Thought Leadership

Predicting design trends of 2019

MHP Design

So, another year has passed in the blink of an eye. As 2019 starts to rear up over the horizon, it’s time to take another peek at what themes and potential trends could influence our industry.

Design trends very rarely spark in isolation. If art is a reflection of our times, then its commercial version, graphic design, has always been sensitive to the outside world. Whether it’s the political landscape or advances in technology (see man and machine blog), the mood of the nation often plays a part of the designer’s subconscious.

So, this year designers may find it difficult to ignore a year ahead that is full of uncertainty and contradictions. We may find designers turning to fantasy in colour and layouts to take us to another place – at least until we turn the newsfeed back on.



Personalisation continues to come into its own on a huge scale. Digital and tech advances across print and marketing are playing strong roles in driving tailored solutions for clients. As customers, we want to feel special and demand to be constantly impressed – the more you can make an experience about the individual’s world and their journey, the more heads will turn.

Where it starts to get really interesting is when it filters into the mainstream, in sectors such banking and finance. ‘Big Data’ is really helping large organisations to get closer than ever to customers. Look at how QR and VR technology has developed over the past few years. Think of the film ‘Minority Report’ or ‘Bladerunner 2049’, where the next stage of technology recognises your retina or even body shape and knows your intimate details. Products will actually speak to you, know how you are feeling and ask you how your day is!

Adidas London personalisation of clothes. BMW VR code reader this year.

Past Masters

We’re generalising for effect, but we do seem to be a quite a romantic nation at heart, and a sucker for a bit of ‘authentic craft’. It’s like our tastes can only be reassured by masters of the past and traditional techniques.

Have we really reached the tipping point, where we can’t invent anymore? Is it perhaps a lack of inspiration? More realistically, is it the cost of investment to create something new? Flicking through the pages of home interior design magazines, its obvious how craftsmanship and older manufacturing techniques are truly en vogue.

This year, we see a continued appetite for authentic materials and craft-based techniques. From block printed wallpaper resurrected from 1700s patterns to hand woven cushions from an ‘authentic’ English alpaca farm. The need for the original and bespoke will continue to eat the lunch of mass manufacturing. However, how long can we keep looking backwards for a sense of style?

World of Interiors magazine.

Beauty backlash

Whether we like it or not we are in a self-obsessed age. CGI artists have crossed over from film work and are working in the space of beauty, art and culture, using digital platforms to showcase their work.

This Instagram age is facing a backlash where image makers are looking for a more authentic representation of ‘everyday beauty’. With enhanced facial features and sometimes grotesque disfigurements, image makers are hacking away at the idealised human form, often in search of a darker, more provocative aesthetic.

Fashion has always been on the edge of mainstream taste, with Gucci’s recent collection featuring models appearing on the catwalk holding replicas of their own heads sporting at least two eyes and horns. Re-Invention, re-assembling and experimenting are standard entry points for a fashion designer but it can’t be ignored that culture will follow suit, painting a darker, and dare I say, more interesting future.

Proof that this ‘has legs’ is the launch of Dazed Beauty in September 2018 by the creators of Dazed & Confused magazine, a community platform dedicated to redefining the language and communication of beauty. There really is money in the grotesque.

Dazed Beauty and Gucci fashion show

The power of the sports franchise

Next summer sees a Major League Baseball game between Boston Red Socks and New York Yankees take place at the London Olympic Stadium – the latest American sport looking to work its way across the Atlantic.

With talk of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars becoming a London based team, La Liga games being scheduled in Los Angeles and even Man Utd going interstellar on the Stock Exchange (no matter how they perform on the pitch), there seems to be no end to the ambition of sport club and franchises’ expansion into global markets.

Clubs and franchises are major business and it’s become standard-fare to take their product out to a wider audience beyond the stadium. The EPL for example is a huge product in China and Malaysia – no wonder teams spend their tight summer schedules zig-zagging across the globe to boost their popularity. With the power to cut across countries and audiences creating a loyalty that some brands would die for, sports franchises now have the world at their feet.

These brands will continue to defy expectations not just selling their own merchandise to new markets but becoming a channel for other companies’ ambitions. Do you wear a Yankees hat yet probably don’t even understand the concept of baseball? Who cares… it looks good.

The next step won’t just be logical product extensions such as the club shirt, duvet or pyjama set, but income from the touchline credit cards, insurance and even package holidays. Everyone will be jumping on the band wagon. Get a sports franchise on your roster ASAP, who knows where it could take you.

Baseball coming to UK

Colour or the year

Dulux are putting their weight behind ‘Spiced Honey’. Pantone are saying ‘Living Coral’. According to purple is the 2019 colour of the year. Pah that was sooooo last year.

