Design Trends 2018: 28 leading designers, creative directors & illustrators tell us what’s inspiring them for the year ahead

Find out 2018’s biggest trends across graphic, data, digital and UX design, creative direction, branding, illustration, VFX and VR.


Many designers expressed an industry wide calling to improve diversity at the start of 2017, and not just over the gender divide, but the gaping social and ethnic divide also. We saw significant improvement as a result throughout the year, but there are further expectations for transformation and equality following social movements such as #metoo. The creative community was still coming to terms with Brexit and Trump’s inauguration this time a year ago, but this year there are new external impacts on the design community. 

Instead of asking leading creative professionals from all sectors to somehow predict visual trends for the year ahead, we unpick what changes are expected in 2018, what is hoped to not happen, how work will be different in form and function and what key skills will be learnt in the year ahead.

This year we’ve decided to focus on mainly UK-based creative and art directors, UX designers, freelance illustrators, lead designers, data viz designers and agency founders. Twenty-five practitioners explain their hopes to improve accessibility of technology, risk-taking with creativity, the merging of digital and analogue methods, designing with small budgets for small screens, the power of animation and coding, a massive return to craftsmanship, and of course, the question on many people’s lips, how artificial intelligence and machine learning will influence art. There’s lots to be excited about.

Most of us will want to put politics behind us, but trends that most affect our practice aren’t just Pantone’s colour of the year – but the highs and lows of deep cultural, social, business, political and technological changes that happen in the world around us. This includes diminishing of art education, encouraged sustainability, the rise in freelance designers and what that means for agencies, an increase of illustrators as influencers, how we use new smart design tools, and most importantly, how we all stayed untied. This, along with what our clients want and what possibilities we have to engage our audience with.

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

This image is from our guide to 2018's visual trends. The colour palette for this feature is based on Pantone's Colour of the Year 2018, Ultraviolet.

Craig Black

Lead designer, Thirst Craft

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"I‘d love to see top creative talent continue to spread out across the whole of the UK. London’s an awesome place, but it’s not the be all and end all in design. I left in 2016 and have never looked back. I think there’s still this idea that you only leave London when things get ‘too much’ because the quality and prestige of your work will inevitably be compromised elsewhere: that’s not a reality. In 2018 I would love to see more and more people viewing places like Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol and Brighton as a move to further their creative career rather than a training ground or retirement village."

What from 2018 would you most like to see the back of?

"Stress being used as a form of social currency - it’s not a badge of honour, it’s a mental health problem. You still see stress and long working hours being used down the pub as a synonym for success. Agencies have a big part to play in this, and the biggest offenders talk the talk about culture or flexible working, when all they’ve done is installed a pool table and demanded even more from their employees. We need to start showing that putting in outrageous hours doesn’t equate to being more passionate, productive or creative."

How will it be different in form and function?

"As a packaging agency, sustainability as well as more innovative occasion solutions for packaging will play a big part in 2018. In particular, how we can help our smaller clients come up with economic and sustainable packaging solutions."

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2018?

"I’ll be focussing more on mentorship in 2018. This year, we’re hoping to take our design expertise out of the studio and into classrooms around Glasgow, to try and get school kids from all backgrounds into design at a young age. Otherwise, there’s also an Old Western style typographic project I’m working on at the moment which is putting my stippling technique (and patience) to the test."

See more: Thirst Craft is behind many beer designs featured in our 12 Amazing British Craft Beer Labels roundup. 


Nadieh Bremer

Data visualisation designer and Outstanding Individual at the Information Is Beautiful Awards 2017, Visual Cinnamon

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"As an (interactive) data visualisation designer I'm very much reliant on how good the browsers are. I often create my visualisations completely out of SVGs, and I personally prefer to make big complex visuals, using many hundreds (or more) elements. However, when I then try to animate these elements, the browsers cannot (yet) keep up, the animations stagger. And one if the things I hate most, is if technology can't keep up with the design I have in mind. So I truly hope that in 2018 the browsers will finally make SVG (animations) hardware accelerated, which is already done for CSS."

And what changes would you be most disappointed by?

"Over the past years, companies have begun to see the power of data visualisation, even if it can be quite difficult to attach a hard ROI to it. After the wave of big data and data analytics, it seems that they've begun to understand that we humans are still visual beings that need to have the data translated into good data visualisations to understand the insights and see the patterns.

"I would be most disappointed if that increased in realisation of companies somehow stops and they think that the standard line and bar charts are enough for their data."

How will your work in 2018 be different in form and function?

"I hope that I'll be able to create more "natural" forms, forms inspired by nature, and less the cleanliness of straight lines and perfect circles. To introduce a bit more of the human side / a sketchiness or slight imperfectness back into the visualisations."

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2018?

"As mentioned, I really want to dive more into generative data art. But I'd also love to learn more about printing. My visuals are practically always made for the screen, but I'm always so envious of people that make beautiful posters of their work on gorgeous paper, or with metallic elements, or spot colours, (I love CMYK halftone effect in particular) and more. I'd love to learn how to turn my visuals into unique and nice looking posters as well."

