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Trend Forecasting the Arts in 2018: A Break from Technology in Favour of the Natural World

last updated 16 February 2018

After another year of unsettling world political and economic shifts, and an exponential growth in the role of the digital in everyday life, design trends for 2018 seem focused on recapturing a sense of what is tangible and secure.

city cranes by emma dashwood

Industry and Progression— as captured beautifully by Emma Dashwood.

This search for meaning sees us reconnecting with both the external natural world and a sense of locating and reinforcing our own inner sense of self in the world, as well as foregrounding the importance of forging real, physical and heartfelt personal connections – a sentiment perfectly demonstrated by the GCA’s autumn Thinking of You campaign.

In the coming year, we’re expecting to see lots more hand-rendered, craft and print-based treatments in design – including tactile painterly and letterpress arts that challenge the isolating effect of mobile devices by emphasising the ‘human’ in the creative process, constructing a sense of a physical connection between artists and consumers.

Natural wonder: a fresh perspective

Increasing awareness of our impact upon the environment (highlighted by the BBC’s recent Blue Planet series, and the unparalleled Sir David Attenborough) is promoting a reconnection with the beauty and wonder of the natural world: in an age governed by technological intervention, there’s a compulsion to dispense with our rarefied, digitally-mediated experience of the world and look afresh with an almost childlike fascination at the raw beauty, intricacy and ingenuity of nature. A return to wonderfully detailed, botanical designs that conjure the flora of tropical climes, and are somewhat reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s mysterious The Lost World, evokes a sense of exciting discovery and new horizons, while also reinvigorating our artificially-constructed environments by inviting the wild, organic outdoors in.

pattern desgin by Alicia Perry and Rebecca Intavaran

Talented surface-pattern duo, Alicia Perry and Rebecca Intavarant, create designs featuring keenly-observed leaves and ferns.

Nostalgic charm

In a bid to escape the global climate of doom-mongering and the sparse, utilitarian chic of recent years, we’re also seeing a nostalgic return to childhood and sense of make-believe, fun…and colour! The high street retailer, M&S, notably adopted the iconic Paddington Bear – whose creator, Michael Bond, passed away last year [sic. This article will publish in 2018] – for its major Christmas marketing campaign in 2017, and there seems increasingly to be a move to embrace the transportive magic of storytelling with character-led design, naïve illustration, and a slightly mischievous sense of fun (also translating to typographical design and apparent in the comic-strip-esque creations popularised by such artists as the hilarious Gemma Correll) – little bursts of unalloyed, childish joy to brighten the gloom!

paddington bear by Jen khatun

The cheerful, vibrant colours and exuberant painterly touch of Jen Khatun’s Paddington Bear World Book Day image appeal to the child in us all – and recall the Latin American flavour of an important 2017 trend.

Endless possibilities: innovation, mysticism, opulence

Transcending the chaos and relentless technological connectedness of modern life, Pantone’s colour of the year, Ultraviolet, embodies qualities of mutability and complex, almost galactical possibilities beyond our pedestrian experience – suggestive of innovation, as well as a more mystical, almost spiritual reflectiveness and meditative calm. Its iridescent, glowing quality combines both the ethereal and the highly artificial, at once pointing to escapist magic, natural phenomena such as the aurora borealis, and the futuristic feel of UV light. We’re expecting to see a whole spectrum of purple hues permeating design this year: from the dream-like, transcendental qualities of overlaid lilac and indigo translucencies, reflecting that escapist impulse, to rich, velvety purples combined with touches of metallic – especially golds – for some seriously sumptuous design… And with another royal baby, and the much-hyped marriage of Prince Harry, due in the Spring, the colour’s regal connotations are sure to manifest!

butterfly florals by sanja rescek

Sanja Rescek’s gorgeous, translucent florals, embellished with opulent gold accents, beautifully illustrate the application of this trend.

This article featured in the February issue of Progressive Greetings magazine 2018 — see P.123 for more.

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