Design trends 2017: 24 leading designers & art/creative directors tell us what’s inspiring them for the year ahead

Find out 2017’s important trends across graphic, digital and immersive design, creative direction, advertising, VFX and VR.


Most of us will want to put the politics of 2016 behind us, but trends that most affect our practice aren’t just Pantone’s colour of the year – but the deep cultural, social, business, political and technological changes that happen in the world around us. This, along with what our clients want and what possibilities we have to engage our audience with. 

Instead of asking leading creative professionals to predict design trends for the year ahead, we want to find out their opinions - what changes they want to see, what they hope won’t happen, how their work will be different in the year ahead visually, and by form and function, and key skills they’d like to learn.

Last year we were criticised for not featuring a diverse selection of creative professionals. This year we’ve tried harder to make sure a range of voices and opinions have been included, as indeed diversity is evident among our respective creative disciplines. Furthermore, a number of people in this feature mention how they want to improve diversity even more within their workplace and the content they produce.

We've asked some of the smartest people across graphic, digital and immersive design, illustration, creative direction, advertising, photography, VFX to tell us what they think - and you can’t help but be inspired by what they say.

Image: Sagmeister Walsh's recent campaign for Milly, which taps into the Colour Surge visual trend that will be big in 2017.

Adam Parry

Art director, The Mill London

What changes would you like to see happen in 2017? 
“Despite being a middle aged, white, male myself, I am hoping that the recent drive for diversity in this business continues apace.

"It's both refreshing and inspiring to work with people whose passion matches your own, but whose approach to ideas and concepts come from wildly different perspectives. 

"Last year The Mill held a Diversity Panel as part of National Inclusion week, and as well as touching on company wide drives, it also served as an important personal reminder as to what can be achieved. It's one thing to be intellectually aware of a wider problem, but that can be meaningless without also inspiring you as an individual to actively tackle the issue.” 

Visually, how will your work in 2017 be different from 2016? 
“Aesthetics aside, I'm really hoping to work closely with the coding and process driven side of creative development. I think sooner or later we'll all be dealing with how the emergence of AI in all spheres of life affects us, and I am profoundly fascinated by how this will impact on the creative process as a whole.”

How will it be different in form and function? 
“I am excited, bewildered, and enthusiastic for everything the term 'Emerging Tech' encompasses. I have a mad love for the experiential projects I've been lucky enough to be involved in, such as the Burberry Beijing Launch Event back in 2012 and have admired ground-breaking projects such as The Guardian's ‘6 x 9’ (a virtual experience of solitary confinement) created by The Mill over the past year.

I am fascinated about how an audience or live performance can impact the final result. I’d love to see the digital further combined with the tactile; having a concept that gives the user a hand in the creative experience, or process of creation, to produce a unique physical end result.

In terms of form, none of us can hide from our inspirations, and we all pursue a particular aesthetic vision that drives us forward. But the transformation of the ways in which we execute these ideas is something that is really making us think beyond the traditional 'animation' routes. We all respond to emotion and linear-time based narrative; what's exciting for me is how far we can push the linear element whilst retaining the desired emotional response.”


Adam Rix

Creative director, Music Agency

What changes would you like to see happen in 2017?
“2016 has left a pretty bitter taste  – and in many cases with good reason. I’d like to see brands and the creative industries play their part in creating more irreverence, fun and positivity. The best brands and agencies understand that people don’t listen if they simply shout about products and prices, but they will engage if they move them in a way that makes them feel something. Now’s the perfect time to be bold, have some fun and be uplifting. We all need it.”

What from 2016 would you most like to see the back of? 
“The ‘gentrification’ of branding. At points in 2016 it felt like the most talked about branding projects followed a fairly identikit process – to simplify, set in a ‘contemporary’ sans serif and then combine with either a pastel or neon colour palette. I fear a vanilla world of homogeneous brands that just look ’nice’, where it’s the exception to look exceptional. Back in 2007, Wolff Olins shocked the world by unveiling their progressive approach to London’s Olympic branding, but the movement that threatened to follow never materialised. Let’s create brands that make us feel something, not brands that make us indifferent.”

How will your work in 2017 be different in form and function?
“Every year blog posts and documents are available all over the internet detailing trend predictions for the coming year – and these are particularly focussed on ‘new channels’ or ‘new technologies’. However, an awful lot of technology and channels have existed for a number of years that brands and agencies still aren’t using to their full potential. The creative industry needs more great ideas, rooted firmly in audience insight, regardless of the channel or technology – old or new.