See more: Nadieh tells us how to create award-winning data visualisations.

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Jason Bruges

Designer, Jason Bruges Studio

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"Hull 2017 has been a great demonstrator for the power of arts and culture to be transformative and to bring people together. We would like to see more of this in 2018."

And what changes would you be most disappointed by?

"We hope that in the current political climate, we do not become more divided – politically, physically and creatively. We have been very fortunate to work in 22 countries to date and have already noticed that in some parts of the world, arts funding available to external countries has become more restricted, leading to a more insular world view."

How will it be different in form and function?

"Our work is often determined by the technology available to us. This influences both the physical manifestation, and also the design process. Smart design tools such as Grashopper, Houdini and Unity allow us to test new design ideas and iterate form and function in ways that were not available to us previously. They also allow us to program content and behaviour (such as the motion of our robots in Hull) in a very different way to the usual techniques."

 What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2018?

"Like many studios, commercial and economic influences will be the main driver of what we deliver. Ultimately, we need to pay our staff for the work they do. Often the scale and budgets of the projects are driven by the sociological and political climate – funding for arts and the health economy in general, allied to the ability to work freely both at home and abroad.

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2018?

"We are always up for learning about new technologies and tools. We are amazed by the ability of the younger generation to code and use tools that had not been dreamt of only a few years ago. My kids are learning coding, and it is important that we keep up."


James Box

UX director, Clearleft

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"From where I’m sitting, the design industry seemed to have a good 2017.

"I worked with a team in the finance industry who have run 50 internal design sprints in a single year (several of which resulted in new products reaching the market).

I watched a talk at Clearleft’s Leading Design conference from a design director in the travel industry who has scaled his team from 5 to 220 people in five years (fuelled by demonstrable business value).

Design is making a big, healthy dent in business. Technology is being tamed. User experiences are improving everywhere. And, as result, designers are earning the much flaunted seat at the table.

But it can’t stop here. For design to realise its potential, we need to do more than just improve what we already have. We need to embrace creativity.

One of the extraordinary powers of design is its ability to take repeatable, learnable, scalable methods and use them for imagining and inventing new, unprecedented futures.

That’s my wish for 2018. For design to realise its greatest potential and deliver the breakthroughs that no other discipline can."

And what changes would you be most disappointed by?

"Design Ops became a thing in 2017 (probably before).

"Part of me loves the idea of operationalising design. Making it part of the fabric of a company. Accepted, to such an extent, that it becomes enshrined in the processes and culture of an institution.

"But part of me is scared by that, so this is more of a word of caution, rather than anticipation of ‘disappointment’. I love the emergent outcomes of design. And its ability to adapt to any context. If we operationalise this process, are we trying too hard to turn design into a repeatable formula? A formula that is extrapolated from a known past and therefore unable to create a novel future."


Nadine Chahine

UK Type Director, Monotype

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"I would like to see more risk-taking and diversity, especially in the realm of typefaces for corporate branding. Brands want to be unique and yet follow very close typographic trends. We need to expand that horizon and explore the possibilities of multiple trends and modes of expression.

"Voices can be different and we need to embrace that."

And what changes would you be most disappointed by?

"We’ve been lucky to see a strong interest in typography in recent years and I would love for that to continue."

What from 2017 would you most like to see the back of?

"Buzzwords… The world and our industry seem more and more driven towards a reductive view of issues. Oversimplification of complex concepts can remove so many layers of meaning that are important. I would like that we embrace depth and see complexity of meaning as a challenge and not as a foe.

How will your work in 2018 be different from that in 2017 in form and function?

"I’m very interested in display type these days as I have done very little of that so far, so hopefully a focus on that! I keep wanting to explore the themes of energy and movement and how that can give shape to the letters we read."

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2018?

"The biggest influence is very likely to be the Masters [in International Relations] that I’m doing in Cambridge. It opens my eyes to new ways to look at the world and makes me revisit events that I’ve lived through with a deeper knowledge of the issues involved. I’m a big believer in the strong relationship between typography and the world it lives in, and now I learn to see the world in a new way and it’s very exciting."

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2018?

"I’d like to do more lettering work so that I can experiment with the themes of movement and energy and how to bring that into my own designs. It’s a new field for me and one that I had wanted to get into for a while now. Maybe this year I will!"

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Rob Coke

Co-founder and creative director, Studio Output

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"To reflect the make-up of society, we’d like to see more women in powerful creative positions, and more diversity within the creative industry in general. As an agency we’re interested in the way design can make a fundamental difference to the way people experience things, so it would be good to get involved with products and brands at a meaningful stage, rather than applying a surface layer at the end – which can still happen. This sort of approach fits with our annual hope for fewer free creative pitches. If clients talked to agencies about their challenges and started working together on a trial basis, we believe they would make better, and quicker, progress than working in isolation on creative pitches."

What from 2018 would you most like to see the back of?

