Trend spotter's guide to 2011

From a resurgence of the traditional to new web-based wonders, expert creatives give Charlotte Rivers their insider insights on this year's emerging trends

It's always interesting to speak to the experts and find out what they think the creative industry trends of the next 12 months will be: what will drive them, what will influence them and how they will affect you, your work and your clients.

To this end, we've gathered together a number of creative specialists working across illustration, design, motion graphics, animation, web, interactive and mobile design to see what they think you should be looking out for in the coming months, and how best to take advantage of the emerging trends, styles and new technologies.

Whether it's indie publishing for the iPad, the rise of a stripped-back design aesthetic, or the boom in glossy 3D motion graphics, read on to see how 2011's trends will affect your creative world.


Illustration / Design
Creative collaborations
Gerard Saint
Big Active

A compelling design agency model of the future will embrace the idea of wider local and global creative networks. The objective will be to openly link the best individual talent in a way that is credible, inspiring, practical and productive - positively disregarding the boundaries of time and location. Just as social media encourages virtual communities (undefined by location), creative communities can emerge from smaller units to become large-scale agency hubs of the future.

These networks require direction and structure; a collective framework where individuals and creative teams can engage and thrive on mutual flexibility. This is about doing things in a collaborative way that suits the needs of designers and their project requirements. It's about coming together with positivity and a refreshing generosity of spirit - be that in person or through the tools of the internet. For new design companies, this will provide the opportunity to work together with a network of like-minded associates. For clients, this will provide the scope of services traditionally associated with larger scale agencies, but with the added benefit that resources can be more clearly allocated towards much more flexible and agile teams of specialist creative talent.


Interactive Design
Goodbye keyboards
Chris Stevens
Atomic Antelope

The height of keyboard keys has been in decline since the 80s: from the IBM Model M with almost half an inch of travel, to the Mac keyboards with a few millimetres, and now to the glass touchscreen keyboards of the iPhone and iPad. With mass adoption of touchscreens we're finally beginning to realise that keys don't need to be mechanical, and designers will change UI design techniques to embrace the keyboard-less age.


Motion Graphics / Animation
Get your hands dirty
James Wignall
Mutant Hands

The handcrafted style really came into its own towards the end of last year. Adverts that look as if you could make them yourself: cardboard, Plasticine, felt-tip pens - it's all about a more hands-on approach to design, even if it's 3D. Definitely expect more people dressed up in cardboard robot costumes.


Editorial Design
Indie takes the lead
Chris Stevens
Atomic Antelope

Look out for the rise of the indie iPad publisher. The traditional fiction publishers spent most of 2010 demonstrating how fascinatingly incompetent they are at making digital books, but in 2011 the bedroom developers will overtake. They have lower overheads and bolder ideas, and will prove to be stiff competition to the large international publishing houses.


Editorial Design
Truly digital 'magazines'
Mills
ustwo

The second wave of connected digital 'magazines' will be released and designed by interactive experts with no heritage in print editorial layout to cloud the creation process. Magazines are printed: they are not digital and never will be. Since the launch of the iPad, I haven't seen any magazines truly making the most of the platform - I don't want to see a templated version of a traditional magazine layout on such a great device. It's about creating a digital 'on the go' experience that plugs into the device in a way that transcends print. Print is wonderful; it's static yet timeless. Digital is about being connected, about plugging into a living SodaStream. Digital magazines should never be considered as a digital printed version of a magazine, instead they must be living entities and embrace the user. This year we will see for the first time boundaries being pushed beyond the obvious, with designers really thinking about the way people will digest and interact with content. The future is two-way interaction on a level never seen before.


Illustration / Design
Papercraft popularity grows
Derek Brazell
Association of Illustrators

He's still the master, but Rob Ryan is not alone in snipping away to create lovely, clever and (phew!) complicated paper-cuts and sculptures. Work in paper raised its head above the cutting board last year and is set to continue through 2011 given its growing popularity. It's probably pointless to expand on the tactile and 'handmade' qualities of three-dimensional artwork because we all know it's great, but it's clear that in the search for a new way of presenting products these qualities will, at least subliminally, attract many customers.

Everyone has a memory of doing paper-cuts as a kid, and there is something very satisfying about revealing the final result. With recession biting, the slick and soulless may no longer be the best approach to make consumers feel good. Though shiny glamour can be a reaction to hard times, so can art with a more obvious heart. Plus, you can always admire the amount of physical graft that's gone into creating this work: time spent drawing the concept, hours with a scalpel in hand, wary of making the wrong cut, and the incredible skill needed for forming paper into figures and landscapes. Sometimes you're thinking, 'How is that done?'

