QR codes have now become a part of our daily lives. I feel like I’m personally “checking in” every other moment I leave the house.
The win from this: everyone now knows how to scan and use and QR code. QR codes have been around for many years, and we’ve had clients use them occasionally, but nothing consistent. They are great for using on a poster or brochure to direct people to more information, especially if it’s to go to a webpage with a long URL that would otherwise need to be typed. We’ve also seen them used to direct people to book tickets for events. But they suffered a low uptake, as many people didn’t know how to use a QR code so they just sat on printed material with little purpose.
Then the pandemic hit us, and QR codes became all the rage – but with a new purpose: checking into shops, venues and other public spaces. Using QR codes was thrust upon everyone, of all ages, in a short matter of time. So we learnt how to use them quickly, which you would think now means businesses can benefit from them now…
Instead, we’ve seen new issues arise: data collection and privacy. Where QR codes were previously used to help direct a consumer to more information, now the fear held by an increasing amount of people is by using a QR code, their privacy will be breached. There is a consistent link in our daily lives to QR codes collecting data about us thanks to checking in, so this hangs in our minds each time we use a QR code – even if that’s not the intent by the business.
It’s been a really strange to watch the boom of an accessible technology, only to see it backfire in a lack of trust.
While the pandemic continues to ebb and flow, we are often confronted with a strangely sensitive topic: what is allowed in a photo at a single point in time?
We never had to worry about the position of people in photos before this. We never imagined we would have to consider if people are standing too close together, or if they should be seen wearing masks, or if they should be indoors or outdoors. The difficult part is that this seems to change every few months, too. Sometimes, we’re back to “living” mostly old-familiar lives again – but then we’re not soon after.
We have seen the awkwardness of clients wanting to normalise the use of masks in photos, then others who want to keep their visuals looking “pre-pandemic”. Times like showing a photo of a large crowd huddled together when we are told we should be social distancing – what do we do? For most of our clients, they haven’t been able to get new photos taken because of lockdowns, but the photos from past years don’t feel relevant at this current time. We don’t know the answers here, but it’s something we face in every project that uses photography at the moment.
For future historical purposes, embracing the COVID restrictions in photos isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but it’s something we’re not used to (yet). Whether we ever will get used to it, only time will tell. Whether it changes how we present businesses in photos going into the future, we are keen to see.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a renewed interest in publication design. There was a time where many reports and publications were beautifully designed and printed to be “forever” books.
Then we saw a switch to online, and discomfort around printing. We started to see businesses show real concern about the environmental footprint their printing was having. With less interest in printing their reports, there was less interest in getting them professionally designed too. It seemed like there wasn’t much point if they weren’t printed.
This lead to a lot of reports being shared online just as basic Word documents, or a quick description on their websites. But as often happens – things evolve and interest in getting reports designed professionally started to pick up again. We’re now seeing small print runs of reports and publications, and then those same reports and publications readily available for download online.
There’s been a move towards making the information easier to understand and relate to (which let’s face it, in annual reports is usually quite dry and corporate). The use of action photos, friendly infographics and personalised stories in these publications has been a big shift from tables of finances and a page of neat headshots of the board.
Annual reports are showing the personality of the businesses they are for now, and it’s been really exciting to be a part of this change.
Kochie released an article earlier this year about design trends in 2019. Now we’re halfway through the year, are those trends mentioned actually a thing?
3D text and images
We’ve seen a bit of interest in dynamic text over the past year, mostly for trendy/youth-targeted events. The suggestion in the article that 3D text can give a futuristic look can be misleading – it *can*, but if a retro font is chosen, you can be taking yourself back to the 1980s(!) – suitable in the right context, but it has to be thought out.
Flat images still seem to be preferred or more common, especially when it comes to icons. While there’s a place for design that jumps out from the page, we are still seeing clients prefer minimalist design.
Serif fonts are definitely starting to reappear again. There has been a long time of sans serif fonts being the “one and only” – they look neat but can be bland. However, we always recommend to clients not to look at what the trend is in serif vs sans serif, but instead, what fonts match their business best.
We find it interesting that Kochie suggests that Art Deco is making a comeback, to replace the handstyled/rustic imagery that’s very popular at the moment. Why interesting? It was back around 2011-2014 that Art Deco was making a noticeable comeback (which coincided with the movie The Great Gatsby). We do believe that the rustic styling will slowly change to different styling, but don’t think it will be as stark of a change as rustic to Art Deco!
Mid Century modern
This is one trend that is definitely around. Think 1950s and 1960s patterns and minimal (yet bold) colours. We often see it but not shouting the era it comes from – but more of a nod to the style in a modern way. The use of large, bold shapes and block colours is a great way of making marketing material stand out.
Isometric images come and go – icons look fantastic in isometric, but they have a very unique feel to them, so are not always appropriate. For example, isometric images compete for attention against detailed photography. Isometric images can stand out on their own, in the right space. We have seen a few businesses use isometric images this year (similar to the 3D trend), but not in huge numbers. Not yet, anyway.
Maybe all of this will change by the end of the year? We will have to watch, wait and see!
The following image was created by Highsnobiety on Instagram, and it highlights a rather boring trend that I’ve seen referred to as blanding. And I hate to say it, but I agree.