"The blind pursuit of data to inform decisions is leading to a lack of risk-taking and a lot of bland work. That’s not to discount it of course – the best work always comes from an insight in the data somewhere. But without someone somewhere trusting their (data-informed) gut, we all end up trying to look the same as everyone else. And of course, we’d all like to see the back of the endless negativity surrounding Trump and Brexit. People are capable of so much, and we’re stuck in reverse at the moment. We’re in desperate need of inspiration."

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2018?

"Although there’s a lot of talk, augmented reality is already starting to have a big impact – look at its use by major sports broadcasters to realise that it’s already in the mainstream. Voice control is also becoming a consideration for 360º brands, and it’s fascinating to see how that impacts their use and ownership of language. Following on from recent client projects and our own studio project, A Positive Platform, mental health awareness is going to start to play a significant role."

See More: Studio Output on what design agencies will be like in 2025.


Katy Edelsten and Chloe Cordon

Advertising creative team, Wieden + Kennedy London

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

Katy: "I would also very much like to see bring your baby to work Fridays instead of bring your dog to work Fridays. Or both. Do babies and dogs mix or is that just in films? I’d also like to see more nuts stuff. More brands taking risks and doing cheaper, sillier stuff just to see if it works and seeing if people laugh (rather than seeing if they laugh in an air-conditioned room called ‘research’ where they are paid in cheese and onion crisps to laugh.)"

What from 2017 would you most like to see the back of?

Chloe + Katy in a choral unison: "See ya later femvertising – byeeeeeee – and brands advertising on the Daily Mail obviously."

Visually, how will your work in 2018 be different from that in 2017?

Katy: "Given that everything that was super hi-tech about two weeks ago is now achievable from a 15-year-old’s dirty-sock ridden bedroom, with a turnaround of about three hours and a budget of 12 chocolate digestives, a glass of orange and alphonso-mango squash, and two Pro Plus, I’m not too sure yet.

"The only thing I can say I would love it to be is different and not something we’ve all already seen before. Yes it’s a pain in the ass when you can’t find a reference image for what you’re trying to achieve but that is a good thing."

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2018?

Chloe: "Clients don’t want big budget TV ads. They just don’t. We need to come to terms with that and get used to making mobile banners life changing."

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2018?

Chloe: "How to talk about feminism without talking about feminism. Also how to make advertising not annoying and something people want to watch and are willing to find funny." 

See more: Chloe and Katy help to mentor students from underrepresented backgrounds through The Creative Network


Holly Exley

Watercolour illustrator and 'illustuber', Holly Exley Illustration

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"I'd like to see greater confidence from other illustrators in my field, to negotiate better fees, and to call out companies that continuously ask us to work for free. This industry can be incredibly challenging and competitive, but I hope that by sharing experiences online and being more open about how much we charge for our illustrations, we'll be able to lift each other up and set a precedent for a successful, sustainable career in illustration."

Visually, how will your work in 2018 be different from that in 2017?

"I think it will reflect my own values more than it has in previous years. Now that I am more established, I hope to have further control over which projects I take on and the clients I chose to work with. As a passionate food illustrator, I hope to work with new businesses in the ever growing vegan sector - this is a market that excites me and that I can see having a positive impact on the world around us, environmentally and ethically."

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2018?

"I am seeing a growing trend of illustrators as influencers, and with their own brand. I would be interested in exploring this as an option, with my youtube and social media channels and I hope to pursue this further in 2018 in addition to client work. Skills I will be continuing to practice in the next year will be video making and social media strategy."

See more: Holly's YouTube channel is part of our best free video tutorials for drawing roundup. 

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David Fisher

Product lead, ustwo New York

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"One change I would like to see in 2018 and beyond is a growing awareness and understanding amongst the design community around thinking in systems. In other words, thinking holistically about the things we design and how they interact with other systems, people and the environment.

"For the first time in history we have a plethora of digital products and services that enjoy millions of people as regular users. Designers play an important role in creating these experiences, where even tiny design decisions have the potential to affect hundreds of millions of people. This is a huge responsibility. To further magnify the issue, nascent technologies like machine learning are increasingly being infused into products and services despite the fact they can be unpredictable are not widely understood by society at large. We need to create new mental models, tools and frameworks to better understand and communicate how our technological and design decisions may impact society."

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2018?

"I’m personally very curious to understand how the role of product designers will change and evolve as new technologies such as machine learning and cryptocurrencies begin to percolate through to industries that have already been upended by the internet, and those that have yet to be digitised. The pace of tech-driven progress seems to be accelerating, and it is becoming increasingly important to incorporate continuous learning into the daily work routine in order to remain relevant. This in itself is an interesting challenge, as our current model for education is actually very old fashioned and is due for a complete overhaul to make use of all the incredible tools and sources of information at our disposal."

See more: We spoke to ustwo Auto about the future of autonomous cars.


Rosie Ferris

Senior product designer, ustwo

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"Throughout 2017, diversity and inclusion became a focus point for a lot of businesses who realised that in order to design for a diverse user base, their teams needed to represent all people. However, the more we become conscious of this as an industry the more we realise that there is so much more to be done, and this is something that I am really keen to see more of and promote wherever possible this year.