Julene Harrison's paper cuts offer a strong structure, and Jeff Nishinaka and Gail Armstrong are great proponents of paper sculpture. Checkland Kindleysides may not be using the real pulped wood version, but the 'paper cut' graphics on its website are a sign that paper's pleasing sensibility speaks to creators and clients alike.

Overall, this trend may make other illustrators more aware of the potential physicality of their artwork, and inspire them to rise out of two dimensions into the 3D world.


Product Design
3D home printing
Brendan Dawes
Magnetic North

This year will see the rise of 3D printing and affordable, personal making machines. Design something or download a design from the web and there you have it; within minutes you're holding the object in your hands. No waiting for a delivery. No going to the shops. Need a new salt cellar? Download, print and you're done.


Illustration / Design
Action in adversity
Derek Brazell
Association of Illustrators

All creatives know that they've got to sell themselves, and an inevitable trend for this year will be downscaling expenditure yet somehow upping exposure. A tricky act to pull off, sure, but ingenuity and perseverance will still take creatives a long way. It's staggering the cuts that are being made to the arts, but we should rise above this and keep on making incredible work.


Illustration / Design
Old becomes new
Chris Stevens
Atomic Antelope

In the midst of economic crisis, designers will return to the aesthetic of a more reassuring age. Traditional values tend to return when a society feels uncertain about itself. It's a standard psychological mechanism, one of retreat. The political narrative of our time is 'austerity' and 'cuts' - this will likely filter into the return of more conservative or 'traditional' design. Even without the tangible restrictions on materials, the uncertainty of the age will have a subconscious effect on the designer's mind, leading to more traditional, classic typography and layout. For instance, we'll see more apps like Alice for the iPad - designs that simulate old papers and printing methods. That app took a 145-year-old copy of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and gave it the heart of a 21st century digital book and is one of the best-selling kids books on the iPad. Expect also to see a lot of weathered textures and knowingly distressed classic typefaces within design. Lots more serif typefaces like Garamond, Palatino and Rockwell.


Web / Interactive / Mobile Design
Mobile goes mainstream
Nicolas Roope
Poke London

We hear this a lot and I don't think it's really the point. The interesting part is how mobile is rapidly becoming a continuous part of the network, albeit with some nuanced experience alterations driven by format, context and location. No one's designing pages any more; we're creating content and then creating many faces for it to be expressed through. More than ever designers are going to have to create design 'systems' rather than fixed solutions that are locked to a size, dimension or platform. Add to this the need to allow for degrading interactions and media support and you've got a fair bit of complexity on your hands. That said, we know it can be done with elegance - it just requires a bit of a step change in technique and a little more in-depth architectural planning.


Illustration / Design
Thrift aesthetics
Chris Turnbull
Turnbull Associates

Tight budgets will call for innovative use of materials and methods of creating and producing design, and the homemade aesthetic will continue and expand into a thrift aesthetic. Think screenprinting on beer mat board, letterpress and potato print. This will be driven by a need to keep costs down for some, as well as a need to not be seen as extravagant by others.


Motion Graphics / Animation
Photo-realism
James Wignall
Mutant Hands

While the era of epic 3D commercials may be in decline, advancements in cheap and affordable computing power means a new era of more photo-real 3D projects could be ushering in. Just as Psyop kick-started the previous trend, its recent 'Something's Lurking' commercial for LG should indicate a sign of things to come.


Broadcast Media
Be a player not a spectator
Tomas Roope
The Rumpus Room

We all want to play, not just watch. The rise of social media has either led or fed our desire to participate. This hasn't gone unnoticed by brands that see the value in getting people to engage directly. If The X Factor has taught us anything it is that people will sell their souls to get on TV, so I think we'll start seeing more film-participation digital activations that result in broadcast content, rather than just creating broadcast content to drive the audience.

As well as inclusion in the content, we are beginning to see more parallel real-time participation. Broadcast is a fantastic way to get a massive audience together at a particular time to do something, like in the old days before the multi-channel, VOD world. I think we will see more of content where we collectively share real time experiences, primarily led by broadcasters' power to get us into our living rooms and on our computers at the same time.


Motion Graphics / Animation
The 3D boom continues
James Wignall
Mutant Hands

Look out for even more 3D-tastic work this year. With 3D packages becoming even more accessible, particularly Cinema 4D's (C4D) saturation of the motion graphics market, I'd expect to see even more big garish 3D text. For instance, Maxon has really gone after the After Effects (AE) /motion graphics market with its software, focusing on an interface that makes the transition from AE to C4D much less taxing than with other packages. I'd expect to see even more big garish 3D text trying to sell you more cleaning products.

