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Siobhan Kennedy

Siobhan Kennedy

Design Director

3 Design Trends on the Rise in 2016

There are a few interesting design trends we’re keeping our eyes on this year. With spring fast approaching, this seems like a nice time to step back and examine the visual elements that are gaining popularity in the digital space.

1. Unexpected Colour

Bold and unexpected colour choices have been on the rise in all arenas of design. We’re seeing bold colour being applied in various manners, from large coloured backgrounds to smaller bursts of bright colour tempered with more muted tones (greys, pastels and neutrals). In most cases, contrast is at play to create balance and focus. This trend is popular because it brings designs to life. It will continue to permeate the digital design landscape as both designers and clients continue to be more brave and innovative.


Spotify-colour  AppleWatch-colour


This month, Pantone expanded their palette with 112 new colours, a sign that they’re paying close attention. According to Pantone, the new colours have an “emphasis on specific colour ranges derived from market requests”. What has our design team the most excited though is the Pantone Colour Bridge Set which allows graphic designers to quickly and precisely match colours being used across print (Pantone & CMYK) and web (RGB & HEX) platforms. Check out this promotional video featuring the talented, Jessica Walsh.

ColorBridge_1c[Image via PANTONE, Its Nice That]

2. Moving Images

The use of video in web design is increasingly more popular and for good reason, it connects to the human experience in a visceral way that static design cannot do on its own. When done well, the effect is powerful and provides layered meaning. The trick is to select imagery that evokes emotion and keep the movement minimal so as not to distract from the intent of the design – allow people to navigate and find information they are seeking.

Airbnb is currently doing this well on their landing page. We get an intimate peek at the life of a host or visitor and experience an instant sense of familiarity and warmth. The moving images are calm and not too jarring.



fitbit gets points for setting an interesting mood with their well shot videos but the speed and number of transitions cause the video to be more of a distraction than supporting design element, especially with long text floating on top which becomes quite difficult to read.



Anyone using social media has likely come across a “cinemagraph” recently which combines still photography with subtle motion. The effect is captivating, even if sometimes bordering on creepy. The result is that it creates a pause for the user. Our brains notice something slightly out of the ordinary and want to solve what is actually happening. Although the technique itself isn’t new, we’re seeing it in use more and more as a visual way to break through the clutter. From a UX perspective, designers need to use caution when considering this visual tool as it can easily become a source of user frustration. The goal is to engage, not distract.

Get inspired at Flixel’s gallery.

3. Flat Design Enhancements

The simplicity and ease of flat design continues to make it a top choice when it comes to user interface design. In an effort to elevate it to a new level, there is a push towards shading and shadowing. So we’re taking some of the ‘flat’ out of flat design. The idea is to use a very light hand when adding any shading effects to keep it fresh and modern, yet distinct.



It’s interesting to have a look at Google’s visual design language system, Material Design, to get a sense of how they are using shading and shadowing to establish a sense of real-world surfaces. They have created a comprehensive set of rules to support their vision for visuals that relate to people’s perceptions of space, tactility, and focus.

What we can gather from these trends is that there is a real push to find new ways to stand out from the crowd. Of course the very nature of trends is that they end up becoming all too familiar. The challenge is to avoid using visual tricks as a crutch but rather take note of what works well and only incorporate these types of elements when they support your message.

What design trends are inspiring you this year?

Siobhan Kennedy

Siobhan Kennedy

Design Director

Siobhan is a passionate advocate for clean, effective designs that speak clearly and with gusto. Through the Akendi blog, Siobhan shares inspirations, tips, and resources for developing clean, harmonious design systems that are a joy to use.


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About Akendi

Akendi is a human experience design firm, leveraging equal parts experience research and creative design excellence. We provide strategic insights and analysis about customer and user behaviour and combine this knowledge with inspired design. The results enable organizations to improve effectiveness, engage users and provide remarkable customer experiences to their audiences.