"Brands are climbing over themselves to do VR – but only the likes of the New York Times VR app have truly made me sit up and take notice. Facebook Live would have been the perfect channel for Red Bull’s space jump from 2013 – but has a brand done anything nearly as interesting using Facebook yet? Anomaly’s live TV ad for Cancer Research UK that aired this week was brilliant and generated huge media value for the charity, but the technology and channel is nothing new – Honda aired a live parachute jump back in 2008.”

Advertisement. Article continues below

Andy Budd

Co-founder and managing director, Clearleft

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2017?
"I believe we’re currently suffering a significant digital skills shortage. Not so much from the technical perspective, but the design perspective. Essentially demands for UI designers, UX designers and digital product designers is far outstripping demand, causing huge productivity bottlenecks and a spiralling wage bubble.

"This should present universities with a huge opportunity, but so far traditional institutions have been left wanting. As a result private suppliers like General Assembly have stepped in to fill the gap, to variable success. 

"So what would I like to see in 2017? I’d like to see one forward thinking university spot the opportunity and invest in building the best digital design faculty in the UK, a faculty that rivals those of North America and Northern Europe. In time of Brexit we really need to double down on our best assets, of which design and innovation has traditionally been one, rather than hand these industries over to more forward thinking nations."

And what changes would you be most disappointed by?
"I worry that fears around Brexit has and will continue to reduce the amount of talent and capital available to UK start-ups, forcing people to chose cities like Berlin, Stockholm or Amsterdam over London. The German government, amongst others, have seen this trend and are doing everything in their power to divert money and talent away from London and into Berlin. So unless the UK government responds with a credible plan, I fear Berlin will eclipse London as the European tech hub in 2017, with other cities quickly following."

Visually, how will your work in 2017 be different from 2016?
"Everybody is geeking out about conversational interfaces at the moment. So while I don’t think they will ever be as popular as web or mobile interfaces, I think we’ll see a lot more conversation bubbles and empty text input boxes in 2017. This is going to cause a huge problem for brands as the struggle to communicate brand values through language alone. This will be especially problematic when those interactions are mitigated through channels owned by other brands, such as Facebook Messenger. So sadly I think 2017 will look increasingly like Google, Facebook and Amazon."

How will it be different in form and function?
"Conversational interfaces will start to change form and function from buttons and windows you click and navigate through, to questions you ask that return information, or commands you give, that will enact some change, the that turning on a lightbulb or booking a flight.

"At first, folks will be shy, so this sort of interaction will be confirmed to the home or when you’re out of earshot to others. But expect to see more and more people walking down the street having conversations with smart agents as the year progresses."


Anthony Gibbs

Design director, Framestore

What changes would you like to see happen in 2017?
“In 2017 I’d like to see the cost of higher education lowered. Although not in all cases but certainly most, the high cost of tuition excludes many potential artists/designers from reaching a professional career. Of course some great intern programs exist, but even these can require previous work experience or degree level knowledge just to get a foot in the door. Although I’d like to think it does, the cream doesn’t always rise to the top. In a digital age where technology can play a big part in creativity, even the greatest talent would find it difficult to develop without access to the latest tools. 

"So I’d like to see more artistic opportunities open up to a wider spectrum of class, by making education and design tools more assessable. Creativity belongs to everyone.”

And what changes would you be most disappointed by? 
“With the occurrence of Brexit the ability to work freely across Europe could become significantly more difficult. The art and design community thrives on the experiences we have with one another. Working and engaging with designers from different cultures with different ways of thinking, helps us to widen our own creative palette with new exotic flavours. The cross pollination of ideas can create some of the most interesting design, music or fashion, so any political decision that would restrict peoples ability to travel and work would be a massive disappointment. At least we are safe in knowing that nothing like this could ever happen in the US.”

What from 2016 would you most like to see the back of?
“Although I enjoyed the garish vibrancy for a couple of months, I’d like to see the back of bad 80’s style motion graphics. Like most fads the novelty for me was short lived, they haunted Vimeo with their bad TV plugin effects and headache inducing neon hues for most of 2016. 