All of the above brands started with character. Put them all together, and they stand out from each other. Each logo is unique. Each logo has a different feeling, a different style.
Then we look across to the second row, showing the logos as of today. They are almost identical. They all feel the same, as if they have all gone to a default font. And yes, while they are all “on trend”, that doesn’t make for a good brand long-term. Why be the same as everyone else?
What I want you to take away from this: when you are thinking about your own branding, don’t be shy to be unique. Don’t be shy to stand out. You don’t have to follow the crowd. Don’t be bland!
Start with what your business provides, and build a personality for your business (happy, professional, casual, commercial, clinical, friendly, serious, motivating, etc). Let this guide the look of your business image, not what the current fashion is. Fashion is temporary; make your business (and its logo) permanent.
Want your business stationery to be a little more fancy? There’s a lot of paper options out there, but you can also have extra touches, like spot UV (glossy finish), letterpress (embossing) or foil detail.
We’ve had a lot of requests for foil and glitter lately, and it’s been super fun. I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving glitter and shiny things. A lot of people seem to think foil is limited to gold and silver – but we’ve got over 20 colours of foil and glitter to choose from that we can add to print orders. There’s even black for a really subtle but classy look.
These finishes can be added to business cards, letterheads, stickers, packaging, brochures, swing tags and more. We can also add a bit of glam to signage for your shop, market stall or vehicle in the same way. Sparkle and shine everywhere!
Forms come in all kinds of formats and sizes. It’s one of those things we all take for granted – we don’t really pay attention to a form until it doesn’t work. If it’s difficult to understand or complete, it becomes bothersome.
The technology available to use for forms is improving in leaps and bounds. While we used to be tied to paper forms, a lot can be done via computer now. We are regularly converting forms from paper to interactive PDF or online.
The “in-between” option from paper to online is PDF format. This gives people the flexibility of printing out the form, or completing it on their computer. In PDFs (when set up correctly), form fields can be made interactive, where they can be typed into on-screen. Buttons can even be placed in the PDF to save, print or email the completed form.
The downside to interactive PDF forms is that not all programs that open PDFs support the interactive fields. At this stage, they seem to work best in Adobe Acrobat. Opening PDFs in browsers is possible, but completing the form fields is not always an available option (such as in Microsoft Edge). We’re hoping that the support of interactive PDFs will become more common.
I personally think the biggest reason for the demand in converting to online is that payment can be completed within the form. There’s no need for someone to post a form and attach a cheque, or hope their direct deposit arrives some time after their form. Payments and form entries are easier to reconcile when they are completed together.
Online forms can use a feature called conditional logic, which is really handy for complex forms. Instead of having a paper form that tells you to skip pages depending on your circumstances, the online form does the “skipping” for the user. They won’t see all of the extra fields they didn’t need to complete – they are only shown the fields relevant to them. So what looks like a daunting form on paper can feel very straightforward when using conditional logic.
The forms can include the option to upload files, which would normally need to be sent separately.
Online forms are also easy to export data from. The details can be placed into a spreadsheet, making it easy to import the data into other programs. And no need to manually type out each entry.
I think that online forms will eventually be the only type of forms we will use in everyday life, but we’re not quite there…not just yet.
QR codes. We’ve been getting a lot of people asking us about them: what they do, how they work and why they should (or shouldn’t) be used.
There seems to be a trend happening of clients wanting to use QR codes, but often not knowing what they are actually used for – mostly just wanting to use them because they’ve seen them used recently on advertising and in the media, and think it’s time to jump on the bandwagon.
The thing is, QR codes are really just what they look like: a barcode. The beauty of QR codes is that you can link them to great amounts of information and call-to-actions (eg. purchasing tickets, downloading a voucher), but the failure is that most are under-utilised. QR codes are often found just linking back to a main website, or if they do something more detailed, there are no instructions or enticement to actually scan them. A simple sentence such as “Scan here for more product information:” could make all the difference. Consumers aren’t mind-readers and won’t necessarily scan something that they don’t know what it will provide them.
Accessibility is another issue. To scan a QR code, the consumer needs to find and download an app to scan it, and hope that the scanner can read the QR code (some are better than others). In a survey of college students in 2012, only 21.5% of respondents had success scanning a QR code – the negative responses were that it took too long, tried and gave up, thought taking a photo of the QR code would scan it, and others didn’t want to download the app. I would expect this success rate to change if/when smartphones begin to have QR code readers built in by default…however I’m not sure when that will be.
For those who have access to a QR code reader, only 18.8% show interest in potentially scanning a QR code they see (reference: 2012 QR Code Statistics). When you start to crunch the numbers, this begins to be a very small market of people.
Some tips when using a QR code:
- Make sure your main offering for your consumers is visible and not hidden within a QR code.
- Use them to provide further information or a special offer for the curious consumer.
- Make sure you state what the QR code is there for.
QR codes can be a fantastic tool – just be aware of their limitations and use them wisely.
Each year, Pantone publish colour trends, including a “Colour of the Year”. Tangerine Tango was chosen for 2012.
Here are the colours chosen from previous years; the “Colour of the Year” began back in 2000.
Can you see any trends, or remember these colours being particularly popular in their chosen year?