"One trend I’d like to see continuing across all industries is empathy and action from brands. For example, Airbnb’s Open Homes program letting people donate space in their homes in times of need through their platform. It’s really important for businesses to realise that their platforms and international reach can be used for positive action, especially in a climate where politicians cannot necessarily be relied upon to do so.

"Another change I would like to see is more products moving away from focusing on the single user experience. We’ve seen a trend arising of loneliness in technology. With Amazon Go (their new cashier-less convenience store) - the app could become a barrier to even being able to enter the store, in that scenario what happens to your friends, do they need to wait outside? Another example is Apple’s smart home speaker HomePod which is linked to one users Apple Music account. So another hope for 2018 is to see technology enable more social experiences."

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2018?

"User interfaces are moving away from just screens to being more embedded in our surroundings and with that change they are incorporating many more mediums such as voice and haptics to create an interactive experience. As a designer this is a huge opportunity and this year I want to get exposure to as many new types of interfaces as possible and explore the new approaches to user experience that they offer."


Abraham Lule

Senior designer, Vault49

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"As an artist and typographer, I am keen to see a clearer distinction between lettering, sign-painting, calligraphy, typography and all of their subdivisions. There are so many skills that sit under the umbrella term ‘typography’, and I think there has been a collective blurring of these categories in the industry. By understanding each craft and process it allows you to execute more effectively and naturally leads to a better final output."

Visually, how will your work in 2018 be different from that in 2017?

"I like to take inspiration from worlds that are not directly related to mine. Lately I have been looking to fashion design. I have been inspired by Emilio Pucci’s work, specifically his use of color and irregular patterns. Overall, my work this year will be a continuation of my ‘always handmade’ style, which is part of Vault49’s culture and gives their work creative standout."

How will it be different in form and function?

"In terms of form, my calligraphy will be shaped only by the tool I am writing with, while my lettering will be less scripted and more inspired by Herb Lubalin’s negative space letterforms. Typographically, I am interested in exploring starkly contrasting combinations of bold sans with classic serifs - using for example Gotham black and italic Times New Roman."

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2018?

"Being part of a multicultural agency makes you more aware of the current socioeconomic and political atmosphere, and this certainly informs my work. There are obstacles that make it difficult to sustain a multicultural agency as we are, but we feel our differences in backgrounds is a recipe for great design.
As a studio, we have taken on more pro bono projects, and there is a tangible sense that we should be a positive voice and effector of change in society."

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you would like to learn in 2018?

"I would like to build on the skills I have already started to develop, specifically hand lettering. As well as being cathartic, sign painting has definitely helped refine my skills in this area, and I have changed my daily practice from calligraphy to sign painting."

See more: This is what we thought of Vault49's new studio after a friendly visit. 

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Daryl Atkins

Executive creative director, REWIND

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"Wider cultural influence, brands taking risks, realistic dialogue in games, and a greater social conscious in technology."

And what changes would you be most disappointed by?

"We have a wonderful culture of knowledge sharing online – one of the positive sides of social media. I would be disappointed if creatives stopped sharing their experiences, posting work, supporting, and helping each other out."

Visually, how will your work in 2018 be different from that in 2017?

"I’m interested in exploring the relationship of computer and human creativity. Visually I hope to experiment with algorithmic art and bringing digital work back in to the physical space. 2018 will also be an opportunity to look wider to other industries and practices to influence the way I work."

How will it be different in form and function?

"We are now at a point where we can explore character and narrative in technology in a far richer way than ever before. The ability to connect with a character is paramount to telling powerful stories. The rise of rendering technologies, hardware, mediums, AI, and social experiences are dramatically changing the landscape for how our work looks and feels."

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2018?

"Practically: Procedural systems, reinforcement learning, and projection mapping. Holistically: Work that makes people happy to be human."

See more:  We went on a Spacewalk in VR with the help of a vibrating chair.


Pablo Marquees

Executive art director, Possible

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"More focus in creating valuable experiences to people and having businesses benefit from taking care of people in a cycle of positive value. It’s the ethical, just, and profitable way forward. We need to be careful to put humanity before tech and people’s wellbeing before short term profit. We need to focus on finding profitable yet sustainable and non-predatory ways of doing business."

What changes would you be most disappointed by?

"Anything that keeps pushing towards technological advances that seem to increase productivity in short term but that have a net negative effect in people’s lives. Again, humanity before tech."

What from 2018 would you most like to see the back of?

"Use of tech and social media to wrongfully manipulate people’s perception of reality and mislead folks into going against their own best interests."

How will your work be different in form and function?

"I see a gearing towards simplicity and I think simplicity in function will be achieved through accessibility and universality. Making tools accessible to the biggest part of the population. The more people understand the tools they use the less likely they are to allow them to be used against them. Facebook is an example of a tool being simplified already, where they have recently announced trying to go back to basics, removing most of the media publishing from people’s timelines and to refocus on human relationships. I expect more of that to happen in other places. We’ve reached peak complexity, we need to make it about people again."