"Although kind of fun, these graphics represent the impatience among young graphic artists who become too connected to the tools available, before learning the fundamentals of good composition, typography and animation.”


Benjamin Evans

UX lead, Airbnb 

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2017?
“I’d like to see makers – from hustling entrepreneurs to passionate creatives – embrace diversity in their workflows. It’s no secret that there is a lack of diversity within the creative (and tech) industries.  Research has quantified the financial benefits of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. Despite this, we have yet to see significant improvement in diversity numbers. I believe that diversity of thought is an essential part of innovation, and the more perspectives we embrace as we create, the more inclusive the products and services we create will become.”

And what changes would you be most disappointed by?
“The debates surrounding Net Neutrality worry me.  An "open Internet" is crucial to our ability to create work that resonates on a global scale. In general, anything that prevents makers from connecting ideas with a global audience would be a huge disappointment.” 

What from 2016 would you most like to see the back of?
“The rapid dissemination of fake news. Although there have always been those who present fiction as fact, 2016 was the year we saw the devastating effect that fake news coupled with frictionless sharing can have on us as individuals and communities. It’s heartening to see companies like Google finally creating tools to combat this, and I hope more will follow.”

Visually, how will your work in 2017 be different from 2016?
“I’m embracing colour in all its forms. I’ve always been a fan of monochromatic colour schemes, but I believe an over reliance on one particular style can be limiting. This year, I’m challenging myself to embrace a wider colour palette in all of my creative work.”

What are the key skills or knowledge you’d like to learn in 2017?
“For me, 2017 is about reconnecting with the basics - pencils, paper and ink. As mixed reality - from VR to AR - becomes the norm, I’m going to challenge myself to stay connected with low-fidelity mediums as much as possible. 

"One of my goals is to learn how to sketch note (a type of visual note taking). I’m inspired by the way that visual artists like Austin Kleon can condense complex ideas into one-page mind maps. The constraints of this type of note taking also encourage a clarity of thought that is fascinating. 

"I’ve also taken up lettering. The work of letterers like Sergey Shapiro or Jessica Hische never fail to fill me with wonder, so when I saw that Jessica had released a Skillshare course I dove in head first.”

Advertisement. Article continues below

Brian McCauley

Creative director, Flavor

What changes would you be most disappointed by in 2017?
“1x1 aspect ratio. I feel like we're just getting over designing with 3x4 aspect ratio in mind, since almost all TV's are HD 16x9. But a lot of ads are moving across channels to social. On Instagram and Facebook square aspect ratios are the name of the game. So I understand it's necessary.”

Visually, how will your work in 2017 be different from 2016?  
“I think we're going to see a lot more integration of styles in 2017. 3D mixing with 2D, or stop motion mixed with live action footage. Viewers are used to seeing these techniques alone. They can take the leap and understand a fully realistic 3D character holding a flat 2D cell animated object and talking to a claymation character. And if it makes sense creatively then 2017 is the year to go for it.”

How will it be different in form and function?
“I think acknowledging the medium is becoming a trend. Knowing where and how your work is being displayed and creative solutions to break from it is really exciting. People are watching TV in different ways than before. Most people have their laptops or phones in hand while watching. So capturing their attention takes every tool in our toolbox.”

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2017?
“VR, whether you like it or not is becoming influential in advertising. I think we're just tapping the surface of what will be possible in experiencing stories in this new medium. I think it's a really exciting time.”

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2017? 
“Programming. Having a better understanding of how VR content is created through programming is something I plan to study this year.”


Bruce Duckworth

D&AD president, co-founder at Turner Duckworth 

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2017?
“I can’t think of a modern, successful brand today that doesn’t have good design right at its core. I’d like to see those brands who haven’t got great design embedded in their culture yet embrace it in 2017.”

What from 2016 would you most like to see the back of?
“Unpaid creative pitches, we don’t do them, but some companies do. And unpaid internships, neither are fair on our people or our industry today or in the future.”

How will it be different in form and function?
“We collaborate more and more with other creative agencies on projects. When we work with other's who believe in the power of creative excellence and produce great work, we get inspired and our work gets better.”


Clara Gaggero Westaway

Co-founder, Special Projects

What changes would you like to see happen in 2017? 
“We invent and design new products, and nowadays most of them incorporate an app that helps you control, customise or share them. These products collect data about you, your preferences and your habits – and many consumers don’t fully appreciate this, nor consider the implications. I would like to see a more transparent approach to this over the coming year, with companies actively helping consumers understand what data they collect, what they share and how.

