4 Design Trends That Will Define 2020

Design touches everything we see and do. As we enter 2020, creatives of all types are finding that we need to work fluidly between many design mediums, channels, and tools to effectively communicate with a multitude of audiences.

At Adobe Stock, we offer a platform for artists of all backgrounds and disciplines, working in mediums including illustration, vectors, design and motion graphics templates, and 3D.

We’ve long used our broad perspective and data access rooted in creative applications to offer deep insights about the visual trends ahead.

This year, we’re taking that a step further, with the launch of our first-ever dedicated Design Trends outlook for 2020.

To surface the top trends having a monumental impact in the coming year, we’ve reviewed top searches, colours, fonts, designs, and projects that artists have made and shared on Creative Cloud, Adobe Stock, and Behance.

Our seasoned teams of curators at Adobe Stock and Behance, led by our Creative Services trend forecasters, have added their wealth of experience in trend analysis and reporting to distill these top trends to know as we kick off the next decade of creativity.

Here’s our forecast for the design trends that will define 2020.

Handmade Humanism

Adobe Stock: Woman in a City_ by_ Lilly Friedberg, Cool Organic Instagram Story Set_ by_ You and I Graphics, History and Memory Title_ by_ M. Lomon, Elegant pastel illustration with linear shapes of a female face_ by_ IMR

Adobe Fonts: Kremlin Pro Regular_ by_ Paratype, Flood_ by_ Adobe Originals, Chelsea Market_ by_ Tart Workshop

Organic illustrations, natural textures, and folksy fonts are some of the key elements of this trend, which has been favoured by anyone from indie artists to people-oriented start-ups. The look is often defined by self-taught artists who bring a fresh, seemingly spontaneous and untutored style, and is known for its simplicity and authentic tone.

The emphasis on the handmade and individually crafted reflects a wider cultural shift toward the personal and authentic, according to Brenda Milis, Creative Services and Visual Trends Principal at Adobe Stock.

“We’re seeing more and more DIY-type elements in design and visual culture in general, as artists strive to bring a personal touch to their digital work in a highly digitised world,” says Milis. “This design trend is strongly related to the larger visual/cultural trend we identified, which we’ve dubbed Express Yourself. This trend reflects a growing responsiveness to personal elements in design which resonate and connect with viewers.”

Nami Berglund, Curator for Behance, also traces a connection between the rise of conscious consumerism and the handmade zeitgeist.

“If something is handmade, for example a piece of pottery or ceramics, that use of hands signals a rejection of mass production, of plastic, of garbage,” says Berglund. “Many people have become so conscious of the Earth and of waste—the tons of plastics that pollute our world and end up in the ocean.” The trend toward handmade design, she believes, is part of a groundswell of questioning our consumption.

Try it out:

For brands as well as for designers, incorporating hand-crafted elements helps create an approachable personality, and can be a genuine, effective way to connect emotionally with people.

To incorporate this trend into your work, add a bit of whimsy to your designs with hand-drawn shapes, patterns, 3D materials, and brushes using Adobe Capture. If you’re feeling romantic with your artistic expression, play around with traditional textures such as oil and watercolour brushes in the new Adobe Fresco drawing app.

Find more inspiration in our Handmade Humanism Collection.


Adobe Stock: Abstract render with spheres_ by Javier Pardina/Stocksy, 3D rendering of still life with bust statue by Dmitry, Futuristic Event Posters Set by Design Army, Pink Neon light rose sign, minimal flower concept flat lay by_ Zamurovic, Gel Titles_ by_ Wavebreak Media, 3D Rendering of Glass Female hand_ by_ katia

Adobe Fonts: Rig Solid Zero Halftone_ by_ Jamie Clarke Type, Bubblegum Pop Highlight_ by_ Device Fonts, Flegrei Regular_ by_ Adobe Originals

Seemingly on the opposite end of the visual spectrum lies a trend we’re calling Semi-Surreal. Characterised by bright colours and unexpected juxtapositions, this kind of work is highly engaging in part due to the inclusion of intriguing tactile implications. While individual surfaces may appear hyper realistic in their rendering, the overall effect is fantastical. In the world of Semi-Surreal, airy puffs of smoke coexist with neon-hued fur and sleek, polished planes in combinations that range from softly dreamy to eye-popping to mouth-wateringly candy-like.

