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Design Trends 2016, Episode 1: FOCUS and ESSENTIALISM

We have reviewed numerous 2016 design trend reports for graphic design and packaging, and this is the first of a series where we will explore and summarize what we feel are the most important design concepts and elements to keep an eye on this year.

We start with the most important message: Consumers are overwhelmed.  They exist in a cloud of information competing for attention twenty-four hours a day. And when people are overwhelmed, apathy and lethargy are never far away – and that is bad for business. 

Grant Wenzlau, author of The Dieline’s 2016 trend report, said it like this: The role of design is to address the difficulties of the consumer, creating solutions and refreshing ideas.  

In essence, what we as designers need to provide consumers is focus – a simple, clear and direct connection to the reality of a consumers needs.  


Focus on customers’ needs. See our blog post on customer-centricity.

Focus makes any experience more enjoyable and intense.  And because packaging design, especially, is about creating an engaging and pleasurable experience that fits the customer’s needs, and communicates the company's values, providing focus enhances the experience.

      Often designers get caught up in their concept and aesthetics and forget to consider the user’s experience, and it is the experience that people want and pay for.

But Wenzlau is careful how he describes designing for this: It is not so much minimalism, as it is essentialism; where minimalism strips away, often becoming stark and cold, essentialism focuses on the essential, the necessary, which is warmer, more fulfilling and satisfying.

Here is a design that made the rounds of the design sites on this year.  The essential message in the shape and claim of this design is “I am medicine for your pain” or cough or fever, etc.  Exactly, and only, what a sick customer wants to hear. We will look at color and type face in another post.

But it is important to keep in mind that focusing on essential basic information in a simple, clear and direct way is not the same as dumbing-down the message.  Customers are smarter than ever, even if they do lack focus, and may resent a message that comes across as condescending.

Catherine Adreani's design for the line of BASIC hygiene products is an example of being focused and simple, without being condescending (as noted by the dieline)

Last note:  In today’s world   mostly due to the media’s intense focus on the negative, dark and dire   an essential need customers have is help focusing on happiness, positivity and optimism; and that focus comes from simplifying the visual and textual message to its essential core.  If you help customers focus on the solution to their need or on those positive emotions in your designs and you are halfway there, as well as serving a higher purpose.

Sources consulted for this article:

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