"And I would like consumers to adopt a more conscious approach towards data and privacy. Clarity on the data-for- service transaction is the only way forward.”

And what changes would you be most disappointed by? 
"I would be disappointed if we do not advance – or even worse, if we take a step back – in the journey towards protection of people’s privacy, gender equality and reduction of pollution.

"I would like to see more women in directors’ roles, particularly in the design and technology sectors. I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In last year and it really resonated with me. Design is still strongly male-dominated, and this is reflected not only in the business culture but also in the design language. I believe that involving more women would help humanise and streamline technological products. 

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2017?
"Nature has been one of the biggest influences on my work this year. I was born on the Italian Alps and grew up running through untouched fields. I moved away from all that to find inspiration and like-minded people in the huge metropolis of Berlin, where I lived for three years – and then in London. After 11 years here, I felt nature calling again.

"The colours, texture and composition of landscapes such as Denmark’s Moens Klint, Japan’s Koyasan and Italy’s Puglia informed many of our colour palettes, installations and graphics this year.

"I want to infuse everyone in the studio with this rediscovered love for nature, so I’m going to move the whole practice to Ibiza’s green heaven of San Carlos for a month this summer. You will see the influence of this residency in our work next year – expect earthy tones, sandy textures and turquoise splashes."

Advertisement. Article continues below

Erin Sarofsky

Founder and executive creative director, Sarofsky Corp

What changes would you be most disappointed by in 2017? 
"I’ve read a few articles that talked about focusing more directly on pockets of people. It’s clearly a response to our divided political climate and the realisation that we all kind of live in our own bubbles. I think it’s a natural reaction to jump on the bandwagon and create content that is highly targeted to specific audiences, but I think that's a huge mistake. Entertainment and advertising are the two mediums that should lead, not follow. If you look at Walmart and Campbell’s, they have been making wonderfully diverse casting choices. I hope that advertisers move more in that direction… push towards inclusivity and diversity and re-examine gender roles."

How will your work in 2017 be different in form and function than 2016?
"It seems that the days of the 30-second commercial are over, so the real difference between 2016 and 2017 will be the platforms our work shows up on and the deliverables we will be shipping. Even the conversations we are having around TV main titles are changing. People are taking in content so differently, so we have to evolve with the times."

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2017? 
"I think the biggest influence will be the shrinking budgets and schedules. Economically, it definitely sucks, but there is something about running with your instincts and diving in without fear that I personally really love. There is no time for stress and overthinking. The good thing about being seasoned professionals with hundreds of jobs under our collective belts is that those instincts also have a lot of practical experience to work from. We know what questions to ask off the bat and any minefields we should avoid. So we’re lucky there, because this is not a good climate to learn on the job." 


Gentleman Scholar

What changes would you like to see happen in 2017?
“I would like to see a more diverse and present community. I feel like in the past few years the creative industry has gotten exponentially better in the representation of other cultures and paths of life, but there's still more to be done. I would also love to see stronger networking between artists of different fields and the introduction of cross-media events.”
Cristina Barna, art director, Gentleman Scholar NYC

And what changes would you be most disappointed by?
"This has been a growing issue for some time, but there is a lack of consideration for how long it takes to create a beautiful idea. I have never worked on so many time-strapped advertising pitches before. As an artist, it's hard to feel fulfilled when you are given sometimes as little as a few hours to create an expectation of stunning work."
Michael Tavarez, art director, Gentleman Scholar LA

What from 2016 would you most like to see the back of?
“I have already witnessed some project pitches that are changing their appearance and method to fit the political atmosphere. My hope would be that the industry continues to build on the premise of pushing our innate need for visual communication rather than focusing on short-term sentiments.”
Michael Tavarez, art director, Gentleman Scholar LA 

How will your work be different in form and function?
“We will continue to push and redefine the boundaries of our medium finding new and inventive ways to portray a story or concept. Our approach to storytelling will expand beyond a traditional 1080 frame into the space of VR, AR and 360 video. This opens a new door of storytelling in which the "end" is less definitive. Becoming comfortable with letting go of the wheel and allowing a user to define their own story will be a big challenge this upcoming year.”
Chris Finn - art director, Gentleman Scholar LA