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2018?

"To keep understanding the impact we have in the world as designers and creatives, both intended and unintended. Try to take control of this process and make sure to keep that impact positive."

See more: Pablo explains what it means to be a creative director in 2017.


Thomas Michelbach

Head of development, Strichpunkt Design

Visually, how will your work in 2018 be different from that in 2017?

"I see an increasing trend even for huge brands to come up with new design aesthetics that better align with the reality of their target groups. Visually, maybe not on a Bar Refaeli level of beauty, but rather more imperfect and contemporary - both emotional and highly relevant at the same time."

How will it be different in form and function?

"After last years strong influence of visual design systems on our work, I think some of our strongest work of 2018 will detach from the pure visual perspective of design into upcoming immersive forms of media like VR or AR. Furthermore, we‘re also investigating the space of generative design as an approach for the future of corporate design - which will change the form and function of branding as we know it. In particular, this includes the impact of artificial intelligence and machine learning on how people interact with brands: in an environment full of technology, the way brand messages are transported will have to change, too. When 2017 was about getting rid of rigid rules, 2018 will be about translating simplified rules into machine interpretable definitions for an even broader set of applications."

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2018?

"Personally I guess I will spend more time traveling, trying to handle as much business on the run as possible. These enhancements of modern technology together with vast improvements in our company culture will continue to highly influence my relationship with work. In addition to that, I think being constantly on the run will also raise the bar for the way we collaborate on a human level.

"Transparency, trust and reliability will become even important as everybody is spread out all across the globe."

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2018?

"Even though I appreciate the pace of digital work I‘d love to spend more time outside the digital ecosystem. Therefore letting go of what seems to be important is what I’d love to embrace in 2018. Sometimes it‘s beautiful to just disconnect and get lost somewhere out there."

See more: Thomas explains Strichpunkt's UI-based rebrand for Audi.

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Marcus Moresby

Co-founder and head of VR, Found

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"Over the past couple of years the industry has seemed a touch unstable when it comes to seeing projects through from initial client contact to the delivery stages – most likely due to the knock on effects of recent world events and the ever changing social impact of technology. With uncertainty comes cautious behaviour, but hopefully we're adjusting to this change and pre-empting the possible pitfalls in ways we never previously had to. Also, whilst the world of motion is still seemingly heavily male dominated, it's encouraging that we're seeing more talented female designers/animators take the stage, making an impact and diversifying the direction of the discipline."

What from 2018 would you most like to see the back of?

"This obsession with churning out random daily motion tests to fill Instagram feeds rather than crafting anything of value. Stuff for stuff sake. It'll probably only get worse but I find it a shame that it ultimately means very little and devalues the worth of the motion industry, wrongly informing client's expectations of ever reducing deadlines and budgets. It wouldn't take much to re-consider the approach so this work begins to form a longer form story over numerous short episodes or chapters. Ultimately have something to say rather than show off."

Visually, how will your work in 2018 be different from that in 2017?

"As a director I'm making the shift to working solely on VR projects so I now heavily concentrate on building atmosphere. Light and shadow plays an essential part in how you feel within an environment much as it would in a theatrical or film set. Also, everything I create will be rendered in real-time so the luxuries of overnight renders are long gone for me. Visually we have to work harder on quality texturing to create an object rather than relying on dense polygon counts. Concentrating on the details that demand an audience's attention to help progress the narrative is key."

How will it be different in form and function?

"Experience design is now my core consideration - how does story play out when your attention can be drawn to multiple possibilities at once. Building a sense of presence within an environment and considering how interactions within that space involve you."

See more: Discover the memories of a dead scientist in this VR experience by Found Studio.


Ben O’Brien

Freelance illustrator as Ben the Illustrator and author of the Illustrator's Survey 2017

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"I'd love to see more of the illustration community moving into new realms, over the passed years we've seen illustrators moving into live art, more involved product design and motion graphics, but there's still space to develop illustration into more interactivity, with VR/AR moving so quickly and so excitingly, and it would be great to see more involvement in film, animation and gaming." 

And what changes would you be most disappointed by?

"I have no idea how Brexit might play out in 2018, but it would be terrible to see small creative businesses being affected by it. The creative industry pays a huge part of what Britain is, from underground music to children's book illustrations to world class cinema, and independent businesses provide a lot of the work involved, If the Brexit folks, and the current government as a whole, don't look out for the freelancers and creative studios, then our creative industry is going to suffer."

What from 2018 would you most like to see the back of?

"An end to spec work and hopefully see the word 'exposure' being banished to the photographic darkroom (where it belongs!) as opposed to it being offered as some kind of unquantifiable payment. I'd love to see graduates and newcomers to the industry all knowing their worth, and being treated (and paid) respectfully."

How will your work be different in form and function?

