Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, the founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, one half of Viewport Industries, and an electronic musician.

Design trends in 2009

Posted on 15 January 2009 22 comments

Article illustration for Design trends in 2009

I was rather chuffed to be interviewed in the latest issue of Computer Arts Projects, which is one of my favourite magazines.

Editor Kate Evans describes the issue’s lead story like so: “A new year is always an exciting time, and so we’ve spoken to 40 of the biggest names in the design industry about what they expect to see in 2009.” Other designers and agencies interviewed include Erik Spiekermann, Rob Chiu, Gavin Strange, Studio Output, and Poke, and there are some very insightful predictions. I wonder which ones will come true?

Here’s an excerpt of what I said:

Web design in 2008 has been very elaborate, filled with lots of colours and textures, so I think we might see a return to minimalism in 2009; a shift of focus back to the content."

What about you guys? What would you predict for design trends in 2009 (web / print / any form of design)? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!


  1. Chris


    15 January 2009 @ 02:44PM #

    Congrats on being featured Elliott, Ive noticed a lot of my recent designs have been very minimalistic, really focusing on the power of the css and good typography. Good Luck in 09!

  2. rama


    15 January 2009 @ 02:48PM #

    i second that, i always love minimalistic website (for content’s sake) but fully illustrated website have it’s own place for me. Though i really up against predictions because i think a good design is everlasting and also unpredictable.

  3. Gav


    15 January 2009 @ 02:49PM #

    Great work on your article in there Elliot, nice work as always!

    Yeah I agree with that, simplicity coming back, I also think that web designers now have a skillset of lots and lots of different styles, so diversity within jobs will happen, rather than a big following of a certain style.

    Whatever happens, it’s an exciting time on the ol’ interwebs!

    Keep up the great work!

    ~ Gav.

  4. Ian


    15 January 2009 @ 04:15PM #

    Hey Elliot, is there a design magazine you haven’t managed to get some column inches in on? :)

    I think it would be good to see the trend shift back to more minimalistic design in 2009. If the decorations aren’t there then it makes sure the IA, content, and typography are as good as they can be.

    I also think this year could see an increase in mac style rich UI design. Coupled with jQuery UI (totally revamped for 1.6 RC4 and very impressive!) I think this will take the web in a more desktop like direction and open up a few new possibilites for the user experience.

    Personally I’m also on a mission to find an appropriate use for the frosted glass effect too :)

  5. Christoph


    15 January 2009 @ 05:21PM #

    Last year was very experimental with a plenty of patterns and textures on websites. This year will go back to a more minimalistic style, as you mentioned. I think we will see patterns and textures in a more subtile way, not as a main part of the design, but more in a supporting way.

    On the other hand I would like to see more grunge textured styles in Print Design.

  6. Niall


    15 January 2009 @ 06:12PM #

    I’m hoping 09 brings a return to minimalist design myself. I’m sick of seeing sites with 500k background images with a shedload of png overlays on them… Lets get back to basics and focus on the content again.

  7. Sean


    15 January 2009 @ 08:31PM #

    I’m definitely going to agree that 09 is going to be a year of minimalist design, which is good in a way, but also very bad. I think we will see a lot of people start to destroy the minimalist look. As much of a nice surprise it is to see the odd well designed minimalist site right now, I think by the end of 09, we’ll all be sick of it.

    I think 09 will also bring in a different thought process when designing a site. I think people will focus more on each page a la Jason Santa Maria. Rather than basing every page of a site on one basic template, I think people will start to design every page differently. That is what I’m most excited for in 09.

  8. Max


    15 January 2009 @ 09:26PM #

    looks deep in to crystal ball I dont think weve seen the last of hand drawn and mixed media yet, vectors and hand drawn style are still evolving on web pages in my opinion, but i think minimalism may also prevail.

  9. Kyle Meyer

    Kyle Meyer

    16 January 2009 @ 12:12AM #

    Congrats on the feature Elliot, some big names to be mentioned alongside of. :)

    I think we will see a lot of people start to destroy the minimalist look. As much of a nice surprise it is to see the odd well designed minimalist site right now, I think by the end of 09, we’ll all be sick of it.

    I completely agree, unfortunately; as I’m quite fond of it.

