Unpacking The Future of Brands: The Dieline's 2018 Trend Report
When it comes to Brands in 2018, we want it all.
Our brands are an extension of our identity. The products we buy today are more than just products, they represent who we are and the values we hold to be true. And when we purchase our values, the brand's packaging plays the role of reflecting those values back to us from the shelves. When it comes to wellness, we want everyday products to look and feel healthy and wholesome. For luxury goods, we want the quality of the product to extend to the quality of the packaging. We gravitate towards nostalgic products that evoke an analog and old-school feel, yet are still modern enough to remain timeless. We want brands that don’t even look like brands as we know them in a traditional sense, with logos and defining marks becoming secondary to the artwork or messages that define the brand.
With so much choice on the market today, our expectations for exceptional products and packaging have become more refined, and brands are racing to keep up.
Here’s what the future of branding and packaging has in store for us in 2018.
Neutral Is the New Luxury
Luxury is no longer defined by excess and exclusivity, but by openness and neutrality. There’s a sophisticated restraint to the brands in this category, with plenty of negative space surrounding delicate serif and sans-serif logotypes, offset by uninterrupted color palettes of warm earth tones and soft pastels. There’s also a little ornament appearing on these minimalist designs, and the gender-neutral identities for many fragrance and skincare lines lets brands avoid being defined as “made for men” or “made for women” and are rather unisex in their function and appeal.
Analog Is the New Vintage
It's new. It's old. It’s here to stay.
Vintage has been a long-running and highly effective design trend. For 2018, the new vintage is analog. Consumers crave an offline experience, so vintage design has started to evolve into analog. It no longer references a certain era or time period but looks specifically offline, non-digital, and IRL. Sign-painting techniques also dominate the analog trend, with slab serif and script fonts referencing subtle, hand-painted imperfections in their lines.
The Package Becomes the Canvas
We’ve noticed a big shift in branding on packaging, to the point that it has become secondary. The package is seen as a canvas for art and design itself, and the product and the brand become the second player.
Nature goes Next Level
With the increase in bringing the outdoors in, and a continued yearning for the real world and offline experiences, the images and icons from the natural world have become synonymous with organic products. We are seeing a shift of style that is less realistic and more illustrative that takes nature to the next level.
Cannabis Gets Chic
According to Forbes, “North American marijuana sales grew by an unprecedented 30 percent in 2016 to $6.7 billion as the legal market expands in the U.S. and Canada [and] sales are projected to top $20.2 billion by 2021.” With the expansion of legalized Marijuana in many states, cannabis products are becoming mainstream.
Brand Collaborations Hit Overdrive
Last year, Google found that fashion labels were embracing pop culture through cross-collaborations ranked higher in search results than their solo counterparts. But Supreme and Louis Vuitton joining forces was just the beginning. Brands are starting to see the benefit of smart collaborations that bring together two, often unexpected brands to give core fans amazing brand experiences.
Sustainable goes Mainstream
We live in a world where the ocean is not just filled with marine life, but human-created hazards like the Pacific trash vortex, an area of floating plastic garbage the size of Texas. As consumers are becoming more aware of the environmental cost of modern conveniences like one-time use packaging, 2018 will be the year that sustainability goes mainstream.
Gen Z Yellow Overtakes Millennial Pink
If Millennial Pink was the “It color” for 2017, a younger, fresher hue, known as Gen Z Yellow, has suddenly stolen the spotlight for 2018. Ranging in shades from fluorescent to canary, Gen Z Yellow is showing up in fashion as well as a variety of consumer brands aimed at the maturing demographic from which the color’s name is derived.
Retail Spaces Become Brand Experience Spaces
As social interaction diminishes, smart brands will reinvent their spaces for people to connect, interact, and discover the brand versus just shopping the branding online. We will see the rise of Insta-Ready retail designs, perfectly curated for that gram. Limited time pop-up stores will emerge as interactive experiences change the way the retail world operates as big chains like Macy’s and Sears continue to downsize.
E-Commerce Packaging Becomes Experimental
There has been a large uptick in e-commerce. The overall percentage of E-commerce retail sales are perhaps surprisingly small— 9 percent of sales in the US and 17 percent in the UK— but with sustained growth. If brands don’t have E-commerce optimized packaging, they are missing a huge opportunity.
Brands Become Hyper-Personalized
Consumers aren’t just piles of data, and brands know that shoppers want to forge personal connections with the products they use every day. In order to do that, they need to curate an experience for every shopper. Consumer demand for personalization is on the rise, and the use of big data is enabling brands to go hyper-personalized.
Brands Go Hi-Tech
With the Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) market slated to reach 108 billion by 2021, it’s clear the entertainment industry is already saturated, and the design world isn’t far behind with embracing the trend. Gone are the days when the brands relied on simple QR codes to create interactive packaging elements. Now everyday items from wine labels to paint cans are transforming into immersive storytelling devices through VR and AR, creating a new precedent for high tech brand engagement.
Many of the trends we saw develop in 2017 and into 2018 were largely based on the buying power of Millennials and how brands are responding to their shifting values. Now more than ever, the things people buy are microcosms of larger cultural trends, like the popularity of unisex or neutral packaging and products indicating a more inclusive, and less binary understanding of gender and sexuality. Or animated wine labels that, activated by our phones, show our embrace of emerging technologies like VR and AR.
Consumers, especially those in the 18-34 age bracket, are now demanding higher standards of design, especially when it comes to issues pertaining to the environment and sustainability. They are forcing the market to adapt to a better way of doing business, and that’s something we hope isn’t just a trend, but a lasting shift in the packaging industry.