"I'm finding myself looking for simpler options, simpler shapes. Towards the end of 2017 I illustrated a series of animals for a 2018 calendar, and it was dreamily satisfying breaking animals down into the least detailed shapes, the bear minimum (pun intended). Functionally I'm keen to move further with my work in branding (after a successful project for Girls Who Grind Coffee), I'd also like to take my illustration work into more playful projects, having already worked on artwork for an X-Box game recently, I'm aiming to build on this and play more."


Pali Palavathanan

Founder and creative director, Templo

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"I’d like to see more diversity in who the design media shines the spotlight on. It is not enough for the design media to think of diversity in terms of the male / female debate, the narrative also needs to be around diversity of cultures and thinking."

And what changes would you be most disappointed by?

I am already shocked and saddened by what the current government has done to marginalise arts education in this country. It’s hard to believe it could get any worse but if it did I would find that incredibly disappointing.

What from 2017 would you most like to see the back of?

"Talking about Brexit/Trump. It’s a continuous distraction and we need to concentrate on moving conversation forward. In a way we've needed them both to force people to be become more overtly socially and politically aware. I feel like we've been sleep walking and current global affairs have galvanised opinion and inspired alternative thinking to counter the status quo."

How will your work in 2018 be different in form and function?

"We have a couple of unusual projects in the pipeline, the first is an open source map for war torn countries using online mapping as a legal tool. We're also working on an internal project to exploring how design can be used to visually talk about race/racism in a new kind of way – because we feel we can being a culturally diverse studio."

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2018?

"I'm really trying to embrace failure more this year. It’s the times when things don't go the way we anticipate that we actually learn the most about our resilience and the power we have to react and respond."

See more: Templo on how design 'born out of frustration' brings about social change.

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Ella Ritchie

Co-founder, Intoart

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"In 2018, we would like to see more opportunities to collaborate and work on design briefs so that there are designers and illustrators in the industry making exciting new work from more diverse backgrounds. We are an art and design studio working inclusively with people with learning disabilities, and having set up the Design studio two years ago the designers are now getting into the stride of their practice spanning illustration, product and graphic design, print, textiles, ceramics and fashion.

"Intoart Design develops limited edition prints, distinctive products and crafted items through creative collaborations. The work from the Intoart Design studio goes from strength to strength, we just need more people to see it and throw us some opportunities outside of our in-house projects."

How will your work be different in form and function?

"In the design studio we have discussed the potential to take on briefs with a direct message function and social purpose. We feel that having made the case for excellent art and design resources for people with learning disabilities over the past 17 years that we are in a unique position to create design that provokes debate in relation to cultural rights and highlights the ever more exclusive nature of art and design education and therefore professions."

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2018?

"It's taken a long time for us to establish a home for Intoart as part of a wider creative network. We are acutely aware of the pressures on enterprises making the case for public funding in order to impact on the diversity of the cultural sector. Indeed we wonder how we could start Intoart in 2018 since the climate is so much less hospitable than 17 years ago when we left art school and set up Intoart."

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2018?

"While our strengths are in production we are keen to learn more from other professionals taking the lead in exciting innovative projects, addressing how artists and designers build an inclusive cultural heritage."


Ollie Rone-Clarke

Senior designer, Conran Design Group

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"This year, I’d like to see a better appreciation for design and the important role it can play in influencing beliefs and behaviour. We mustn't forget that design has a functional as well as an aesthetic purpose; it’s a way of creating meaningful connections between an individual and a brand, not a practice in creating something beautiful for beauty's sake."

How will it be different in form and function?

"In the last few years, brands have been using a lot of contrasting colour (take the Spotify or Premier League logos, for example) in their visuals, and it will be interesting to see if this continues in 2018. My expectation is that this trend will continue to pervade, but it will undergo a slight shift - I anticipate that vibrant, bold colours will be replaced with punchy pastels.

"I've also seen the beginnings of what I suspect to be the revival of the 1950s/1960s deconstructive style, resonant of a time before computers. I look forward to seeing if this continues throughout the year."

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2018?

"As March 2019 creeps closer, Brexit will be a big external influence on the design industry. We are in a period of uncertainty about what Brexit will mean for clients and budgets, so we need to start thinking about how, as an industry, we can negotiate tighter budgets whilst still producing high quality work if the time comes."

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2018?

"The way that content is going at the moment, it looks as though animation is set to become an essential skill for designers. Animation helps break content down into digestible segments that an audience can take in more effectively than they can with still image. It's interactive, engaging, and from my perspective, is only set to grow in popularity.

"Coding is also a skill that I would like to keep developing this year, and it's great to see that it's becoming more accessible as we move further into the digital age. Lots of schools are now offering coding as a subject in schools, which is really exciting when looking towards the next generation of talent."


David Sheldon-Hicks

Co-founder and executive creative director, Territory Studio

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"I think a continued conversation of equality in the workplace has picked up pace in 2017 and in 2018 it would be amazing to see more action in this respect. It's great to see professional events such as Kerning the Gap addressing this. The more we talk it through and engage with the systematic issue the more we’ll progress.

