drawing board… now what? These are some of the first design elements Canva’s small business community think about when designing marketing material (we’ve stuck with our example of brochures). A few members have even thrown in their two cents’ worth:
- The words that will be used
Words hold weight, so which ones are going to convey your brand’s message? Give some thought to your brand’s values. What words best describe its personality (is it friendly, smart or trustworthy?) and what would you like it to be remembered for?
This year’s buzzwords include ‘low impact’, ‘high purpose’ and ‘sustainable’, so you might want to sneak one of those in, but above all, ensure that what you’re saying solves a problem (Hint: a little less ‘Buy me’, a little more ‘Here’s what I can do for you’).
Design tip: “Keep the most important messages centered, use a cursive font with a san serif font. Get creative with the theme and message you want to portray.” The Newsagency, Alison Avron – Owner
- The color palette
The key with color is to keep it consistent with your branding so that customers can instantly recognize marketing material as your own (red and yellow can only mean McDonald's, Google’s got blue, red, yellow and green down pat and a deep shade of purple gets us craving Cadbury chocolate).
If you’re yet to lock down your signature shades, look to the trends that are coloring your industry.
Yellow and orange dominate food brands (and with these particular hues proven to make us feel hungry, is there any wonder?), calming and creative sky-blue (a lá Twitter and Skype) is still hard to beat in the tech space. while neutrals like ‘fawn’ and ‘dried sage’ are rippling through the fashion-sphere.
Design tip: “Set up a design color scheme for each client and use them throughout their marketing materials, including specific brochures” - One Site Marketing, Gail Anderson, CEO/Owner
Go for brave contrast with the Orange-Blue Shop Creative Trifold Brochure or tone things down with the Cream and Charcoal Photo Furniture Trifold Brochure
- The images
If a picture is worth a thousand words, you want all of them to scream ‘quality’. Use top-notch, professional photos with dimensions and resolution for the medium you’re using.
Keep colors, tone, and filters in line with your brand aesthetic, and if you’re using stock photos, limit the cheese factor by sourcing them from a design-focussed platform and making sure all featured clothing and technology are current.
Design tip: “The less crowded the brochure, the better. Also, the photos of the products have to grab [the reader’s] attention early! This doesn’t mean being busy, loud or gawdy either. A minimalist, neat photo, done well, has really captured my customers’ attention.” Talisa, owner, and manager at Posh Much Papeterie, an online stationery retail store.
- The layout
Layout is an art form, to say the least, so using professionally designed templates will give you a considerable leg up here. When pondering what goes where, think about which elements (text or images) you want to be the focal points. A fail-safe composition trick is to use the ‘Golden Ratio’ or ‘Rule of Thirds’ and place elements of interest on intersections of a grid.
On the topic of text, there are countless things to consider, from tracking to spacing, scale, size, justification, hierarchy and kerning (the spacing between letters, which warrants an article in itself). Keep things simple by working with a limited number of fonts (two or three, tops) and balance your text and images with generous serves of white or negative space.
If the text is your focus try the Dark Blue and White Icons Corporate Trifold Brochure or create an image-centric design with the Gray and Green Coffee Advertising Trifold Brochure
- Who the audience is
When it comes to designing marketing material, the overarching consideration is: Who are you designing for? Get 100% clear on your target audience before you so much as select a font and Do your research. Who is your audience (think, age, location, spending habits)? What are they engaging with (print media, social media, video content), and how are they engaging with it?
Look at the material that resonates with your audience and note the common design elements. Check out what your competitors are putting out there too, while you’re at it.
Create user-friendly marketing content. Readability trumps style every time—but give enough care to the design elements we’ve covered and you can have both.