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2017?
“The economy at the end of 2016 felt like it was finally healthy again. This meant we were being asked to participate in more projects, but because confidence was high, many creative briefs seemed to skew a bit more risky than we had seen in years previously. To be clear, we mean risky as a good thing, creatively! They were skewed to be more playful, experimental, or edgy - not leaning as "safe" as years past... and really felt like briefs we were hungry to dive into."
JP Rooney, associate creative director, Gentleman Scholar NY

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you'd like to learn in 2017?
“How to better connect with an audience. How to engage people from across the globe despite being who I am and coming from the singular place that I've lived my life. I want to work toward creating more meaningful, impactful work.”
Macauley Johnson, art director, Gentleman Scholar LA 


Ginny Golden

Group Creative Director, AKQA Portland

What changes would you be most disappointed by in 2017?

“There’s been a surge in challenging gender equality. We’re seeing it bubble up in several forms. Some call it femveritisng, the body positive movement, gender fluidity, etc. Being a woman in the industry, it’s thrilling to see this kind of progress, but I would be disappointed if more brands don’t get on board. I fear people will settle for merely celebrating brands that are talking the talk. We need to be praising companies that are practicing equality, not just promoting it.” 

Visually, how will your work in 2017 be different from that in 2016?

“I’ve always tried to challenge pervasive stereotypes in my work, but with the recent rise of gender fluidity, the conversation is taking a whole new direction. Younger people are telling us they don’t want to be boxed in and as a result, brands are letting go of the old constructs. You won’t find gender labels on toys or Halloween costumes any more. Some fashion designers are opting for a normcore or neo-unisex look. CoverGirl signed on their first CoverBoy. My hope is that the future won’t be visually categorised by gender, but by interests and attitudes.”

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2017? 

“I’ve seen two forces at work that are changing the competitive landscape for creative agencies. More and more brands create media by going direct to production companies, by-passing their creative agency altogether to cut costs. And, I’m seeing large consulting firms expand their creative services (or acquire creative studios) in order to scale the customer experience enabled by data and technology. Creative agencies are stuck in the middle of these two influences. It will be important for creative agencies to invest in the right places moving forward.”

Advertisement. Article continues below

Holly Brenan

User Experience Design, Ustwo

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2017?
“Health is an area that is still largely undisrupted by digital technology. It’s my focus as a designer, so in 2017 I’d really like to see us fully realise the potential in this field.  My hope is that designers make greater use of digital technology, data and machine learning to improve healthcare for people. There have been so many advances in this area and digital tech can help in many ways to relieve the growing pressures on our healthcare system.  

"There are so many ways that designers can employ technology to help people manage their own health better – our own Moodnotes app, for example, helps people to manage their mental health using CBT techniques. And others are building new, exciting things: HealthUnlocked, for example, is a lively and active platform helping people manage all sorts of conditions and Babylon Health also challenges the way we normally get health care delivered to us. Back at Ustwo, we’ve also worked to prototype a documentation app around dementia care – helping clinicians and carers to work more effectively is also an area in need of innovation and disruption.

Visually, how will your work in 2017 be different from that in 2016?

“I think there is going to be more movement towards using other platforms to create user experiences, and that’s a challenge for visual-first design processes. As designers, it’s important to understand where our users are and to ensure we meet them there. There is less interest now in having an app for everything – it adds to the noise. So, in terms of visual design, I actually think there’ll be more ‘invisible’ interfaces, with tools like chatbots, SMS services, voice-controlled personal assistants like Alexa or Siri, and other tools like that create the easiest to access experiences for users.

"Working on a chatbot for a client project last summer meant delivering a very human type of interaction. It’s a very appealing way for consumers to interact with a brand. The thing they appreciated most about it was they were in control and initiating the conversations with the brand rather than being bombarded with marketing emails which they have become inured to.” 

How will it be different in form and function? 
“Working more with invisible interfaces means making digital tools more deeply interactive and able to respond in a number of ways, rather than having fixed screens with standardised messages. It means designing with more empathy and understanding of the ‘segment of one’ – people want experiences which are all about them.”


