The evolution of design from 2010 to 2020: Looking back at a decade of design – 99designs

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The evolution of design from 2010 to 2020: Looking back at a decade of design – 99designs

The previous ten years have been a roller-coaster experience within the design world. With a brand new decade of design on the horizon, we’re going that will help you take an extended look again on the evolution of graphic design from 2010 to 2020.

An eventful decade in design

It’s New 12 months’s Eve 2009, and also you’re a designer welcoming a model new decade in graphic design. You end up making loud predictions about what the 2010s will ship (you’ve additionally had a good quantity of champagne).

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retrospective: a decade of design 2010 to 2020
How did design evolve over the course of the previous decade? Let’s have a look. Illustration by Vladanland.

This costly smartphone fad, you declare, won’t ever final. As an alternative, you expect that bodily gadgets will disappear altogether, and everybody will probably be designing on holographic screens. Typography gained’t matter with Binary because the language of the land. And design colleges will develop into irrelevant as individuals will obtain data Matrix-style immediately into their brains.

Now 10 years older, you may’t consider that particular person was you—who even does that at a celebration? Whereas most of your predictions missed the mark, the 2010s had been no much less an eventful decade in graphic design. It may not have been as dramatically futuristic as you imagined, however the decade revolutionized the trendy designer’s relationship with know-how in some ways.

How design wants modified within the 2010s —

Expertise adjustments over each decade, however within the 2010s, the digital sphere went via a speedy progress spurt, testing designers’ capacity to adapt like by no means earlier than. The next are a number of notable tech developments that had an influence on graphic design.


If you assume “quickly altering know-how,” smartphones come first to thoughts, particularly given how typically we’re anticipated to replace our gadgets. For designers, the appearance of the smartphone meant an entire host of latest, smaller areas to design for in addition to new design classes and careers.

Abstract flat illustration of a smartphone
by Natalia Spivak

Though the iPhone was first unveiled in 2007, its Android opponents confirmed up in 2010, solidifying the smartphone’s place out there and in our pockets. All through the 2010s, these gadgets solely elevated in utilization, with the introduction of 4G in 2012 making cell websurfing sooner and extra accessible. By 2016, cell utilization had formally surpassed desktop utilization.

Smartphones and the deluge of apps that adopted launched a brand new frontier for visible design, making app designers and responsive net designs important world wide. Not solely that, the truth that the commonest design individuals interacted with within the 2010s might match within the palm of their hand meant that designers needed to give attention to straightforward readability and sparse interfaces, paving the way in which for minimalist traits.

Propaganda style flat illustration of a woman holding a tablet
by sweetkina

Tablets & e-readers

Holding forward of its opponents, Apple launched the iPad in 2010—yet one more display screen designers needed to take note of with responsive net design. And with every part else on this decade going digital, it was solely a matter of time earlier than books succumbed to the thrall of the Data Age.

Though Kindle and its Kindle Direct Publishing program (which opened the floodgates of self-publishing) launched within the earlier decade, Amazon reported that e-book gross sales had overtaken bodily ebook gross sales for the primary time in 2010. The recognition of ebooks modified the strategy to ebook cowl design, typically necessitating a digital and bodily model. This led to traits in massive typography and simplified photographs in order that the duvet design can be simply understood when seen as a tiny thumbnail.


When VR & AR (digital and augmented actuality) emerged within the 2010s, the world seemed to graphic designers to assist them navigate this new immersive tech.

Illustration of a man using AR glasses to shop

In 2014, Google Glass used AR know-how to combine app designs into our on a regular basis world, although the hefty price ticket led to its discontinuation. In the midst of the last decade, Snapchat pioneered selfie lenses and face filters, with Instagram following go well with in 2016 with its adoption of tales. Although it’s straightforward to dismiss these as mere social media amusements, they made AR accessible to most of the people, combining graphic design, animation and images in actual time alongside the way in which.

Logo design showing a cartoon man wearing a VR headset

In the mean time, VR is way more closely relegated to the gaming world, however the introduction of Google Cardboard in 2014 created an area for VR app designs. The discharge of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive in 2016 made desktop VR a actuality, opening the door for VR net designs, and in 2019, the Oculus Quest launched as the primary wi-fi VR headset. If VR continues its momentum, we’re taking a look at a revolution in UX traits as designers try to information customers via the intersection of know-how and actuality.

