For small businesses it’s vital to keep ahead of the crowd and be up to date with design trends and new ideas that could help you innovate or reach new customers. The Drum recently spoke to a number of experts to discover their thoughts on the hottest design trends to watch out for this year. They’re talking VUIs, empathy, the speed of living, and old fashioned ‘good ideas!’


Hana Tanimura, senior designer, Google Creative Lab

Traditionally, design has been synonymous with some kind of visual output. But that is changing quickly, and I believe that designing ‘invisible’ interactions will become increasingly important in the future.

Voice user interfaces (VUIs) haven’t always been successful at creating genuinely useful experiences for people. But machine learning has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent months, which has in turn enabled huge improvements in the field of natural language processing. These technological developments have fueled a rapid evolution in VUI design, and we’re beginning to see designers grapple with the possibilities that a hands-free, eyes-free interface can offer. (While voice interactions aren’t appropriate for all situations, I believe they will become more and more commonplace as we continue to expect technology to work for and around us in a more seamless way).

Alan Dye, co-founder and creative director NB Studio

Michael Wolff, a good friend of NB and a collaborator on many projects, introduced Nick [Finney, co-founder] and I recently to this wonderful quote by Maya Angelou.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.

I believe that creating work that makes people feel something is what branding is all about. And it’s what NB have been doing for the past 20 years. Being kind, having empathy and bringing joy has always been important and should not be forgotten when looking to the future of design. Trends come and go, but you can never change a first encounter with a brand.

James Ramsden, executive creative director, Coley Porter Bell

The speed of life will shape design in 2017 and will continue to affect brand experiences beyond this year. We all flip between information snacking and light dipping on devices, rushing through aisles in the supermarket and grab-bing and go-ing to enjoying sensorial brand experiences at leisure and indulging in un-boxing.

And this contrasting sense of ‘the speed of life’ will continue to affect design. For autopilot mode, we’ll see interfaces become more intuitive and single-minded, visual brand equities increased to enable at-a-glance shelf recognition and brand identities continuing to feel iconic and brutally simple. In contrast, more powerful visual and sensory experiences will offer deeper learning and a more subtle exploration of a brand, its personality and identity.

Spencer Buck, creative partner & founder, Taxi Studio

I’m not trying to be a smart arse… but to me there’s only one answer. The idea that will shape design this year (and every year past and future) will be ‘ideas’.

Ideas (plural) shape design. Brilliant ideas improve lives, save lives, generally make things better and push the world forward. Not fads, trends, or amazing new tech without purpose – but good, honest, old fashioned Big Ideas.

In a time where we think ‘most things have been done’ (except Hover Boards), Big Ideas reassure me that there are still millions of brilliant ideas ahead of us waiting to be discovered.


Design plays a big role in branding and marketing your small business as well as product development. Perhaps these insights will provide some inspiration or help to spark your own fresh design trends!

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