However, it doesn't end there. 2010 was the year of dynamics - everything was simulated, water, particles, goo, cloth, etc - and I think this coming year we will see plenty of preset technology-led motion graphics trying to mask a weak creative.

This moves nicely on to mixed-media. One good thing to come out of more readily available access to 3D software and cheaper camera equipment (Canon 550D is an excellent choice) will be more mixed-media animation. I love it when people use a mixture of shot and 3D composited elements. Sebastian Baptista and Nico Casavecchia created a charming animation called Buildings & Vampires that really put this subtle technique to great use. Maybe this is less a trend prediction, more wishful thinking. Bring 'em on!


Logo Design
Graphic symbols return
Michael Johnson
Johnson Banks

Perhaps Starbucks simplifying to just a symbol will herald a new era of actual, real symbols. We've been caught in the headlines of type-only logos for well over a decade - I haven't minded a bit, really - but perhaps the pressure of tiny web icons, phone buttons, favicons et al will make us all consider 'pictures' again. It's been a while.


Web / Interactive / Mobile Design
Agencies spend big
Mills
ustwo

The realisation will hit many agencies out there that it's not just about brand experience but user experience. The big networks will have a field day buying up, or attempting to buy up, the best UI studios out there, and those who have a heritage in mobile and product UI will be hot property.


Illustration / Design
It's all about tentacles
Derek Brazell
Association of Illustrators

Laying my head on the block here: the illustration motif for 2011 will be tentacles. Wildlife has been inspiring illustrators for quite some time. Owls have been creeping up as a popular motif in the decorative illustration stakes and wolves are definitely prowling on the sidelines, but the octopus and squid are the outside bet on what you will be increasingly seeing.


Motion Graphics / Animation
Stop-motion meets CG
Ben Cowell
Nexus Productions

Over the past decade, TV commercials have tended to move away from traditional media and towards CG because of novelty, cost and, most importantly, the flexibility of the medium. Changes are always possible in CG but can be harder to achieve in stop-motion. However, in recent years a new crop of directors has arrived, all of whom use CG to plan and visualise their project, but then use stop-motion to create the final image. This plays to the strength of both crafts: the speed and flexibility of CG with the richness and warmth of stop-motion.
My hope is that we see more examples of both media on our screens in 2011. CG is no longer the young medium it once was; there is a huge chunk of the viewing audience who, having grown up surrounded by computer-generated images, don't view it as a cold, soulless medium. While a huge part of the CG industry is involved with VFX, there are more directors coming through the ranks that understand how to exploit the unlimited freedom CG provides as a storytelling medium of its own.


Web / Interactive / Mobile Design
Gestural interfaces
Brendan Dawes
Magnetic North

Something we're going to see a lot of is gestural/ none-controller-based interfaces, largely driven by the hacked Kinect community. Within a day of the Kinect appearing it was hacked. Libraries were being worked on to enable designers and coders to try out new ways of interacting that don't require touching anything physical, yet in many ways can make you feel as if you're touching the objects on screen more directly. This is because there is no conduit to go through, such as a mouse.

While this is really exciting, we have to take a step back a little. The idea of creating Minority Report-style interfaces might sound great, but actual scenarios for us to use such interfaces are not the norm. Sometimes it's just easier to point at something with a mouse or tap on a button. The fact is it's just not that convenient to move your arms around or stand up when all your want to do is check your email. Indeed, when Tom Cruise was filming the interface scenes in Minority Report his arms started to ache after a while.

These are the things that are never shown in keynotes, but they are a reality we seriously need to consider. Yes, I do think in the right situation controller-less interfaces could be truly wonderful, but for me it has to be grounded in creating something that is not just a flashy use of the current hotness, but something that is produced for use. Remember this: sometimes it's just easier to look out of the window to see what the weather's like than pull up an app.


Multi-platform design
Simplicity is key
Tomas Roope
The Rumpus Room

Making something that works with all the idiosyncrasies of all the emerging platforms is a bloody nightmare unless the idea is simple. Although we'll see more work that really drills into the complicated nature of a specific platform, such as mobile, the majority of communication will be about beautiful simple ideas that are a dream to deploy across all platforms.


Illustration Design
Coloured pencils return
Derek Brazell
Association of Illustrators

It's a delight that drawing is holding strong after its resurgence over the last few years, but where has the colour been? There's more to drawing than the monotone lines of a graphite pencil. Rarely used to great effect since the 80s, when coloured pencil was king, it can now seem almost retro, and therefore ripe for a revival.