Our prediction is ‘Warm Yellow’ – the exact colour you find in those shiny yellow stars of the EU flag.

Why? According to John Lewis and Partners, sales of yellow are up by 20% this year. That’s on anything from dresses to cushions. Rationale? Maybe people are wanting some more sunshine in their life. Whether we are actually clinging onto the stars of the EU or wanting more positivity in our life, yellow (must be warm) is our prediction for top of the colour charts.

‘Warm Yellow’ is our prediction for top of the colour charts.

City of the year

Fresh from being jointly named one of the ‘Capitals of Culture’, Valletta, an official World Heritage site in Malta, has seen a huge transformation over the past ten years.

Throughout the years, Valletta has welcomed Emperors, heads of state, artists and poets and is now the permanent seat of the Maltese government. It is a city full of Baroque architecture, a monument donated by the Knights of St John nearly five centuries ago and the third largest unsupported church dome in Europe outside of Rome (The Vatican) and London (St. Pauls).

A hive of business activity during the day, the city switches to a slower gear at night. Dotted with quaint cafés and wine bars, the city is today one of Malta’s main tourist attractions, hosting among others, the majestic St John’s Co-Cathedral, the imposing bastions and a treasure of priceless paintings. It also provides a stunning snapshot of Malta’s Grand Harbour, often described as one of the most beautiful in the Mediterranean.

The city’s unique setting nowadays plays host to a series of cultural events, from English theatre to concerts by leading opera singers. The tagline for the City of Valletta’s website is ‘A city built by gentlemen for gentlemen’. Now we’re not quite sure that captures its new rebirth, but the chic should pay a visit sometime soon.

City of Valetta, European Capital of Culture 2018.

Grow your own

Here we think we’ve spotted something that is a great idea and has the potential to influence new forms of interior design and landscape gardening.

Using ancient techniques combined with modern technology, a farmer near Matlock in Derbyshire has started to grow, graft, nurture, then harvest living trees into chairs, tables and sculptures.

The tradition of waiting for a tree to grow to make furniture is now considered highly wasteful, damaging to our environment, and, when the complete process is taken into account, very slow. It takes on average at least 50 years before you have a tree that is worth cutting down to make something from.

Gavin Munro, co-founder of Full Grown, has taken on the concept of growing trees directly into moulded shapes.

The furniture that is grown is totally unique, elegant and durable. “We patiently and carefully graft shoots together, bending them into the shapes required, eliminating the need for most of the machinery and processes used in traditional furniture making” says Gavin. Order your next set of dining room chairs now, available in ten years time.

Typography trends –
maxi type and custom fonts

Typography is an inseparable part of graphic design. It definitely follows certain trends – some that stay for years, and others that fade away pretty fast. Typography can take different shapes and forms but one that we think will be popular next year is the trend to be ‘bold and brash’. Advances in digital programming have revolutionised the type creators industry. Now, fonts can easily have their appearance altered and upgraded by using 3D imaging tools and techniques. With the need to communicate instantly to customers, many giants like Apple choose to make a statement through bold typography, and in many cases typography is replacing images altogether.

Fluid colours – metallic and liquid

This coming year we predict design work will incorporate free flowing liquid colour and exuberant gold effects – an altogether more flashy and exotic approach to layout. These 3D effects and metallic elements aim to take the whole layout composition to the next level, making it look expensive and exclusive. Look out for luscious, outrageous colour blends that you can’t help but want to reach out and touch.

Image trends –
film photography is more alive than ever

In the search for a new realism in photography, many image-makers are returning to the medium of film to explore new possibilities in their work.

Italian rubber merchants Pirelli have released 12 of the 40 images that make up their 2019 calendar. We think it’s amazing that they are generated from four black and white films shot by the famed Scottish portrait photographer Albert Watson, who is responsible for some of the most recognisable portraits of our generation such as Steve Jobs, Andy Warhol and David Bowie.

A long-term Vogue collaborator, the Pirelli commission is around the theme of ‘dreaming’ and features images of Gigi Hadid, Alexander Wang, and Ozark star Julia Garner being paired with ballet dancer Misty Copeland, while French actress Laetitia Casta is seen posing with Russian dancer Sergei Polunin.

At the launch of the calendar, Albert says, “I wanted to do it in a way that was different from other photographers, and I wondered what the best way would be. In the end, I looked for pictures that were of beautiful quality, with depth to them, and that had some kind of narrative.”

We predict that film is a medium that pure image-makers such as photographers will turn to more and more, conveniently aligning themselves with formats suitable for social media and digital formats.

Pirelli calendar shoot on film by Albert Watson

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