Thought Leadership

Predicting design trends of 2020

MHP Design

We have reached the start of a new decade, and with that, a chance to define the new era that lies ahead of us. It’s an exciting time to be an ‘image maker’, with a feeling in the air that anything can happen, perhaps something quite extraordinary.

Every year our design team look at predicting what the design trends will be. From a ‘must see’ European destination to what Pantone think will be ‘Colour of the Year.’

We don’t just pick our favourites, we look at the potential reasons behind why these trends come into the spotlight, how people pick up on them and why they are predicted to stay the course of the year. The findings are sometimes humorous, always surprising and often a reaction to the past. Our choices are often based on logical factors such as technology advances and political, social and environmental climates that drive them, but sometimes good old-fashioned ‘intuition’.

A good designer doesn’t just understand trends and make images for ‘images sake’. We predict the future every day for our clients, just as it should be but always with an understanding of the context, need and the environment for which it is intended.

Colour to die for

From purple to coral, we’ve often scratched our heads as to how the design world arrives at a ‘colour of the year’. However, the more you dig, the more you see colour as a window into people’s state of mind. So indulge us a little – this year, we suggest looking at Pantone’s colour of the year ‘Classic Blue’.

Pantone’s choice, they state, is associated with ‘communication introspection’ and ‘clarity’. Though their rationale is arguably as clear as the colour mud, according to Pantone’s data ‘Classic Blue’ has already been used in multiple designs last year and is a trend predicted to continue strongly into 2020.

Perhaps it’s quite ironic to feel a sense of comfort, confidence and trust with our chosen colour despite the recent election and uncertainty of Brexit. Can a colour help nations to resolve undisputed conflicts with one another? Perhaps not, but there is hope.

Is colour a true representation of our psyche and a forecast of political landscapes returning to calmer, bluer waters?

'Classic Blue' is set to feature strongly in 2020's colour palettes

City of the year

Located along the coast of Portugal, Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Europe. Steeped in sailing tradition – it has always had a pioneering spirit. With the long, warm-summer climate of the Mediterranean, it offers tourists a great city break and the chance of an accessible beach vacation. Its historic streets, splendid palaces and unique food has the glamour to match any European city.

Lisbon gets our nod this year as it has been elected ‘Most Sustainable European City’ according to the European Green Capital Awards. Lisbon has set out a clear vision with measures to restrict car use, prioritise cycling, public transport and walking, and these changes are making a real difference to people’s lives there. On top of Lisbon’s green credentials, it’s difficult not to be inspired by the world of beautiful traditional tiles that clad most of the city’s walls and buildings. This combined with a flourishing street art scene, makes exploring the city a pleasure for any lover of design.

It’s hard not to feel somewhat jealous, and we should all aspire to be as green as Lisbon. Next stop Birmingham.

Its historic streets, splendid palaces and unique food has the glamour to match any European city

Typography trends

Monospaced typefaces usually bring to mind typewriters and computer programming, however, they can be a perfect choice for designers looking for a sparse, minimal and undesigned feel to their work. The trend is set to be popular this year, favouring an organised approach allowing form to follow function in a stark contrast to the unconventional, bold and brash feel of design styling in 2019.

The world right now needs clarity and monospaced fonts achieve this by communicating messages clearly, be it on Snapchat screen filters or type on election campaign materials. The monospace typeface trend aims to keep it simple, clear and inoffensive.

  • The monospace typeface trend keeps things simple, clear and inoffensive
  • IBM’s new typeface Plex features a Monotype subfamily

Dystopian aesthetic

Last year we looked at the advancement of ‘ugly beauty’ highlighted in fashion photography and gaming. The dystopian trend continues to find expression this year through cold colour schemes, mechanised typography, glitch art techniques and imagery that merges tech with organic matter.

So far, this trend shows up mostly in illustrative media such as album covers, magazines and fashionista T-shirts. While it can be unsettling, these styles are effective ways to get viewers to pause and re-examine the world around them.


Fashion in the new decade continues to be big, bold and statement making. Strong colours, glossy shine or monochromatic looks, bold prints or soft feathers are the trending choice. Vanessa Valiente from V-Style believes that “people are tired of pastel colours and will move away from them in 2020”.

Boldness and a strong attitude prevails in 2020. If you don’t fancy standing out from the crowd then wearing classics with a twist or the restyling of the white shirt is where it’s at and we don’t just mean buying a new one, we mean wearing it backwards or with slits cut out of it.

“The hardest thing in fashion is not to be known for a logo, but to be known for a silhouette”. – Giambattista Valli

embracING nostalgia

Bringing ‘yesterday’ to the ‘tomorrow’, nostalgia has always played a part in design, advertising and photography, but it’s now looking to infiltrate the last bastion of design – product design.

