It's never a great idea to blindly follow trends, but it's good to know what they are. It's kind of similar to the old maxim that 'you have to know the rules to break the rules'.
But in fractured and disjointed world, working out what the latest visual design trends actually are can be difficult. A trend might be big in Europe but absent in North America; yet with more demand for designs that appeal across international boundaries, how do you get a handle on what will work?
Well one way is to analyse the raw data. Image library Shutterstock is in a good position to do just that - and so for its third annual global design trends infographic it extracted details of over 350 million downloads and found some revealing patterns. You can view the infographic in full here while some of the main trends are summarised below:
Flat design elements are replacing skeuomorphism. Led by changes in app and software design, downloads of flat design elements increased by 200 per cent over the past year. Instagram-esque images were a big theme in 2013. With the popularity of retro cameras and mobile apps, searches for filtered images soared 661 per cent in 2013, and the trend shows no signs of abating.
Image search terms with the largest year-on-year growth include "3D printing" and "BYOD" ("bring your own device"), with each rising 625 per cent, 583 per cent and 407 per cent respectively.
Video is an increasingly popular medium for visual storytellers and access to new image-capture technology such as 4K is growing. Popular video content topics include education, 3D renderings, transportation and cityscapes. People and other subject in real-life, authentic settings are increasingly in demand, up 347%. This growing trend represents a desire for stronger emotional connections in design.