Do you know: Download Adobe Photoshop CC 2021 Offline Installer for Windows | Photoshop Services

Relying on whom you ask, these developments are both the longer term or flash-in-the-pan fads. We’ll have to attend one other decade to see, but when it does prove that VR & AR had been a 2010s solely expertise, it simply goes to point out how experimental and unusual this decade was.

How graphic design instruments advanced over the last decade —

With digital areas rising at an exponential fee within the 2010s, designers discovered their workload on the rise, and their toolbox needed to endure some upgrades itself to maintain up. Let’s have a look at the ways in which the instruments of graphic design reworked over the 2010s.

Graphic design software program

Cartoon style illustration of a graphic designer using digital and analogue tools
by velcheva

For some time, the phrases “skilled design software program” and “Adobe” had been virtually synonymous, and within the 2010s, Adobe took steps to solidify its maintain on {the marketplace}. In 2011, Adobe reinvented its enterprise mannequin with the introduction of the Artistic Cloud.

As an alternative of a single buy software program, this gave customers entry to all of its merchandise for a subscription charge, making updates accessible on demand and emphasizing integration between merchandise alongside the way in which. Many designers had been none too pleased, and to belay these considerations and justify subscriptions charges, Adobe promised to replace its functions with extra frequency than ever earlier than. Notable enhancements over the last decade embrace:

  • Content material Consciousness options in Photoshop (2012)
  • Dwell Corners in Illustrator (2014)
  • Perspective Warp and Linked Good Objects in Photoshop (2014)
  • Dwell Shapes in Illustrator (2015)
  • A number of layer types in Photoshop (2015)
  • Curvature instrument in Illustrator (2017)
A screenshot of the Affinity Designer software interface
by way of Serif
Screenshots of the Procreate tablet software interface
by way of Procreate

This decade additionally witnessed a lot of opponents rise as much as unseat Adobe, reaching unprecedented success and recognition. In 2014, Serif launched Affinity Designer as a direct problem to Adobe’s subscription mannequin, providing a one-time low value charge. Procreate (2011), in the meantime, staked its declare on the pill market, remodeling iPads into transportable digital drawing pads. All in all, the 2010s spoiled designers with software program alternative and new options, and most significantly, it made design functions extra reasonably priced and widespread than ever earlier than.

Prototyping instruments

To maintain up with the differing sizes and lots of product pages dictated by evolving display screen know-how, design prototyping needed to cowl a whole lot of floor shortly. Quite a few new prototyping apps got here to the rescue, together with Sketch in 2010, Invision in 2011, and Adobe XD a lot later in 2017.

An animation showing the Sketch prototyping tool in action
by way of Sketch

These apps have drag-and-drop interfaces, simplified canvases, and animation performance that make it potential to showcase and check prototypes in rapid-fire. They should have been doing one thing proper, contemplating their reputation went past prototyping to many designers favoring Sketch for net design over grandaddy Photoshop.

How the graphic design business went digital within the 2010s —

As we’ve seen, designers aren’t any strangers to tech, however within the 2010s, they beautiful a lot deserted the analogue airplane altogether. Between portfolio websites, freelancer platforms and on-line studying, this decade noticed many graphic designers transfer their studios up into the cloud.

Abstract illustrated representation of online learning
by Zarina Gafarova

Graphic design self-education

The web made all types of knowledge instantly accessible, and graphic design training was no exception. However this decade specifically noticed on-line studying develop into more and more commonplace amongst everybody from business veterans to finish learners.

Many conventional colleges, together with MIT and Harvard, moved their courses on-line with edX in 2012 and coursera in 2011. In the meantime, totally new digital areas emerged devoted to DIY studying, corresponding to udemy in 2010, Skillshare and Normal Meeting in 2011. All of this made design training extra accessible than ever earlier than and the expertise pool extra numerous than ever earlier than.

On-line freelancing

Although the social media revolution had already kicked off within the earlier decade, it ramped up within the 2010s, largely in designers’ favor. Instagram kicked off in 2010, popularizing image-centric social media, and its person base had soared to 80 million by the point it was acquired by Fb the following 12 months.