From the flip phone craze of the early 2000s (the sense of opening a phone like a book and hearing it click when closing), to the rise of 16-bit pixel games (taking retro to a new level) – these familiar treats are all set to make a comeback in 2020. What’s old is officially new again.

  • Motorola have relaunched their iconic 'Razr' handset, originally released in 2004
  • 'Eastward' by Pixpil Studio is set to be released in 2020

Post-apocalyptic technology

The environmental impact of reducing carbon emissions is a huge driver in car technology. The electric vehicle market is gathering pace and driverless cabs are around the corner lying in wait. Volvo, the premium car maker has stated that it plans to have sold a total of one million electrified cars by 2025.

Car design currently offers natural-flowing, sleek organic shapes that are pleasing on the eye but Tesla’s latest offering The Cybertruck, introduced in November, is the polar opposite.

“It’s a vehicle without compromises, which breaks every rule we tell our students”, Raphael Zammit, head of MFA transportation Design at CCS.

Tesla’s rigid, angular design was a strange shock to the car world. Was it a stunt or had Mr Musk been watching too many science fantasy films? It might look weird, but you can’t argue it is original and unique. The post-apocalyptic style could be (excuse the pun) a ‘re-enforced’ window into designs of the future, as car creators look to dystopia to justify bending the rules.


These days, minimalism extends well beyond the art world. In recent years the ‘minimal lifestyle’ trend has emerged and young people, overwhelmed by the extravagance of modern life, have chosen to downsize. As the world becomes more and more cluttered, best-selling books by authors like Marie Kondo continue to inspire the public to get rid of the excess and return to the basics. In the last decade, the minimalist movement has spread from smaller online communities into a wider sphere. These days, we are also more environmentally and socially conscious. Reducing waste and sticking to the essentials is more than a fad; it’s an investment in our future.

For most designers, image-makers and photographers, minimalism is always what they strive for – communicating a message as clearly as possible without unnecessary clutter.

As people look at photos on smaller and smaller screens, there has been a growing trend towards making photos that are more impactful. Especially on social media, minimalism is coming out of its shell – keeping it simple and ‘knowing what to leave out’. Simon Bray, an artist from Manchester reveals: “When understanding how to achieve minimalism, the rule is to keep it simple. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be boring or uninteresting.”

  • Freddie’s Flowers by Charlotte May: experimenting with a bold new aesthetic to showcase products in a new light
  • Rapha Women’s Cycling Apparel by Ana Cuba: a set of genuine and personal images for the cycling brand

Climate-friendly aPPROACH

As the future of our planet is put increasingly under threat, the subject of climate change is front of mind, with designers playing an important role in helping to facilitate sustainable choices. The zero-waste revolution, and its shops that minimise the environmental impact of our consumer habits springing up across Britain are evidence of peoples’ desire to make a difference. From our work with Coca-Cola European Partners, clients and consumers alike are seeking ethical approaches for tackling these vital sustainability challenges, with the company pledging 50% of the material used in their PET bottles will come from recycled plastic by 2023.

Ocean Bottle is another initiative striving to bring consumers sustainable design solutions. Launched as a crowd funded campaign in 2019, the company is working to establish a long-term, circular solution to the plastic crisis. Each ‘bottle for life’ is made from upcycled ocean-bound plastic and the proceeds of each sale funds the collection 11.4kg of plastic (equivalent to 1,000 plastic bottles) ocean-bound plastic.

Elsewhere in architecture, environmentally friendly, resource-efficient structures represent a major shift in the field as it looks towards more sustainable ways to secure the future of urbanisation. This year the annual London Festival of Architecture will explore the theme of ‘power’ and looks set to showcase the latest architectural initiatives leading the green revolution. The event runs from 1–30 June and will host a range of events and activities so if you like your buildings be sure to go visit!

Ocean Bottle designed by K8

back to collage

Perhaps in reaction to how slick image-making has become, we predict that craft-based art and collage will make a comeback in 2020. In an effort to create new styles, designers have been mixing up image styles for a while – incorporating different treatments, tones and angles together to create a hybrid style from illustration and photography that in the past would never have been seen dead together.

We now seem to have gone full circle and returned to the naïve, cut-out style of good old paper and 70s TV programmes. Traditional skill, homeliness and familiarity provide a softer way of expressing authenticity. It works well on film as stop-motion animation is more accessible today, as it doesn’t require an expensive shoot in the Caribbean. A whole new audience is lapping it up and their names are Charlie and Lola.

  • Book covers by Mila Graphic Artist and María Vargas
  • Mobile phone wallpaper for Nokia by Bomboland illustration studio

To find out more about MHP Design and the work that we do, please contact and see our Bēhance page.

Many thanks to our student placement from Ravensbourne University London, Emre Karakus for his contribution to this year’s predictions.