2019 Trend Forecast (First Quarter)

Yes, that’s right, we are now in the business of predicting the future! Well, we are “futures” after all…

A new focus on material

As one of your resident sustainability nerds at Brunel, I am delighted to say that environmentalism is still leading new design. You are probably more than aware of the Plastic Free movement which has gathered a lot of momentum into the new year, and it is predicted that this will only pick up even more as more people become conscious consumers.

There is a development of a lot of new organic materials including various bio-plastics, but one of the most extraordinary is a mushroom substance called mycelium. It’s definitely worth giving a research as it is being used more and more in a growing variety of ways, so be prepared to see this material a lot more!

Eco and sustainable materials have spawned a sort of ‘cult following’, and sustainability has become its own brand that people are buying into. Because of this, we see products that are proud of their sustainability. Speckled and ‘imperfect’ materials that look natural or recycled are being used more now. Key examples are recycled plastics that have grain or marbling to their texture.

Material is being celebrated in fashion and aesthetic design, with many products choosing not to hide the material that they are made from beneath a layer of paint. There is a growing approach of ‘form follows material’.

More global design styles

Thanks in large part to the inclusion of minorities within popular culture, there has been a boom in the variety of global design influences hitting the mainstream.

Funnily enough, it could probably be said that Hollywood was responsible for the Afro-Modernism we are starting to see in design (most notably in pattern design). It might be said that it was the intricate costume design used in Marvel’s Black Panther movie that helped give African design the recognition and appreciation it deserves.

There is also an emergence of Asian design within the mainstream, with attention towards Japanese and Korean design influencers.

A new style of ‘Scandi-Boho’, or Scandinavian Bohemian design has been born. A child of Scandinavian Modernism and the new trend of Maximalism, this trend (that I suspect might be short-lived) combines the simplicity and friendliness of the North with the retaliation to minimalism. Fortunately the result is closer to being Scandi than Boho.

It is expected that throughout the year we will be seeing more and more culturally inspired design as a consequence of the population’s increased pride in their ethnicity, roots, and traditions, in retaliation to political oppression. This year we may get the chance to see how design can give people a voice.

Bygone eras

2016 seemed very 60’s, 2017 was more 70’s, and 2018 became quite 1980’s… could there be a pattern here? We’ll have to see how this timeline progresses, but at least for the start of 2019 we will see a lot of 80’s motifs. It seems like there might be a growing interest with 80’s digital graphics in particular.

Intriguingly, Art Deco is making a ‘sort-of’ comeback with very subtle 1920’s motifs cropping up in high end and luxury design. Blink and you’ll miss it though, as the definitions of quality and luxury are about to get turned on their heads.

Although it won’t be leading the aesthetic design of 2019, the 1950’s attitudes of space-age optimism and dreams of the future will return. We are seeing this from companies like Tesla, Virgin, and Boeing, all with their eyes on the distant horizon, and we’re excited. We can only imagine what an alternative future will hold in store. Consequently, a lot of design produced this year will look very conceptual and ahead of it’s time, but it might be just around the corner…

Design movements are changing faster and faster with every changing year. For every new style we see a counter style follow shortly after. Design used to be distinguishable by decade but with the media of today and the platforms design has, these decades could easily become years, or maybe even months! Only time will tell.

Alternative technology

Every year technology gets smarter and another leap closer to being intelligent. Because of this, I haven’t a clue what kind of technology we will see by 2020, but it is definitely evident that technology is becoming more human centered. Major corporations such as Google and Amazon are looking into new ways we can interact with services and are designing the hardware to match the software.

In the past electronic and digital ‘hardware’ has earned a bad name for itself, often being harsh, complex, and not particularly friendly or inviting to use. Now, busy displays are being stripped back for more tangible feedback, and the materials used for electricals are being turned on their heads. Why can’t our products be softer and more colourful? Why not use fabric textures? At the moment it is a bit experimental still, but we’ll see if it takes off.

After the big data controversies of 2018 there has been a focus placed on transparency; we want to know what is happening and how data is being used. This could easily spill into the physical design world, as people want to know how their self-driving cars work, whether their phones are filming them, or how to repair our technology. Even in the words of the great Dieter Rams, “Good design … makes a product understandable. Good Design … is honest”.

Bold, beautiful, colours

This year is all about yellow; poetically a colour of hope, but I’m not sure that has too much to do with its increased popularity. In the past yellows are held back as weak colours, but in 2019 they will take front and center stage. This year is all about standing out. This will also be reflected in the bold colour contrasts and clashes that will be used.

The popular colours of 2019 will be the colours that have been under used in the past, such as pinks and oranges, and people will use these colours to mark themselves as different. The warmth of these colours also says something about personality; gone are the days of cold blues and emotionless whites.

Over the past couple of years we have seen a LOT of terracotta used in interior design, so surely it has to be on its way out soon? Interior design will be using less earthy or mute colours in favour of bright colours. Colour will be used without constraint in order to fight back against whitewashed and monotone aesthetics as people are interested in buying product that have personality and that reflect the users identity.

Combining the geometric with the organic

New and exciting forms are harder to design as it starts to feel like everything has been done before. In the battle to be different, 2019 is likely to bear witness to forms that have been warped and altered to weird extremes.

Simple shapes will be made to look chunky and alien. Much of the inspiration for the new geometries will come from patterns and forms found in nature that have been made abstract and obscure.

Modernist tubing will be used, extruded and bent into flowing shapes. Sharp edges will be few and far between, as curves and radial edges are more true to the friendly values of 2019. Be prepared for the absurdly bulbous, and embrace chunkiness.


As many of the designers at Brunel University studying for Contextual Design will know, mental and physical wellbeing is one of the greatest challenges of this generation.

In the past year there has been a sharp increase in the number of people who have changed their diets to vegetarianism and veganism, more people are meditating, and mental health is being discussed constantly socially and on the media. With a growth in awareness and validation of such health issues, more solutions have been proposed to deal with these. Even the universal symbol for ‘disabled’ is being re-designed! People want to be able to track their own health, and adapt their lifestyle with minimal effort.

It is not only personal wellbeing that is being considered, but animal welfare, environmental footprint, and ethicality too. Users and consumers appear to have become more compassionate than in recent years previously (hence the new nickname; the snowflake generation) mainly as a result of countless scientists hammering the messages home about human impact on the environment, and national treasures like Sir David Attenborough creating documentaries that submerse us in the lives of the animals. And perhaps even POTUS Donald Trump is responsible for getting people talking about ethicality? Either way, it looks like 2019 is going to be a kind year.

New, and a bit weird…

Finally, we come to the weird emerging trends that will either define the year, or will be rejected before April. It’s a matter of taste. Perhaps we’re just not ready for them yet?

Maximalsim is supposed to establish itself this year as a counter style to minimalism. It is defined by its busyness and variety, it’s complex detailing, and intriguing use of imagery. It is supposed to reflect decadence, but I feel this may easily get confused with clutter. Give it a Google and see what you think.

Another odd trend is going to be the use of foam as a material. Most of the time this material is hidden beneath fabric, but designers are rediscovering the beauty foam can have when it is on full display.


In summary, this year is about standing out and being proud. We want the designs we surround ourselves to reflect our personality; design needs to be as friendly as the people who use it.

Check back with us in another couple of months to see if we got it right, and to see our next updated forecast!