A screenshot of a graphic designer’s Instagram page
telinunu’s Instagram

>>Discover extra designers to observe on Instagram

Additionally in 2010, Dribbble grew to become publicly accessible, and its invite-only strategy allowed extra skilled designers to separate themselves from the plenty. Behance surged in reputation as effectively, a lot in order that it was ultimately acquired by Adobe in 2012.

Within the meantime, not solely did designer’s portfolios transfer on-line however their workspaces did as effectively. Our very personal 99designs launched 1-to-1 Initiatives to create a strong workspace with safe funds and versatile invoicing. All in all, within the 2010s, there was no scarcity of how for designers to market themselves and no scarcity of competitors.

How design traits modified over the last decade —

Do you know: Using F and Z patterns to create visual hierarchy in landing page designs – 99designs

Sooner or later, when somebody says, “What had been we pondering? That design is sooo 2010s!”— what is going to they imply? It will likely be years earlier than the last decade is distant sufficient that we are able to outline its model, however for now right here’s our greatest guesses for visible types that dominated the 2010s.

Flat design

One of many decade’s greatest graphic design traits, flat design, was born out of a must make digital apps clear and accessible.

A screenshot of Windows 8’s flat menu design
by way of Microsoft

In 2012, Home windows 8 launched with a flat interface and Apple’s iOS 7 adopted the following 12 months, ditching skeuomorphism in favor of a flat aesthetic, and this solidified the development in our on a regular basis digital lives. These days, it’s arduous to not open an internet web page (or a brochure or {a magazine}) with out being greeted by flat colours, minimal vectors and geometric sans serif fonts.

Animated and interactive branding

Branding was extra versatile than ever earlier than within the 2010s. Not solely had been there many extra areas for logos to inhabit, however the truth that these areas had been digital meant the sky was the restrict as to what the emblem might do. Therefore, a wave of animated and interactive logos ensued.

Spotify’s 12 months In Music marketing campaign (beginning in 2017) in the meantime, took benefit of stay person knowledge and profiles to create shareable branded imagery, and contributed to the long-lasting traits of duotones, shade transitions and picture filters within the course of.


With each new startup on the block claiming to be an business disruptor (and a very good variety of these claims proving to be true), the 2010s had been a time of upheaval and alter. Even well-established manufacturers capitalized on this revolutionary spirit, leading to a decade that noticed extra new manufacturers, rebrands and rerebrands than anybody thought potential.

A brand image of Airbnb’s rebrand and logo meaning
by way of airbnb

Startups had been the commonest—and most iterative—practitioners of the rebrand. Many had began up with a rush-job emblem, and their sudden reputation necessitated a extra strategic second move. AirBnB’s rebrand in 2014 emphasised a subtly ambiguous logomark, OkCupid acquired cozy with a bunch of loveable illustrations in 2017, and even Google acquired within the recreation in 2015 with an animated logotype. Uber appreciated the rebrand course of a lot they did it twice, beginning with a pair of polarizing icons in 2016 and course-correcting with a simplified wordmark in 2018.

This decade additionally noticed long-established corporations obtain lengthy overdue updates. The Premier League pounced onto 2016 with a brand new mascot and Burberry rebranded for the primary time in 20 years with a cartoonish monogram.

Most rebrands targeted on simplification, reinforcing the visible tone of the last decade with flat design and geometric sans serif fonts. In the meantime, Instagram’s rebrand repopularized gradients in 2016.

As these simplified rebrands got here to embody the 2010s, we are able to solely ponder whether the 20s will see reverse traits reacting. If MasterCard’s anonymous emblem in 2019 is any indication, aesthetic tendencies may be headed even additional towards the minimalist path within the 20s.

The 2010-2020 decade in graphic design: that’s a wrap! —

So there you’ve gotten it: every part that occurred within the 2010s because it pertains to graphic design contained in a single weblog article. There’s not an opportunity something was disregarded as a consequence of size constraints or this writer’s forgetfulness, so we are able to all transfer on and stay up for the 20s.

>> Try the latest graphic design traits, emblem design traits and net design traits right here

After all, when you occur to consider one or two different occasions of the last decade, tell us within the feedback under.

What’s going to you bear in mind most in regards to the 2010s?

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