Your faithful mariners of style are always on the lookout for new event branding trends, especially as one year becomes another. We cruised the seven seas of contemporary event branding and parallel industries to find what’s new peeking through and to forecast what’s coming up. We asked ourselves:

      • Where are brands moving, in a general sense?
      • How is the new environment changing the way branding is deployed?
      • How are aesthetic appetites changing?
      • What new materials or techniques were created, made accessible, or made affordable by this year’s technology?
      • Where is the best work coming from?

Based on our observations, we’re predicting some drastic changes as the year unfolds, outlined below under several general themes.

Visual Identity

Visual Identity: Less Obtrusive, More Flexible

Current Scene: New environments can dissolve old rules and ideas about what makes “branding” or “the ideal brand identity.” Illustration is thriving, and print isn’t dead—but we haven’t been living in a print-first world for some time. Logos are also changing rapidly; brands want their logos be everything at once, but conventional logo-dominant identities with complicated, colorful, static marks are antithetical to the “brand experience” that organizations court.

Prediction: Simplicity

We’ll see more moves to simplified logos, chiefly by removing colors, type, or graphic elements until only basic geometric objects remain. If there’s ever any doubt about Whose Brand Is It Anyway?, context (the nature and source of the branded content) and existing familiarity (recognition by loyal followers) will have to make up the distance.

Well-known brands can pull this off, and will continue to do so—but few others can simplify down to a basic geometric shape, let alone claim the circle the way all nature aspires to. However, less recognizable brands can do this effectively by keeping logos to one color with an overall simple form, and then subtracting elements until arriving at a unique mark. Masterclass did just that by slicing bits out of an overall simple shape.

Prediction: Responsiveness

Since display in print is no longer the only (or even primary) option for identity, branding will become  more about execution and versatility. Flexible, variable logos will supersede locked marks so that brands can maintain recognizability in whatever context they’re deployed.

Analog Media

Analog Media and the Return of Craft

Current Scene: A glut of samey vector digital art and illustration. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a net good that we have cheap and easy-to-use graphics creation software (and a big ol’ internet to distribute the works created by that software). This wider access to the craft has brought in millions of individual creators worldwide, but the digital economy’s engines pursue proven conversions and don’t always encourage imagination.

The result is an immeasurable number of pristine vector graphics libraries that anyone can access and anyone can (technically) edit. How do you stand out?

Prediction: Mixed Media

By combining the physicality, substance, and irregular imperfections of analog media and related production techniques, with the versatility and reach of digital design and distribution, brands can present something fresh and bold, stand out, and assert their premium status.

Prediction: Specialization

You know what they say: when you buy the best, you only cry once. Invest in capturing your event’s branding, host city, venue, or guest speakers from a refreshingly new point of view.

Technology

Technology: A New Creative Harvest

Current Scene: We’ve practically exhausted the fonts and graphic styles we have on hand. Designers will be looking to technology for excavating raw materials, new or old, handcrafted or totally accidental.

Prediction: Recombination

What will this year’s new tech advancements yield? Heaps of machine-made or machine-found data ripe for the picking, cheaper and more creative tools for customization, and freshly-coded add-ons already supported by major platforms:

    • Color Fonts: Typography that uses built-in SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) format, allowing color information and other rich graphic features to be stored within a font, enhancing its appearance. Adobe and Sudtipos are already on it, so expect other foundries to follow, and for  this to take over everything, from display signage to app buttons.
    • Animation: Yes, so nice it’s worth saying twice—because everything mentioned above about animating anything can already be supported through code, like front-end CSS.
    • 3D Modeling: Adobe uses photorealistic modeling and Scandy employs 3D scanning to slash the time and cost involved in turning digital assets into actual tangible collateral. For two more specialized approaches, check out Oriol Massaguer (for analog) or Joe Sparrow (for going 3D to 2D).
    • Big Data/Machine Learning: There are key differences between the glut of human-made graphic assets previously mentioned and media produced by algorithms or machines. A human working in a Ukrainian vector mill takes shortcuts to work as little as possible; they’ll only create things they consider beautiful or useful moneymakers, with minimal experimentation and waste. (This is how we ended up with landfills of copycat styles!) Conversely, an AI engine can output terabytes of both usable material and digital waste simply in the course of (for example) trying to understand how humans see an apple. This waste was literally never meant for human consumption, so it can be pretty nauseating, but designers will still envy a machine that summons a full spread of content beyond human imagination on command. Humans aren’t yet outmoded; as long as our eye surpasses a machine’s, we’ll find ways to get inspired by machine-generated images. We’ll also review and refine AI output, co-opting these raw materials into color palettestextures, audio, video effects, and other assets.
    • Go Vintage: There are tons of image archives newly available (the Library of Congress, Louisiana Digital Library, and Open Culture are three standouts we recommend) that haven’t been widely used yet, so looking backwards for retro raw material can yield beautiful results. (The best instagram account to set your brain on fire with visions of the past is @myimaginarybrooklyn.)

Keeping Current

Keeping Current: Where to Find Branding Trends

Stay on top of what’s happening with a few of our favorite links for direct inspiration, but note that free resources are often supplied by imitators or amateurs. For the freshest, best-curated looks, visit sites with paid resources (whether or not you end up buying).

Want to sniff out a trend before it becomes an identifiable fad?

    • Keep up with the newest work through Instagram or Behance. Look at the art that other artists are liking, collecting and following.
    • Indie music‘s design choices—in album art, gig promotion, or other collateral—can be good predictors of overall trends, like its early adoption of vaporwave.
    • Like music, mural or street art has nothing to lose by being edgy or unconventional, so following a favorite curator or particular hashtag is a great way to predict trends.

And of course, follow Tight Ship for future crystal-balling about emerging design trends in event identity!