James Chorley

Creative Director, AKQA London

What changes would you be most disappointed by in 2017?
“The continuing misuse and terrible evaluation of the term ‘millennial’. The desire to vilify the demographic as well as constantly pushing the differences they represent is absurd. Our job is to understand every single human and then workout how to connect with them, not label them and then claim ‘they just don’t just get it…oh and the continued decline of responsibility in writing a headline. We have made headlines a weapon to antagonize and provoke an emotional response, for all the wrong reasons.”

Visually, how will your work in 2017 be different from 2016? 
"I think we will continue to see an increase in designing systems as opposed to destinations. This will allow for more personalisation as well as better integration across other services. Designers will more and more need to consider how their designs link together, not only within their own products but also across existing and up-and-coming platforms and services like Facebook Messenger or Google Home."

How will it be different in form and function?
"We will move away from visible design and edge closer to invisible design over the next 12 months. Visible design won’t go away but data will help inform everything at a micro and macro level, meaning designers will need to be increasingly aware and inspired by the stuff ‘under the hood’. Designing interfaces will also entail more integration with existing products and services like WeChat and Amazon Echo slowing the industry default of creating yet another mobile app which adds friction and ultimately becomes clutter for our consumers."


Kath Tudball

Design director, The Partners

What changes would you like to see happen in 2017?
“I’m looking forward to 2017 with an escalating sense of Orwellian dread. Right now, 2016 looks like it was a warm-up for this year’s fully hyper-normalised/post-truth/fake-news/ alternative-facts reality. Generally, I reckon we could do with more truth.

"The best ideas have a truth at their heart. So when it comes to creativity, design and branding I’d like to see a focus on authenticity that goes beyond window-dressing. The on-going trends for simplification, visual de-branding, archive logo-revivals and candid, 90s tinged photography all tap into a desire for a more straightforward form of communication. But credibility isn’t a style. So it might be nice to see some honest complexity amongst all the reductionism.

"I hope that this year more visual communicators will be lending their skills to issues that matter. And now more than ever, as an industry, we need to see serious efforts to portray social diversity in a positive light. I think we may see an aesthetic shift towards a non-professional democratisation of design: a DIY approach with a feeling of outsider art and protest, made possible through access to instant, mobile technology as well as traditional means. I look forward to seeing more brave, raw and challenging work.

"On the flip side I think we’ll also be hankering for escapism in 2017 so I hope for some artful moments of beauty, magic, craft and wonder.” 

What from 2016 would you most like to see the back of?
“I’m a sucker for nostalgia, I will buy any re-released 1980s snack food without question. But sentimentality needs to be handled with care. I hope that all those little cosy, retro moments don’t become a massive blanket to hide under or a lazy shorthand for something that feels a bit like ‘genuine’."

Visually, how will your work in 2017 be different from that in 2016?
“I believe that visuals should take the most relevant form to express the idea. But personally I wouldn’t mind getting more colour and optimism going on in my work.”

Advertisement. Article continues below

Kyle Shoup

Creative director, Leviathan

How will your work in 2017 be different from that in 2016?

"Nearly every job has its unique challenges because we’re always tasked with telling stories with new technology. That could be building an interactive obstacle course one day, an experience centre on another, or a video game the next. We work at the intersection of design and technology. That often takes us to weird and exciting places.

"What’s refreshing about our industry is that we have the opportunity to work with a broad spectrum of clients, and each one comes to us with an established visual identity. That’s not to say we can’t synthesize their brand through our unique creative lens, but it does establish a different base line from project to project. The end form will inevitably be a happy marriage of the two. Function is really dependent on the execution we think is most appropriate for the client’s story. Form and function will always follow the story we are asked to tell."

Will the biggest external influences on our work be cultural, economic, sociological, commercial, or technology-driven?

"Yes. All of those. At the core, we are storytellers. It’s our job to relate these influences within the context of a visual story, whatever that story might be. Considering the current political climate in the US, I’m interested to see if we’ll be approached by new clients to create experiences that prioritise social or cultural messages. Generally, that kind of work takes on the form of illustrative motion graphics. I want to see it break into the experience world."

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2017?

"I’ve been geeking out over Google’s Tilt Brush recently. I want to learn more ways to incorporate VR into workflow. Whether that be as a working tool or an actual deliverable, we’ll see what happens in 2017."


Nik Ainley

Associate design director, Vault49

What changes would you like to see happen in 2017? 
“My personal focus is on CG these days and I like to keep an eye on what's new in the industry and how the technology is changing. What I would love to see this year is more integration between 3D and post-production applications. 