"I also want us to better formalise how we do what we do and turn this into some form of training. We’re in conversation with several universities to see how we link this up with how they work. We’ve often trained people through osmosis, monthly and weekly creative meetings but we’re now getting bigger and need to plan this a little more. Maybe a Territory class could be quite fun."

And what changes would you be most disappointed by?

"I know I should be concerned with Brexit, Trump and everything going on in the global sphere, but my biggest concern for 2018 is creativity and its place in education, especially in secondary schools. Schools that champion the arts are still doing a fantastic job and universities are really pushing forward with great energy, but they are under threat and I want to see more political policy that actively supports the arts in our great institutions, liberating them to do great work. I also see a need for creative business to uphold their end of the bargain – less commentary from industry that universities aren’t producing exactly the right candidates, and more proactivity in joining up with universities and colleges and having a well planned training programme within studios."

Visually, how will your work in 2018 be different from that in 2017?

"I’ve really enjoyed seeing our studio mix analogue and digital techniques. I’d love to see this happen further into 2018."

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2018?

"Creatively I’m really inspired by all the great architecture going on around the world. For such a well established profession I’m constantly seeing new innovations and fascinating conversations. I think collaborations between motion designers and architect this year could be amazing."

See more: How Territory Studio created 'tangible' screen graphics for Blade Runner 2049, or how it created cityscapes for Ghost in the Shell

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Ben Tallon

Illustrator and lettering artist, Ben Tallon Illustration

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"It's not a new problem, but I'd like to see more artistically gifted people understand their worth. The underlying notion that this sits somewhere closer to hobby than profession still persists and it couldn't be further than the reality that this is a specialist, hard earned skill set. The reasons why this is the case are many. Businesses who want to cut costs are partly responsible, but we as practitioners are also have a responsibility to educate them, tell them that we have spent years and accrued massive debt to get to this point and that it will not 'take us ten minutes' and look good on our CV.

"I'd also like to see a lot more risk taking across the board - we live in a golden age of technology, where it's cheaper and more accessible than ever to try new things, yet I see so many soulless, generic campaigns, playing it safe. There's a wealth of creative talent out there, work with them and listen to their ideas."

And what changes would you be most disappointed by?

"Of course I worry about Brexit and the ripple effect, from time to time. This government hugely undervalues the arts and creativity. Our global stock as an industry has always been deservedly high. I work globally with all kinds of clients and the idea that we could be cut off as a small island is not an encouraging one. The shock from overseas friends when we decided to leave the EU was borderline embarrassing and it could turn out to be a big backwards step for what we've built."

What from 2018 would you most like to see the back of?

"I'd like to see more people looking up, getting off their phones and soaking up the glut of inspiration all around us at any given time or place."

Visually, how will your work in 2018 be different from that in 2017?

"In 2017 I began stripping back my work, really harnessing the organic process and the energy that for a time had been forgotten about. I got very comfortable with my process, partly due to time constraints and ease. Now, I'm back in love with the human hand, the mistake and chance that always made this inky, paint driven style so seductive to me. Expect more minimal, loose, fun work this year."

See more:  How Ben Tallon became a successful professional illustrator.


Akira Thompson

Design director, Framestore NY

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"I would like to see more visual experimentation in advertising.

"Instagram has become an amazing, free platform for artists to show their work to the world. In many cases, these artists are just 'doing it for the love' and there is no client. This breeds a level of experimentation and envelope-pushing that generally does not happen when working for clients.

"The explosion of this type of work is due in part to the proliferation of GPU-based 3D rendering software that allows individuals and smaller teams to take on larger projects, achieving high quality rendering more quickly.

"There is a tonne of beautiful, inspiring, crazy stuff out there, it can actually be overwhelming. I would like to see this type of work start to influence and push mainstream advertising into more experimental work."

Visually, how will your work in 2018 be different from that in 2017?

"I would like to incorporate more global, cultural influences into my work. Inspiration will be derived from music, folk art, architecture, colour, even flora and fauna from across the globe. This need for diversity comes as a direct rejection of the myopic, isolationist policies put in place by our current government here in the US."

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2018?

"Recently I have been thinking about the relationship between artificial intelligence/neural network technology and the process of art-making. I read that a company in India fed a neural network thousands of images of fabric patterns from around the world and then had the computer create unique textile patterns which they used in their products. It's interesting to consider how AI will influence art and design. It will not happen in the next year, but perhaps in the not-so-distant future we will all be art-directing AI machines as they design for us."

See more: How Framestore created the 60s-style spaceship in Black Mirror.


Steph Troeth

Head of research, Clearleft

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2018?

"There’s currently a massive interest in applying Jobs-to-Be-Done (JTBD) in user experience — to me this is a positive indicator that, as an industry, we have recognised the opportunity to improve how we understand user needs. I expect to be training and speaking more on JTBD in 2018."

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2018?

"I’m looking to revisit my rusty skills on machine learning, and exploring storytelling through data."

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Rob Longworth and Paul Willoughby

Founders and executive creative directors, Human After All

What changes would you be most disappointed by in 2018?