Berglund has another term to describe this trend: a “virtual vacation.”

“There’s a huge interest in immersive environments right now,” she says, pointing to several cultural obsessions that are reaching a fever pitch and show no signs of abating: virtual reality has hit the mainstream, Yayoi Kusama Infinity Room installations are drawing record-setting crowds, and retail shopping has morphed into a multisensory experience.

Berglund posits that economic insecurity may be driving some of this hunger for fantasy. “The reality is that many people are struggling,” she says. “I think this trend has got a lot to do with current economics. People don’t get to escape from reality very often, and the best way to escape right now is digitally: the internet is right there in your hands with your mobile devices. Maybe you can’t afford to take that Instagram-perfect holiday, but you can drop into a world of surreal fantasy through an experience, either in virtual reality, art installations, or shopping.”

The new Semi-Surreal design reflects the myriad ways in which artists, game designers, retailers, and brands are seeking to serve this growing need. “It’s not just about fantasy,” clarifies Berglund, “but a fantasy of something magical, beautiful. This trend reflects a collective desire to remove ourselves from everyday ugliness.”

Try it out:

Want to explore the Semi-Surreal design trend? Start by experimenting with gradients, glitter, and re-colourations of everyday objects using Photoshop’s advanced compositing tools. Create abstract compositions in Dimension by playing around with lighting, textures, and repetition with models balanced with neutral palettes to ground the visuals. Above all, let your sense of wonder and imagination be your guide.

Find more inspiration in our Semi-Surreal Collection.

Art Deco Updates

Adobe Stock: Interior concept of memphis design_ by Jokiewalker, Art Deco Greeting Card Layout by_ Polar Vectors, Mockup Podium 3D Render by nikolarakic, A4 Page Mockup with Shadows_ by Custom Scene, Vintage Liquor Bottle Label Set by_ Roverto Castillo

Adobe Fonts: Acier BAT Text Noir_ by_ Production Type, Gin Regular_ by_ Fort Foundry, Blakely Light_ by_ Mark Simonson Studio.

“In part, this trend is a response to the inescapable sleek, ‘flat’ design aesthetic we’ve seen, especially in our technology products for the past several years,” says Milis. “I think people are hungry for flourishes, for more decorative elements, yet want to retain that modernity and sleekness.”

There may also be a more pragmatic trigger for the explosion of the updated Art Deco trend, notes Berglund: “I’ve been observing the rise of this more simplified iteration of Art Deco alongside the development of software tools. As software makes it easier to express shapes and materials like rippling water, gleaming metal, and smooth spheres, I find more designs incorporating these concepts,” says Berglund. “For example, I’m seeing more scenes with swimming pools, or sleek tiles.”

In addition to re-emerging influences of line art and Cubism in current graphic design, there are also references to the sleek Streamline Moderne movement in product, interior, and motion design, which reflect a famously forward-thinking era of innovation. The blocky layouts, geometric patterns, and metallic details in the Art Deco movement are now updated with a futuristic twist and play heavily with elevated typography.

Part of what updates this new Art Deco is its sophisticated, more relaxed, colour palette, which features swimming pool blue and soft pinks alongside brass and rose gold metallic hues. The softer, quieter colours may be a byproduct of the pervasive effects of social media on our lives, as more people purposefully blur the lines between public and private life, inviting their online friends and followers into their offices, bedrooms, and even their closets.

“Think about the popularity of Marie Kondo,” laughs Berglund. “One minute you’re watching her on TV, the next minute, you’re buying rose gold hangers and thinking, maybe I ought to have a nicer, more Instagram-worthy closet!”

