We live in exciting times, with more new businesses being started than ever before. But with millions of entrepreneurs rolling the dice on new beginnings, this means that having an exceptional brand has become non-negotiable. It is what sets you apart from the competition. It influences how others perceive your company; it helps them decide whether you’re worth investing in, and whether you can be trusted. Like it or not, your visual presentation has an impact. As such, reviewing your brand’s performance – just as you do with other parts of your business – is a smart move at the start of each year.
Now is a great time to evaluate how well your branding is working for your business. Does your logo still represent you and what you stand for? Is your website responsive to your audience’s needs and expectations? Is your packaging still helping you stand out?
No matter what areas you identify for growth, looking at the latest design trends for the year ahead can be an excellent launching pad for ideas, inspiration and improvements. We asked the global community of professional freelance designers at 99designs by Vista what’s trending in the world of brand design, and how small businesses could leverage these trends in the new year. Here are five creative approaches that could be the catalyst for the next phase of your small business journey.
Channel a past era
Given the challenges of the last few years, consumers are craving familiar, nostalgic styles, and we see this reflected in many of the trends across all areas of branding – from packaging and fonts to colors and web design. Whether it’s recreating your packaging with a vintage 70s style with earthy colors and patterns, or giving the roaring 20s a spin on your website through art deco fonts, transporting customers to a bygone era through branding can provide a dose of positivity and comfort that people are desperately craving after a tough few years.
70s style packaging by Kamila Oblakova
But leaning on styles of the past doesn’t have to be about just giving people the warm and fuzzies, especially if it doesn’t suit your brand. With economic instability and social unrest around the world, life is undoubtedly a bit messy at the moment – and your branding can be too. If your business evokes a more raw and edgy energy, consider going against the grain and embracing punk counterculture of the 70s. Think scrappy collages, chunky typefaces and bold colors. This aesthetic is about rejecting tradition and creating change, so if your brand is all about doing things differently, it could be worth trying.
Punk revival design for a t-shirt by E-T
The beauty of this approach is that when you match the right era with your target audience, it will resonate and create an emotional connection that they will then associate with your brand.
Embrace your mission in your visual brand
If something feels off with your branding, an initial question to ask yourself is: does our visual brand communicate our business mission? It’s no secret that customers want to invest in brands that align with their values, and now more than ever, they are more attuned to how these values are shared through branding.
Patagonia is a leading example of this. Its values center around causing no unnecessary environmental harm and protecting nature. The business clearly walks the walk, with founder Yvon Chouinard giving away most of the company to fight climate change. Patagonia’s visual brand also lives and breathes its devotion to the outdoors. From the rugged outline of the mountains in their logo to the countless adventure images throughout its website, there’s no question where this brand’s focus lies.
If what you care about as a brand isn’t shining through, consider working with a professional designer to fill in the gaps with clever and on trend visuals. For example, if your mission is to get people connected to nature or natural products, you could tap into the folk botanical graphic design trend, characterized by imperfect doodles of flora and fauna, as a background on your website or a frame around a typography-based logo, to incorporate that message into your branding.
Example of folk botanical by GoodEnergy
Humanize your brand with a mascot
If your branding is lacking a bit of personality, it may be worth introducing a mascot. As the desire for human connection gets stronger through these challenging times, featuring a unique, identifiable character consistently across your brand assets can really help create a personal bond with your customers.
Your mascot can communicate the humor, vulnerability and relatability consumers crave. The versatility of mascots to be used across social media channels, your website or even adapted across different product lines and packaging, mascots help create an aesthetic that stays true to – and even evolves – your brand’s personality.
This style can even be blended with other design trends. For example, you could try reimagining your mascot with retro line art – one of the key graphic design trends for 2023. This style embraces retro minimal line art that results in light-hearted cartoonish illustrations, making it a natural fit if your business is more on the playful side.
Example of retro line art by AnaMaria.Design
Play with overstimulation
You know that saying ‘less is more’? That is not the case with this trend. With overstimulated branding trends, more is more. In-your-face imagery, vibrant colors and bold typography are all characteristic of this aesthetic. It demands your attention, not in an aggressive way but in a playful manner. Sure it maximizes space with patterns and illustrations, but the energy it evokes is happy and inviting.
If your branding is feeling less than memorable these days, this is the style that will help you stand out. An interesting approach to overstimulation would be through adding mixed dimensions, a trend which merges the digital and physical worlds by adding cartoon-like illustrations and vibrant splashes of color to real-life images. It can bring a sense of artistic magic to your branding that livens up your business and photography.
Example of mixed dimension by Mj.vass
See if you can do more with less
In direct contrast to the trend towards overstimulation, others are taking a different creative approach to level up their branding in 2023. The core of this trend is making the maximum impact with the fewest visual elements possible. Think about using only one or two colors and big, clear fonts with minimal illustrative elements to create eye-catching simplicity.
If everything feels too much when you’re evaluating your branding, think about what you can strip back. You might be surprised just how effective removing design elements can be, and how much typography styles can communicate. This is a useful tactic if your brand message touches on doing less: spending less, consuming less, or even focusing on healthier choices. For the right customer, this simplicity is profoundly appealing, and help tell a clear, cohesive story that incentivizes greater brand affinity.
Doing more with less example by Mamei
If there’s one consistent thread through this year’s design trends, it’s the fact that consumers are craving comfort, positivity and authenticity – but those emotions can be evoked in multiple ways. When evaluating your own branding and what trends you can leverage to boost your business in 2023, the key thing to ensure is that the styles you choose complement your core brand values and personality – and therefore resonate with your customers.
Caitlin Collins is the Head of Communications & Brand Marketing at 99designs by Vista.