"The traditional workflow of staying entirely in 3D up to the point of rendering an image and then moving into a separate program for post-production feels more and more archaic. Some development that would make this process more dynamic and less one directional would be very welcome. Some modern rendering engines are getting closer and closer to fully live rendering which is a great step forwards but there's so much more that can be done. 

And what changes would you be most disappointed by? 
“Anything that takes control away from artists in the name of usability or streamlining. Actually the biggest disappointment would just be a lack of changes, but I feel the industry is so dynamic at the moment that this won’t happen.”  

How will your work be different in form and function in 2017? 
“I imagine for the most part the form and function will be the same as before; print, digital, animation etc. However I am intensely interested in VR and its possibilities and would love the chance to produce something for VR. If it gives an excuse to purchase a few headsets for testing in the office then all the better!”

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2017? 
“My number one target for this year is to get at least a basic understanding of Houdini. I've seen so much amazing work done with it that it's been on my mind for a while now. The whole philosophy of the program: procedural, node based, endlessly customisable, appeals to me hugely and the results speak for themselves. It looks like it has a pretty intense learning curve but then nothing worth doing is ever easy.”


Rob Pratt

Head of design, Brand & Deliver

Visually, how will your work in 2017 be different from that in 2016?
“It will certainly move more.  We’re increasingly being asked by our clients to create moving content to be shared on social media. The constant scrolling of feeds and the abundance of shared images and films means that effective advertising has to work a lot harder to stand out than ever before. We have to grab the reader’s attention within the first second or two, or they’ll scroll to a GIF of a hairy Italian man sprinkling salt onto meat or something and lose interest.

"Add into the mix the rise of live streaming video and vloggers talking about everything from this year’s best blusher to crushing bowling balls and you’ve got an audience that is becoming insatiable for moving content. This is the Facebook effect, and it’s changing the advertising industry. Again.

"2017 will see clients move more cash from ‘traditional marketing’ to attempting to engage audiences on social platforms with bite sized video clips. The rise of influencers producing their own content cheaply and quickly has blazed a trail, agencies are currently playing catch up. And those agencies without their own in-house production teams are likely to get left behind."

How will it be different in form and function?
“Where previously an agency would have art directed a shoot for that one killer shot, now we need to bring along a DSLR and shoot a number of films to seed out too. You have to be mindful of every platform’s unique quirks and trying to use one-size-fits-all content is setting yourself up for a fall. However, there’s a balance between quantity and quality that still needs to be addressed here. Content for content’s sake is not the way to go, but it’s being prized more and more.

"Motion graphics are back in a big way too. People on social media typically scroll through feeds quickly and watch small chunks of video without sound. This means the first few seconds have to capture the viewers’ attention and fast, to ensure they continue to watch for the next 28 seconds. We’re using motion graphics a lot more for this, producing pre-intro copy before we actually see the title to retain the skippers.

A couple of years ago ‘Mobile First’ became the benchmark for web design, I think we’ll see ‘Motion First’ become the mantra for design and advertising work.”

Advertisement. Article continues below

Sieun Cha

Creative director, Wolff Olins

What from 2016 would you most like to see the back of?

The current design/creative industry makeup is nowhere near reflective of diversity nationwide.

The world is once again facing design problems we have no frame of reference for – technology and rapid innovation means we need the broadest demographic of people taking those challenges on. We need the leaders of agencies and creative businesses to commit to hiring for diversity: cultural as well as gender. We all need to regularly check our unconscious biases in order to gain the cognitive diversity Regina Dugan, head of Facebook’s secretive Building 8, describes so well:

“The ultimate goal is cognitive diversity, and cognitive diversity is correlated with identity diversity. That means it’s not just about [getting] women in tech. It’s about broad voices, broad representation. But we can’t step away from the idea that in the workplace, diversity also looks like identity diversity. You have to get to the place where you aren’t made comfortable by the fact that everyone is the same, but rather feel inspired by how different we are. We get better problem-solving that way.”

Visually, how will your work in 2017 be different to 2016? 

“This year, there are many things that I’d personally like to explore: implementing a chabot as a brand experience, trying out the collaborative prototyping tools that are rapidly evolving, and creating a VR experience, to name a few. One area that intrigues the most is the opportunity to converge a digital experience and a physical space as a brand experience platform, whether it’s for retail, education, or just for fun. I know our clients are also increasingly curious about how to achieve this and excited to explore the many possible visual outputs.” 

