Not all design trends are built alike. While some fizzle and fade, others strike with such force, though, that they touch multiple industries and have a lasting effect on designers and consumers alike. This is why Shutterstock publishes an annual Creative Trends Infographic – to identify the emerging trends that will strongly influence design across industries.

This year promises to produce multiple trends that meet this criteria. The need to design for smaller screens, the use of natural prints in unexpected ways, cutting-edge technology, and the importance of self-expression and reflection are leading to innovations in branding, fashion, and packaging — with eye-opening results. Take a look at four cross-industry trends based on the underlying themes in our 2017 Creative Trends report.

Wood Grain

Organic patterns, including wood grain, is one of the design trends in our 2017 Creative Trends report.

Using organic materials in new ways is bound to be exciting, and that’s certainly the case with wood. Get ready to recalibrate the way you see this old-school medium. Not only is wood now being used to craft iPhone cases and sunglasses, but wood grain prints that mimic the real thing are appearing on everything from water bottles to fingernails, like those created by Sally Hansen Global Color Ambassador Madeline Poole and inspired by fashion designer Stella McCartney’s Spring 2016 show.

The expression “hard as nails” got new meaning this past year when a nail artist developed a wood grain nail design that imitates the natural pattern on the cut surface of a tree. Image credit: @MPNails

Wooden watches are already so popular that online lifestyle magazine The Trend Spotter recently reviewed the 10 Best Wood Watches for the Eco-Friendly Man. Meanwhile, Nike offers a woodgrain sneaker, which describes as having a forest theme that “references the look and aesthetic of trees.”

What’s the attraction of wood? It taps into consumers’ love of all things natural and eco-friendly. Graphic design resource Digital Arts even included wood in its Visual Trends 2017 report, designating it as an “upcycled resource.” It’s certain to inspire some resourceful designers this year, including those who work with interiors. “We’re noticing a lot of interest in products that show wood grain coming through with natural, oiled and low-sheen finishes, especially on cabinetry and flooring,” Rick Anthony Bonner, Creative Director and Interior Designer at design agency Insidesign, told an Atlanta, Georgia newspaper. “Wood is going to be a very important trend.”


Laser cutting, which produces 3D designs, is one of the design trends in our 2017 Creative Trends report.

Encompassing both physical objects and computer generated images, three-dimensional design has gone miles beyond the cardboard glasses you wore as a kid. In 2016 we saw multiple fashion designers eschew traditional fabrics for 3D-printed materials. (Pro tip: It’s better to wash your 3D-printed clothing in the dishwasher than the washing machine, according to an Israeli designer quoted in the aforementioned link).
The 3D trend has also infiltrated web design, where more geometric shapes are emerging. Art and design resource Creative Bloq reported that geometric patterns are cropping up in illustrations, product packaging, and branding efforts.

Last year also saw the release of June, an animated short created to promote ride-sharing service Lyft. The film combines both 3D and geometric design. “A lot of the characters are 3D and the sets are 3D, and we would do some hand-held camera movements in 3D that really helped lend to the dimensional feeling,” illustrator Kevin Dart, who worked with animator and director John Kahrs on the film, told animation news site Cartoon Brew. “Even on shots that are just 2D backgrounds, we would try to do things with subtle parallaxing and skewing of the elements in Photoshop to bring that depth to it.”

Working with 3D printing is just as complex, and like the appearance of wood grain in unexpected places, 3D can have a mind-bending effect. One example of this is the 3D-printed pop-up store that recently materialized in Sydney, Australia. The 968-square-foot, bubble-like structure was created to promote luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton.

Through a partnership with 3D-printing company Omus, Louis Vuitton built a 3D-printed pop-up store in an Australian shopping mall. Image credit: Retail TouchPoints.

Designers may soon find 3D printing technology serves a more practical purpose as well. According to reports from the packaging and supply chain industry, it’s already being used for prototyping and to streamline packaging design efforts among printers and brands.


White texture and muted palettes are two of the minimalist trends identified in our 2017 Creative Trends report.

We know what you’re thinking: When has minimalism not been a hot trend? While it’s true that graphic, fashion, and web designers have all gravitated toward minimalism in recent years, it appears that interest is still mounting.

Witness the shift toward logo-less fashions. In October, global research firm NPD Group reported that a third of the handbags sold in the U.S. from June 2015 to June 2016 did not feature a visible logo. NPD attributes the trend to prioritizing individuality rather than image, but in general the “logo mania” of recent years is starting to wane as designers and consumers embrace a pared-down style. Even Pantone’s color of the year for 2017 — PANTONE 15-0343 Greenery — has been described as a minimalist shade. “Greenery is not a ‘green with envy’ hue, unlike 2013’s color of the year, Emerald, which symbolized luxury,” a Forbes staff reporter wrote. “Greenery actually taps into the opposite: Minimalism.”

Minimalism will invade 2017 design projects in numerous ways. In web development, the concept of minimalism takes the form of simplified, user-friendly design. “Typography, contrast and space are all important,” writes Econsultancy’s Ben Davis.

With Netflix unveiling a new minimalist icon last year and Instagram and MasterCard simplifying their logos, we can expect more brands to do the same. Now that smartphone apps represent 50 percent of all time spent with digital media in the U.S., companies must ensure that their logos translate to a smaller screen. That means doing away with unnecessary embellishments and zeroing in on what matters most to your brand’s visual identity.

Mastercard released a new logo design in June of 2016, simplifying its iconic interlocking circles to “work seamlessly across all digital platforms, retail channels and connected-devices.” Source: Mastercard.

In a broader sense, the minimalist trend is also being driven by a change in the consumer mindset. High-fashion lender Rent the Runway, along with new startups like peer-to-peer dress-rental business Curtsy and outdoor equipment-rental company Joymode, allow consumers to enjoy products without having to clutter up their homes. Couple that with the tiny-house movement and millennials’ desire to downsize, and it’s clear: Minimalism is here to stay.


Emojis is one of the major global trends identified in our 2017 Creative Trends report.

Walk into any boutique that caters to teens and tweens and you’ll find emojis printed on PJ pants, pillows, and T-shirts. But this visual trend is going somewhere surprising, too: Into the realm of adults. Vogue reported in August that multiple fashion designers have incorporated the symbols into their collections. Versace went so far as to create its own emoji keyboard, wherein the emojis consumers know and love take on a new, more sophisticated identity.

As of February 2016, iPhone users can download an app comprised of Versace-branded emojis. Image credit: iTunes.

Also in 2016, domain provider GoDaddy introduced the ability to incorporate emojis into domain names. Said the company’s senior director of marketing domains in an article about the new feature, “… Emoji domain names are a great way for customers to express themselves in a unique way.”

Self-expression is, in fact, at the heart of the emoji trend. A study conducted by the University of Michigan and China’s Peking University found that citizens of different countries have different emoji preferences, with France favoring the heart, and countries like Mexico and Chile using more expressions of sadness and anger. “They are becoming the ubiquitous language that bridges everyone across different cultures,” wrote one of the study’s lead authors on the subject of emojis.

In North America, emojis continue to be a big part of marketing campaigns. Mobile-marketing company Appboy finding the inclusion of emojis in brand messages and marketing campaigns grew by 777 percent from 2015 to 2016. The company also reported that brands primarily use emojis to “gain attention or evoke an emotion” noting, “We believe that emojis are not going away anytime soon.”

It’s impossible to predict where these trends will show up next or what impact they’ll have on future designs. If the cross-industry ingenuity we’ve seen so far is any indication, though, 2017 is going to be a star of a year.

Get more details about the trends identified in our 2017 Creative Trends report here.