Posted on: December 11, 2023
Design & Development
I love this time of year; cosy candle-lit evenings as the days shorten, Halloween is a distant memory and as the fireworks fizzle from the night sky everyone turns their minds to the next big event on the calendar – droves of designers claiming to know which design trends will dominate next year.
Luckily for you – I got a magic eight ball for Christmas last year so rest assured that I can confidently predict the future of design*.
You might be picking up a hint of sarcasm here. You might also think that sarcasm is a bit rich coming from someone who *checks notes* is writing one of these exact articles.
It’s a fair cop, or at least it would be if I wasn’t adding value.
A lot of these lists are derivative and go a bit like this: Designer googles “Design trends 2024” – designer reads a few tweets (x’s? Posts?) from big names in the biz, designer picks their favourites and adds them to a list, designer sprinkles in some light commentary – designer calls it a day.
I’ve absolutely done most of that – however, I think I can add a bit more value that takes this from a basic list to a real talking point for setting your 2024 creative plans:
What’s going to make this list different from the other 50 that will show up when you google “2024 ui design trends”?.
First – I’ve kept it to what I think are the best (and most useful) three – no padding.
Second – I’m going to sprinkle in some analysis from my 15 years of design experience. We’ll be breaking down:
…all of which will help you know if you should be scrambling to replace your whole brand style with it or just experimenting on a campaign or two.
Right, let’s get stuck in.
The design epitome of go big or go home. Maximalism wants you to have your cake and eat it. Lots of bold colours, patterns, shapes and typography – usually focused around a detailed central image. What is whitespace anyway? Maximalism isn’t a set group of fonts or colours, or a specific vibe – it’s more about the volume of application.
In a word? Tiktok.
No, it’s not trending on there (although, there is an argument to made for the general presentation of a lot of tiktok content being maximalist)
Instead it’s a result of two generations of consumers (Millennials and Gen-Z) becoming capable of digesting information at a rate of knots thanks to apps like TikTok and Instagram. Regardless of whether this is good for our mental health (spoilers, it really, really isn’t) these apps have conditioned people to anticipate and seek out constantly stimulating experiences. The layered depth of maximalist images means there is always something new to be looking at – this helps hold their attention longer.
This comes along at a time when many design trends have been so minimal in nature for so long – that we have a perfect storm of an audience hungry for stimulation and a world of designers eager to ditch the Helvetica and the pastel colour palettes and have some fun again
When you’re fighting for attention in emerging markets, or entering a market you’re new to – particularly in the gen-z and young millennial demographic. Anyone selling lifestyle subscriptions, ecommerce stores with only a few types of product – where you can devote a proper landing page to each.
It’s a great fit for: makeup and beauty brands, health food brands, drinks brands (particularly the energy market). Anything where the product itself can be a bit samey.
It’s easy to look at maximalism and think “I could do that, anyone can just throw loads of stuff together” – people who think that are wrong. Balancing that many elements around a good central design is actually a real design challenge, particularly when you’re keeping focus on a key product or visual in the piece.
“All signs point to yes”
Maximalism is already on its way up in 2023, and seems well positioned to be strong throughout 2024 as gen-z ages into having more disposable income. Expect homeware brands that have spent the last 10 years targeting millennial homebuilders to be switching to targeting Gen-Z (if they aren’t already).
If it’s a fit for your product and audience – jump in with both feet.
As you might guess, Neubrutalism is is a fork of brutalist design philosophy. Brutalism eschews polish in favour of structure – it’s very much form over function. Think bold outlines, structured negative space, bold colour, lots of contras. In its boldness, it is similar to maximalism but less layered – more architectural. Like someone gathered all those errant shapes and colours from a 90’s VHS intro and put them through a boot-camp. Flat colours and bold outlines conjure nostalgia for the internet of the dial up era without mirroring it exactly.
You can also see a bit of Neubrutalism in this practice design project from our own Jodie Parnham (this is not a live website, but a good example of us applying the style in practice)
Modern consumer culture is about building your own personal brand. To do this – consumers need to envision how your product fits into that.
Neubrutalism is pragmatic without being overly edgy – it’s a great way to frame a brand or product in an exciting way that also stands back enough to let the consumer imagine how it plays into their personal brand identity. An old way to do this would have simply been to embrace outright minimalism but today’s emerging consumers need more flavour. Plus the sense of nostalgia it evokes is riding high on the current 90’s nostalgia wave.
Product launches, services and subscriptions, promoting events.
Great for: Sports products / Activewear, automotive (particularly off road or inner city – vehicles with personality)
Neubrutalism is a balancing act – go too far and you’re maximalist, hold fire too much and you’re in minimal territory. Primary colours (and similar hues) work well, but don’t drown out the structural elements. Black image outlines are almost a must.
