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graphic design

We spent a little bit of time last week talking about training and development trends that are going to be important in this new year. Similarly, we wanted to touch on some of the major graphic design trends happening in eLearning in 2016. After doing some reading around, there is a fantastic article on Medium about 16 Web & Graphic Design Trends to Watch in 2016. We wanted to highlight a few of these trends we think will be important as you work on your eLearning visual design and provide some of our own insights.

Geometric Shapes and Grid-based Design

eLearning courses, for better and sometimes for worse, have long taken advantage of geometric shapes—largely due to shape tools found in most authoring software. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as it’s done correctly. Grid-based social media and websites (like Pinterest or Instagram) have been reinforcing minimalist design principles for some time now and it’s making its trendy way back into the limelight. Just remember that alignment is important and you don’t want to break from that grid-like feel unless it’s serving a particular purpose. “Form follows function,” as they say.

Material Design

Material design has been on the rise as a direct competitor to, and in some ways an evolution of, the flat design trend of 2015. These design standards were developed by Google back in 2014. Most Google applications (web, mobile, and otherwise) now use this design language, so it’s no wonder that it’s starting to see more widespread adoption. Probably one of the most recognizable aspects of material design is the idea that each object or image is perceived to be taking up a physical and tactile—hence “material”—space. It takes advantage of lighting, layering, and movement to instill that sense of reality to each object. Designs are still minimalistic, taking a lot of queues from the flat design trends we’ve seen in the past. A lot of the changes brought on by material design are really meant to help users move a little more naturally through a UI. Give it a try!

Custom Graphics

While stock photographs have their place, more and more designers are implementing custom graphics into their work instead. These days, making a custom illustration shows a user that you’re putting a little more thought into your design. Put those stock image subscriptions to use by grabbing some vector art as a basis for your own idea. Creating a custom graphic will come across as though you want more than just the words in your course to have a meaningful impact.

Video & GIFs

If you haven’t heard yet, video is really popular right now. No, really. It’s been growing in popularity for quite some time, actually. While this doesn’t necessarily seem like it’s a graphic design trend, video’s next of kin—the GIF—very easily can be. Social media and websites are trying to flood us with moving pictures, and for a good reason. They’re interesting and engaging. They grab our attention at a time when me might normally want to skim or quickly move past content. Consider talking to your graphic designer about how to tastefully introduce illustrated GIFs or videos into your content.


No trend talk would be complete without talking about the Pantone color trends (pretty much the gold standard in color), and 2016 is a little more special than usual. Never before have they selected two colors to share the illustrious Color of the Year title, but such is the case with Rose Quartz and Serenity.

color of the year

2016 Colors of the Year: Rose Quartz (left) and Serenity (right)

The supporting colors of the Spring 2016 Fashion Color Report have been available for quite some time now. These can make for a fantastic color palette if you’re struggling with where to start on your own or if your company doesn’t already have a style guide that dictates your shades for you. Also, it’s worth noting that the Fall 2016 Fashion Color Report should be available in February right at the time of New York Fashion Week. So, if you’re hankering to stay on the cutting edge of color, keep your eyes glued to the Internet around the 10th to the 18th of next month.

We work to stay abreast of eLearning design trends that will help us continue to create beautiful things for the eLearning world. Let us know in the comments what you foresee in the design world for 2016.

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