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2017?

“Definitely politics. I recently went to visit my family in Seoul and took part in the rallies against the latest corruption scandal by the Korean president, which was without question one of my best experiences from 2016. After many years of deep apathy and fatigue from politics, Korean people realised that they need to collectively take action to make changes to their society, and eventually to their daily lives. This movement has brought in an unprecedented political shift in the country and created outlets for people to voice their views.

Realising that politics affects every area of our lives, our work, our clients, our industry, we can steer the world in a positive direction as long as we pay close attention to what’s happening around us and actively engage with the issues.  I can see why many people are feeling frustrated about recent changes in the world. Then I look at the recent movement in Korea and I feel optimistic again.”


Sol Rogers

Chief executive & founder, Rewind

What changes would you like to see happen in 2017?
“One of the major areas where I would love to see growth is in eye-tracking technology. Palmer Luckey has said it’s a, “critical part” of the future of VR technology and I couldn’t agree more. It will fundamentally improve the user experience through intuitive user input, secure authentication, improved graphics, and expressive social interaction.

"I’m also looking forward to seeing more peripherals for existing VR hardware. Valve opened up their Vive tracking technology to developers in 2016, and this will certainly lead to third party controllers, headsets and other add-ons coming to market. Soon we’ll be able to buy controllers that track our fingers, provide a realistic feel for various weapons, and even allow us to track our lower limbs for a completely immersive experience.”

What from 2016 would you most like to see the back of? 
“I would really like to see the back of bandwagon VR projects; those that are hastily rushed out with little thought as to content and form, and exist solely so that the creator can say that they’re the first to do something. Luckily those are few and far between nowadays, but if we can move away from that mentality and focus only on creating VR content that serves a real purpose, whether that’s to entertain, educate or inspire, the industry will only go from strength to strength.”

How will your work in 2016 be different in form and function to 2016? 
“Virtual Reality will be increasingly used for longer, narrative lead pieces of content. These will focus on entertainment, and make full use of the inherent transport nature of VR. Mixed Reality will have more commercial uses, with the potential for business being endless: it is different to VR in that it brings another reality into ‘real-life’, and enhances your everyday world to streamline mundane tasks. This will have an untold impact on the way we do business and organise our lives.

Sony’s PlayStation VR represents the first truly consumer-friendly VR headset. The success of this headset, with its firm grasp on the feature-length gaming market, shows that gaming will continue to be a dominant platform for Virtual Reality. Multiple high profile studios are in the process of creating VR versions of popular titles such as Fallout 4 and Resident Evil, and VR devices (PSVR in particular) continue to have a strong presence at gaming expos and conventions.”


Aaron Shields

Strategy director, Fitch

What changes would you be most disappointed by in 2017?
“If advances in exciting fields like robotics, AI and VR aren’t adopted in the right way by creatives. One specific example is that ‘VR-lite’ tech such as Google Cardboard might become too widely accepted as a cheaper standard, depriving audiences of the richer experience that fully-fledged VR goggles can provide, and possibly turning people off from VR before they’ve seen it in its best form.” 

Visually, how will your work in 2017 be different from 2016?
“Creative VR is so exciting to me at the moment. The best examples really fool my brain, leaving me both excited and queasy. What fascinates me is that no-one knows how this will pan out in the long-term. That naturally results in a lot of hype, but there are plenty of applications to encourage us of its potential. Showing off new architecture concepts, for instance, or designing in a 3D space using VR tools are both completely viable right now. 

As we get better at using and developing this tech, the work should take on a more immersive quality from earlier stages, resulting in more sophisticated 3D design.” 

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2017? 
“Creative auto-generation is tipping from lab experiments into early adopters this year. We have been fooling around with creating communications using robots and the results are sometimes spectacular – both good and bad. But anyone who has had exposure to these techniques can see it will form part of the future story. 

"Whilst it’ll open new paths of creativity by machines cooperating with human communities, it could make designers lazy in the same way the ‘bevel’ tool on creative suite spurred a swath of ‘marble’ and ‘3D’ logos. My biggest long-term fear is however that automation will eventually displace the creative process altogether, who knows where that will leave us.”

Advertisement. Article continues below