Try it out:

The new Art Deco can add a layer of luxury to your creative projects in a multitude of ways. Add futuristic, metallic accents to express refinement to your designs. Use shadows and lighting to heighten the sense of drama or glamour. Experiment with perspective lines in patterns and search for new typography in the expansive Adobe Fonts library using the width and weight filters. An intimate, soft colour palette keeps your designs from looking “retro” and brings them up to date.

Find more inspiration in our Art Deco Updates Collection.

Modern Gothic

Adobe Stock: Social Media Posts Set with Glitch Background_ by Wavebreak Media, Abstract Dark Poster Layout with Colorful Neon Accents by_ blackcatstudio, Pattern, ornament in the Gothic style_ by_ ae, Black skull 3D rendering by Deniss, Futuristic Neon Social Media Grid Layout_ by_ Wavebreak Media

Adobe Fonts: Leather Light_ by_ Canada Type, Metalissa Black_ by_ Suitcase Type Foundry_, _Alexander Quill Regular by Canada Type

The combination of futuristic materials, moody lighting, and striking typography makes this visual approach feel simultaneously old-school and visionary. Artists are creating interesting dichotomies between analogue and digital elements, whether it’s references to graphics from the early days of the internet or cassette tape mock-ups with sci-fi designs. Darker palettes mixed with acidic colour treatments make this trend feel theatrical, exciting, and special.

This blend of throwback and future-facing aesthetics is in some ways a logical product of our technologically enabled, information-rich times. With services and platforms like Spotify and YouTube, it takes only moments for younger generations to dig into the vast digital archive and unearth the edgiest or most popular music, films, and pop culture imagery of decades past. What once required dozens of trips to used record stores or libraries to find may now be revealed with a few clicks.

As an important strand of this trend, Cyberpunk design influences are coming to the foreground in the increasing use of glitch elements, plastic textures, and iconography circa 1995. This speculative fiction genre, comprised of a mélange of film noir and cynicism in a high-tech future, was first popular in the 1980s and 90s, with notable now-classic books like Neuromancer (by a father of the genre, William Gibson), and mainstream hit films like Blade Runner (1982) and Hackers (1995), and influential anime like Ghost in the Shell (1995).

1995 was a significant year in technology, bringing the launch of Amazon.com, eBay, Craigslist, JavaScript, not to mention the release of Windows 95 and the first DVD. While much of the modern internet was just getting started, the mid-90s were marked by a widespread, hopeful utopianism as many people considered the potential positive impacts of new technologies on our lives, the promise of democratisation of information, which many hoped would bring greater empathy and educational improvements for all. By contrast, cyberpunk fascinated by drawing attention to the frightening possible dark side of the tech revolution.

“When we were young,” recalls Berglund, “we had a particular aesthetic when we envisioned the future. Now that generation of the 70s and 80s has grown up and we’re revisiting that. In our youth, ‘futuristic’ meant new space stations, new technology, going to Mars. Today, TV shows like Black Mirror let you reimagine the setting closer to home…and it can get creepy! Pop culture like this explores the darker, near-future implications of the technology we’re now living with every day.”

Try it out:

To bring the Modern Gothic aesthetic to your work, consider unexpected ways to play with dark and dramatic design. For example, practice working with smoke, shadows, and grunge effects in Photoshop. These effects can add depth and grit to your creative concepts. Add glitch or neon textures for a cyberpunk feel.

To get a little more gothic, incorporate medieval or 3D assets with metallic objects and still life. Try the creative type features in Illustrator to craft daring typography on which to build your designs.

Find more inspiration in our Modern Gothic Collection.

If you’re working with these trends, we can’t wait to see. Share how you’re adding your spin on the trends with #AdobeDesign_ on social media. If you’re interested in becoming an Adobe Stock artist, sign up and take a look at the different guidelines for our range of asset types._