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2019 Design Trends

I was interviewed by Creative Gaga magazine for their January 2019 issue. The excerpts from this interview were published here - go check it out to read ideas from many other creative folks! I was originally interviewed regarding animation, but it fit well in the overall visual design theme for their special issue.
And here's the unedited version of the interview!

Bio : Sonia Tiwari is a Learning Scientist currently based in Happy Valley, PA, where she is pursuing a PhD in Learning, Design, and Technology from Penn State University. She has an MFA in Animation from Academy of Art, San Francisco. She has worked as a Game Designer and User Experience Designer in Bay Area, CA and briefly taught Toy Design at NID, India.

CG. What were the animated graphics trends used in in 2018? Please elaborate with few examples.

A rising trend in the last year for animated media has been a refreshing visual representation of strong female leads with powerful accessories and expertise in a specialization (vs the stereotypical princess/Damsel in distress). Some examples that come to mind are Mrs Incredibles from Incredibles 2, Mai from Next Gen, She-Ra from Netflix’s reboot of the popular 80s cartoon, and Shank from Wreck-it Ralph 2. This positive trend will hopefully continue through upcoming years till it becomes the new normal for media portrayal of females.

In terms of mobile games and websites, interactive animations in general became more subtle in action, pastel color blocked and with cleaner backgrounds, a trend that originated from the iconic game Monument Valley 1 in 2014 and Monument Valley 2 in 2017. It’s a trend I believe will continue for a few more years. A good example is INTURN’s stunning webpage.

CG. With animation rolling its way in almost all fields, what trends can be expected in animated graphics in 2019?

As a Learning Scientist, I’d like to comment on the animation trends in Education. I believe more simplistic, iconic, vector-based motion graphics will overpower contemporary educational content, because of the large amount of content to be covered through browser and mobile platforms that require optimized performance, seamless integration with Learning Management Systems (LMS), and keeping up with the refined design sensibilities of young millennials. A few good examples of this visual style and animation are Kurzgesat in a Nutshell series, and Lumosity

CG. With consumer consumption and demand witnessing a shift from being informative to interactive at the UI level, will this change in demand be incorporated in the upcoming animated graphic design trends as well?

Like any other HCI nerd will tell you, User Experiences have always been built around the idea of providing useful, meaningful interactions vs unilateral information-giving like a textbook. The UX is like our brain/heart, built on the logic or feelings, and the UI is the face/skin, the outer layer that connects user to the inner workings of a product. This distinction is important to understand that the trendy-animation and visual design must not be shallow or cosmetic, but really try to serve a purpose. For example, a medical application that can use interactive animation to locate/define a problem through an interface - sounds useful. But interactive animations over a wireless setup app with buttons that liquid morph into new shapes, sounds pointless. The trend I’d predict is ‘purpose over design’ - modern users with short attention spans will perhaps never appreciate an interactive animation that “takes away” from the purpose.

CG. As interesting as animated graphics gets, the effort and cost of production also go up the graph. Will brands/companies be interested in spending the kind of money needed to match up with the trending designs?

Successful businesses have always valued design. A sloppy logo designed by a nephew who worked for free, shows. A well-designed website by a professional, shows. Today, most consumers are intelligent enough to see the difference for themselves to understand what a good brand looks like - they have a sense of legitimacy. Companies who don’t care about design subconsciously insult their consumers from the first glance “You ain’t worth designing for, your needs don’t matter as much”. That’s not a good sales pitch! So other than the quality of the actual product, the way they are presented also speak volumes on how much a company cares about its users/consumers. Companies who keep up their designs with modern trends (remember Google’s logo text shift from serif to non-serif font?), tend to express they are most updated and relevant.

CG. With technology going really futuristic, what are the kind of characters that are expected to be in use in 2019? Will they be completely fictional or will they be a mix of fiction and realism?

Fiction and Realism will both have their place in animated media - it truly is a spectrum and where on the spectrum does the visual lie depends on factors such as the director’s vision, needs of the brand, likes of the audience, budget and timelines etc.

In the Learning Sciences, we see that animated media representing real issues like child labor, poverty, family health etc can use some element of realism to keep the message focused or help establish a clear correlation with the narrative and content. An example is Eekasaurus studio’s recent PSA for WHO that features Pipli art style human characters, which hits right in the middle of fiction and realistic spectrum. Real issues/human characters presented in a fantastical way.

Educational children’s media has had a very long history of fictional characters/plots to keep the narrative or moral of the story more relevant than realistic details of the characters like race, ethnicity, culture, religion etc. From Sesame Street to Curious George, fictional characters in children’s educational media are a “forever trend”