Paul: "I’d be disappointed if there was a move towards services like 99Designs, and other ‘crowdsourced’ or algorithmic design solutions becoming more popular. I have friends who have tried them out and got some truly awful work sent through, obviously cobbled together from free vectors and stock sources. Those same friends then come to me to spark up a more meaningful and genuine relationship to develop their vision."

How will your work be different in form and function?

Rob: "The form our work takes will be one which forever expands into digital work. We pride ourselves in being multi-disciplinary however the rapid increase in digital work we're asked to undertake will inevitably shape the next year for us. With regards to function, its in our name, we design for human's and human interaction so out focus remains great UX in all output."

What will be the biggest external influences on your work/practice in 2018?

Paul: "For us, we’ve seen an influx of much bigger projects than in the past, with many moving parts and potential complications – challenges like shifting timelines and resource allocation. It’s also becoming more of a challenge to find the right team as more designers go freelance."

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2018?

Paul: "I’d like to go back to basics and learn the art of mark making, like Japanese brush painting, then bring the sensitivities I learn through that back to client work.

Rob: "I think nature provides much of the fuel we need to be inspired and develop, and I'd love to tune into that."

See more: Why Human After All still creates their own print magazines in a digital age.


Natalie Vosloo

Art director, AKQA

In your area of creativity and business, what changes would you like to see happen in 2018?

"I hope to see more innovative products, this has become such an iterative environment that I feel we’re missing those left-field ideas – like Bitcoin in the early days – that make you think, really? Only to find it transforms our lives and understanding of the world. I hope to see more products that improve lives and lower barriers to economic freedom.

"I believe diversity and equality naturally will play a more prominent role moving forward in the wake of #metoo, not only with regards to companies meeting diversity quotas and achieving pay equality but talent being placed in meaningful roles with real impact." 

Visually, how will your work in 2018 be different from that in 2017?

"As we interact with more digital interfaces than ever before, I think 2018 will be about creating personalities so we can connect emotionally with the products we interact with on a daily basis. While they will need to be highly functional and the user experience seamless to compete in this rapidly growing space, we will have an opportunity to add a layer visually that, with AI really coming into its own, will be an interesting space to watch." 

How will it be different in form and function?

"As interfaces become more multimodal, I think it will be a case of striking a balance between form and function. Having products which first and foremost provide a necessary function will be key to surviving in the market. Where it becomes interesting is adding the visual layer in the case of say voice interactions. Visual cues so we know the product is listening and understanding or creating an identity so we aren’t essentially talking to a robot but rather a trusted companion." 

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2018?

"To have a better understanding of AI and what advances in this area can mean for users. I would love to explore the crossover between the physical product and how the user interacts with it."

See more: See how AKQA is helping to improve diversity in the creative industries.


James Bates

Creative director, Clearleft

Visually, how will your work in 2018 be different from that in 2017?

"The industry has grown up over the last few years. But, in the race to professionalise I think we’ve lost some of the creativity and experimentation that came with being an amateur back in those halcyon days of the web.

"As best-practice, device-support and continual optimisation shape our sites’ overall structures and behaviour, the broad design landscape has become a bit homogenous. I’d like to see designers find more ways to ensure their designs stand out and push back on the overwhelmingly cold, flat aesthetic of 2017.

"More experimentation with layout, layering, colour, pattern and texture. Bespoke photography and illustration, more expressive typography (hello variable fonts) and creativity at the micro level in terms of animation and interaction.

If I’m honest, I don’t expect to see a radical shift visually in 2018, but I think — and hope —to see a little bit more creativity."

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Uri Baruchin

Strategy partner, Superunion

What changes would you be most disappointed by in 2018?

"I’d be very disappointed if the important historical moment of #metoo and #timesup just passes our industry by without any meaningful impact. The focus may have been on the entertainment industry, but the lessons apply everywhere. Internally – there are still places with gaps to close, safety to create and people to call out. In the work we produce, we need to take better care on the way we echo and feed toxic cultural notions. Especially around toxic gender stereotypes."

What from 2018 would you most like to see the back of?

"Saying ‘content’, ‘data’ and AI without any meaning behind it. It’s a bit like the label ‘digital’. Digital is in everything. Everyone is a content player now, data is always everywhere, and AI will increasingly be a ubiquitous part of Technology. Less hype, more bespoke applications, please."

Visually, how will your work in 2018 be different from that in 2017? 

"I think it’s time to take collaboration between agencies and partners to the next level. Playing well together, unthinkable not that long ago, is now pretty routine. However, too often both sides stick by the traditional disciplines, creating standalone things even if under a joint concept. The next step is for the different things we create to connect together into new ecosystems. For experiences to become much more fluid, integrated and holistically inspiring."

What will be the key skills or knowledge that you’d like to learn in 2018?

"There’s a new generation of disruptive research and analysis tools that are changing how quickly and efficiently we can uncover useful insights to drive the work. I hope to discover more star disruptors that can create value for our clients. Oh, and please don’t read this as an invitation for spamming me."