  10. Davin Greenwell

    Davin Greenwell

    16 January 2009 @ 09:34AM #

    I’d like for that to be true, but check out the backlash from designers on the New York Philharmonic logo that was recently done by Pentagram. I like it, but from what I can see, I am a minority by a long shot. People respond to oomph – even designers. So as much as I like minimalism, I know it doesn’t necessarily resonate for those whom I am designing for, so I’ll have to pass on it for now at least. When I am designing for myself, yeah – I’ll do that. As my own client I get that kind of input ;)

    Congrats on the interview!

  11. Daus


    16 January 2009 @ 01:20PM #

    Hmm. Minimalistic approach will still be there, I think. And typography will get a bigger attention this year. I dunno, just a dummy guessing ;)

  12. Kai


    17 January 2009 @ 03:54AM #

    Yeah, I think typography focused designs are gonna get more mainstream. Also more sIFR and other techniques to bring more font types onto the web or more advancements in this direction anyway.
    Also illustrations are becoming more and more relevant to the web – I reckon.

  13. Kev Adamson

    Kev Adamson

    17 January 2009 @ 05:51AM #

    I hope there isn’t a main trend at all.

    I still subscribe to gallery sites which I enjoy browsing, and for me there are more and more varied styles being done well.

    That’s what I want to see. Variation. The whole problem is that certain styles on the web become fashionable.

    Also, with IE6 moving towards ‘end-game’, and JS frameworks such as jQuery getting stronger and more versatile, we should hopefully see more varied designs and user interaction within those designs.

    Minimal will be big if enough “A List” developers say it will, and doing something because it is ‘trendy’ is surely not a good thing.

    Keep it postmodern :)

  14. Davin Greenwell

    Davin Greenwell

    18 January 2009 @ 04:51AM #

    Hey Kev,

    I like your approach to the question. I’d also like to see variance. If everyone is doing the same thing, the web will be boring. : )

  15. Dainis Graveris

    Dainis Graveris

    19 January 2009 @ 10:44AM #

    that’s really actualy question about design trends in 2009, interesting to see how people answers, at least I think now design is becoming more elegant, subtle, not so loud.

  16. Jan


    20 January 2009 @ 01:18PM #

    Congratulations, Elliot! I know this is nothing new to you but congratulations!

    Yeah, minimalistic approach is great but it would still be great to see some variety.

  17. Jason


    20 January 2009 @ 06:58PM #

    Bevelled text and drop shadows are probably due a comeback…..

  18. John Pitchers

    John Pitchers

    22 January 2009 @ 06:37PM #

    It’s interesting how the majority of us designers are in agreement. Yet, our clients will still ask for all the bells, whistles, tickers, sliders and flash intros. YES! I still get the odd request for a flash intro. It takes all my control to not slap them.

    Look at many of the most successful sites on the web today. Youtube, Ebay, Google, et al. Black text, white background. Simple, simple. The focus is on functionality and usability.

  19. Ryan


    23 January 2009 @ 06:40PM #

    I can’t say I agree. Many elaborate designs and illustrations draw the viewer in.. as long as they do not distract from content which is of course generally king.. but that isn’t to say you can’t strike a healthy balance. I agree with Kev though, AJAX is definitely improving the user experience.

  20. Elliot Jay Stocks

    Elliot Jay Stocks

    26 January 2009 @ 04:01PM #

    Cheers for your comments, guys.

    @ Kev Adamson: I completely agree with what you said.

    “I hope there isn’t a main trend at all. […] That’s what I want to see. Variation.”

    Wise words indeed!

  21. Clay McIlrath

    Clay McIlrath

    05 February 2009 @ 12:41PM #

    My guess is that we’ll see more combinations of simplistic with artistic. I’ve seen many sites that are simple and clean with a strong focus on typography that still have a bit of a creative flick in the header and footer, such as a crack or an organic frilly design, etc.

    I like that there is a broader range of professional and simplistic while still edgy and creative. I’m sick of the “overdone” sites where its all hand-drawn, images, and hard to navigate, and on the opposite end, i’m sick of boring “wordpress blog” layouts that have a traditional header and blog layout. gag

    I’d also like to see the overuse of coffee, plants/organic/roots die down or disappear. Granted that may be a bit hypocritical, since i used organic styling on my own website design but i at least stayed away from dirt/grunge/roots or plants growing and mixed up and used colors not often used together. I think vivid color combos are going to be another upcoming trend in 2009.

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