Forecasting design trends can be a bit like reading tea leaves. Stuck in the dark, staring at a wet, fragrant substance dribbling out of a fragile container, interpreting emotional meaning from—wait, what? Well…maybe not literally, but it’s close enough. Good design is foreseeable, because good design isn’t an accident; there are always reasons why a brand’s design looks the way it does and why that’s effective.

At Tight Ship we’ve done our share of watery, emotional staring—we focus on event branding intensely, y’all—so in this post we’ll revisit the emerging (and very purple) event design trends of 2017, interpret their meaning, and describe how event professionals can apply them to create compelling experiences.

To briefly recap: we spotted color palettes with three to five rich colors, expressed in gradients, duotones, and bright calls to action. We also saw a lot of iconography and sans or slab serif type for immediate, maximum comprehension on screen and in passing. More broadly, we noticed similar unifying brand aesthetics in every design—a sort of nested visual identity that complemented, rather than dominated, the overall content. Each of those three trends will impact the immediate future of event collateral design. Here’s how:


That’s Rich: Color Me Impressed

The Trend

We try to avoid hyperbole on this ship—we are, after all, professionals—but the most overwhelmingly attractive trend we saw among the latest event collateral was a glorious flood of deep, rich colors. Adobe noticed it too, but thankfully there’s enough to go around for everyone. Shades of crimson, navy blue, bright gold, burnt orange, intense magenta, or (most frequently) royal purple showed up all over—in print and on screen.  

Why It Matters for Events

Event brands have already begun catering to attendees seeking more interactive and personalized experiences. Huge general sessions are playing second fiddle to smaller specialized symposia, experiential touch/see/taste/feel moments, and exercise or leisure brain-breaks.

Aesthetically, event brands that want to inspire meaningful, substantial, and holistic event experiences will rely on a palette of three to five emotionally resonant colors. Why? Rich colors evoke a rich experience.

Where to Get It

Paletton • RGB to PantoneCoolors • Color Wheel Pro • ColorHexa • Hornil Duotones

What’s Next?

Trends always meet their death in extreme, explosive overuse as the pendulum stops and swings back in the other direction. We predict a deeper glut of rich colors, and overplayed in succession: purple, peacock blue, scarlet red, and coral. For metallics, when gold gets tired, give bright copper or iridescent black a shot. 

What will follow the death of rich hues? Pantone is already looking to millennials for cues. Our favorite millennial Sam Barnes envisions an oncoming vibrant, fantasy-driven palette of “unicorn colors” as the pendulum swings back to 90s-internet vivid cornflower, aquamarine, and magenta. She also foresees the rise of “sombre” subtle gradients.


Simplicity Is Just My Type

The Trend

Sophisticated complexity may not be everyone’s cup of tea these days, but “simplicity” here doesn’t mean “dumbed-down.” Think of it instead as “economical” or “functional.” The trend itself is two-headed: first, for better and worse typography is being eaten alive by the free proliferation of Google Fonts. Second, versatile icon-based font sets like Font Awesome are helping event brands further simplify communications.

Icon/word combinations are already used to overcome language barriers when traveling, at sporting events, and at at festivals. Fabricated or programmed signage, printed schedules or calendars, branded apparel or merchandise, and hard-coded apps—anything that helps attendees get where they need to be—will continue following this trend.  

Why It Matters for Events

Never underestimate the value of easy skimming and minimalist messaging amidst a hectic conference (especially those with after-parties featuring strong tea). When type is chosen wisely by knowledgeable pros, and deployed consistently across an event’s print and digital media, it maintains the brand’s recognizable visual cues in any setting—helping keep attendees on track and informed.

Simplified typography and iconography will continue to do what it’s always done: drive accessible, understandable wayfinding. Words won’t be banished altogether, but until we have a universal language of symbols (or until emojis completely replace iconography), fewer words will be the rule.

Where to Get It

Google FontsFontPair • Font Awesome • FontSquirrel • MyFonts • TypeKit • FontFaceNinjaLost Type

What’s Next?

While hand-lettered type shows no signs of slowing down, at some point it will—but we haven’t seen it saturate event collateral yet, so we do expect it to live longer that way. The reverse-pendulum effect will likely see designers less enthralled with showy fonts and instead relying more on basic, universally available fonts used well like Open Sans for body copy.

For headlines and display typography, we anticipate niche fonts used ironically, like blackletter or ’70s-style with clashing colors and effects. We also predict all-caps treatments fading in favor of fonts that look good in lower or sentence case.


The Minimum is the Message

The Trend

Successful event brands are trusting their attendees to define the experience. Brands that tactfully frame—but don’t interfere with—the torrent of user-generated content pouring out of every session and after-party. That torrent is decidedly not weak tea, folks; attempting to control  it risks any number of awkward mishaps, so the most effective messaging tactic for an event brand is setting the stage for a meaningful, memorable experience—and then getting out of the way.  

Event attendees are taking advantage of that to create authentic emotional connections with their experience. Tactfully-branded social media channels and participatory souvenirs (photo booths, video backdrops) are allowing them to keep and share memories, freely offer happy testimonials, and—most importantly—return next time and bring their friends.

Why It Matters for Events

Contrary to popular belief, and despite the constant supersaturation of advertising, today’s audience doesn’t actually hate being marketed to. However, nobody likes being pushed or evangelized to; overt marketing gets tuned out, and covert marketing gets roundly despised. Authenticity is increasingly elusive as brands constantly assert their realness to increasingly skeptical consumers.

How will that effective restraint continue to play out? Logos and other aspects of visual identity will become simpler and their placement subtler, making room for larger-scale interactive or crowd-streaming content. That content is more heads-up than heads-down, whether individual-scale interactive like VR or large-scale broadcasting like crowd-streamed Twitter walls.

What’s Next?

Aesthetically restrained “less is more” design tends to live long and prosper. Aesthetically restrained design that trusts its audience to understand and do their own thing with its message might just be immortal. Event professionals already engaging in subtle branding (keep those hashtags to one, folks) should focus on the content applications their attendees want to use. Experiential marketing, AR, VR. Pay attention to audiences! Their social feeds are full of cues.


The Festivalization of Events

These separate but related trends in color, minimalism and restraint aren’t coincidental; they comprise what Bizbash CEO David Adler calls “the festivalization of events.” Attendees will expect interactivity, entertainment, and restorative downtime—not just a bigger or better bang for their buck.

The overall result for the immediate future of event collateral design will be material that supports a user-defined experience based on trust, which cultivates future engagement and reinforces the event’s brand. That reinforcement is critical for brands supporting events which recur monthly or yearly.  

Keeping on top of the latest, most valuable design trends isn’t always on event professionals’ radar when they’re neck-deep in production—but doing that is easier if they have the right help. Working with a single creative firm for all your visual identity collateral keeps your event on-trend and attuned to your present and future attendees.

Tight Ship’s team delivers compelling visual identity across multiple media to help ensure engagement, consistency and memorability ship-shape for the entire cruise. Get a look at what we can do for you by contacting us today. We can even meet for tea if you like—but hold the sugar, because we’re sweet enough.