Let white-space breathe. Use a grid. Stick to a simple colour scheme built around a base of white with visible black outlines and/or gridlines. Don’t be afraid to show the nuts and bolts.
Veer into minimalism or maximalism – it’s a narrow line to walk, but the results are great.
“Ask again later”
Applications of Neubrutalism slide around on a scale between pragmatic minimalism and outright maximalism – it’s been on the rise since 2022 but I think it might peak this year. Like Glassmorphism and Neumorphism before it, Neubrutalism works best when it can be the centre of attention – It’s not as flexible as base styles like minimalism or maximalism . With this in mind, come 2025, I suspect that we’re more likely to be seeing elements of Neubrutalism folded into websites that are more accurately described as either of those things.
If you’ve got a 2024 product launch that fits the bill, go for it. Think hard before going all in on this style though, maybe experiment in a campaign or two.
To answer that, I think it’s first important to know what bento is. The TLDR is that a bento is a Japanese lunchbox, compartmentalised into little bits. From a design standpoint – it’s parts of a whole, all coming together as one, whilst utilising all the space efficiently.
Unlike the last two entries – bento grids are a tool for your UI not design philosophy. A bento grid can exist on a maximalist site as easily as a minimalist one. Designers have been going mad making these on dribbble.com since the style was used to reveal some iPhone specs.
The last few years have seen bento grids go from an apple.com fawning designer dribbble trend in use on every crypto website concept to actual implementation on more real websites. As bigger brands lean on them, others are likely looking over the fence and seeing that as a marker of reliability – proceeding to put their own faith in it.
Fantastic for hero messaging on complex sites. (Just be aware that you’re still going to have a primary area of attention – and don’t expect every grid square to perform as well as that one). They’re probably about a 500% better User experience than dreaded banner sliders, which do not work. Great for: Tech products, beauty products, homewares, multifaceted services and products, getting rid of your carousel.
Keep it simple, don’t over do it. Too many sections and you’re diluting your own attention, you still need to be editorial. Have a bit of fun and let some elements burst out of their containers. Experiment! Lean into your brand style – don’t curve corners if you don’t need to, hell, skew the whole grid if you want to add a bit of motion.
Cram in every marketing message you have and expect them all to be read.
The only way these aren’t going to be a good idea is if they’re miss applied or poorly planned.
Bento grids are a great way to keep your site structured whilst adding some hierarchy to messaging and some dynamism to your layouts. As long as they’re well planned I can’t see a reason not to use them.
Trends are fun to examine, but at the end of the day, they are just that – trends.
As long as you don’t mindlessly follow them, then they’re a good resource for you to think about your brand and how you want your users to experience it. Trends, like any other research, are a tool. Used wisely – you can create a masterpiece. Flung around aimlessly? You’ll have someone’s eye out.
*Just because I sound confident doesn’t mean you should make decisions solely based on the advice in this article. The best way to really advise you on web design, is to get to know you better. Get in touch today!
Head of Web Design
James has been a designer for 15 years, and has been involved in hundreds of projects across user interface design, print and branding. He’s a designer with a passion for branding and user experience, and has been instrumental in the rebrand of two of our agencies, Boom and The Digital Maze and has worked with many of our clients to find the value in their brand.
Putting the E(xperience) into E-E-A-T
Posted on: January 26, 2024
SEO30 mins est
To satisfy the Experience part of the E-E-A-T framework, you need to demonstrate first-hand knowledge and involvement in the topic you are writing about. Find out more in our latest post.
Room 301: Season One – That’s a Wrap!
Posted on: January 3, 2024
Podcasts30 mins est
And that's a wrap folks! Catch up on all the recording, links and highlights from season 1 of our digital marketing podcast, Room 301.
Room 301 Podcast 016 – Showcasing the Commercial Impact of SEO
Posted on: November 30, 2023
In our last episode of Season 1, SEO expert Josh Allerton guides us through effective budgeting, collaborative experimentation and more as we delve into the world of commercial SEO.
The Future of eCommerce is “You”-Shaped
Posted on: November 30, 2023
eCommerce20 mins est
Throughout the internet, the customer buying journey (especially for products we have little to no knowledge of) continues to be a challenging and remarkably impersonal experience.
Room 301 Podcast 015 – The 4 Core Strategic Principles Behind Every Successful Marketing Campaign
Posted on: November 2, 2023
This month, Rob Twells is joined by Clare Taylor of Apricus Marketing as they discuss the four core strategic principles behind every successful marketing campaign.
Selling Stories, Not Just Products: Leveraging Sales Skills & Techniques in Digital PR
Posted on: October 18, 2023
Digital PR16 mins est
In today's fast-paced digital landscape, sales and Digital PR are converging like never before, and while these disciplines may seem distinct, they share a common thread: effective communication.