2017 Web Design Trends | What to Look For…


“If you think math is hard, try web design.” ―Trish Parr

Capturing the attention of your audience within the first few seconds of a site visit is crucial. Research has shown that website visitors make judgements about the site’s credibility in as little as 50 milliseconds, and that one in five visitors will leave your website almost immediately if you don’t pique their interest during that crucial first view.

But, don’t fret! Creating websites that immediately impress your visitors is possible… if you stay current on the trends!

So what does 2017 have in store for web design?


Art is used to express feelings, raise questions, and provoke emotions. Design, however, is a means to display an answer to a problem that needs solved. Web design includes imagery, written content, and navigational pieces that allow a solution to evolve organically for the viewer.  All elements of web design must serve a purpose.

Your website is not a digital wall from which you can hang all of your paintings! De-clutter – especially on websites that have been around for a while. Conduct a content audit and focus on where site viewers are in their buyer’s journey (awareness, consideration, or decision stage).

For new sites, consider using wireframes, sitemaps, and top tasks as your starting point.  Clarity, however, is the top priority – Simple. Smart. Stylish – these are the results of great design.


Streamlining production for digital projects frees up a lot of time. Using grids, frameworks, and pre-made themes can cut down on development time and often solves responsiveness issues.

BootstrapUlKit, and Foundation are tried and true, but new front-end development frameworks from SuzyJeet and Breakpointare showing promise, too.

Pre-made themes from TemplateMonster are also a good choice. The developers of these templates are continuously seeking to improve their product, so they rely heavily on  feedback from consumers (this allows them to make upgrades that increase user friendliness and overall effectiveness).


Google Material Design is a set of principles and best practices for web designers and mobile app developers, taking designers back to the basics by helping them focus on what’s most important. It also allows for multiple resolutions and easy viewing on various  devices.

Google Material Designs’ flat colors aren’t the only approach to web and mobile app design, but they continue to be extremely popular. An excellent example of Google Material Design principles can be seen on the Fabulous app (and if you’re looking to set some resolutions for 2017, this app is a great place to start)!


Relevant and genuine images are effective elements that provide power to web designs.  Some considerations for choosing these images include:

  • Product:
    If product images are appropriate and useful to the website, they should always be first choice. Being able to showcase exactly what you have to offer is one of the most powerful things you can do.
  • People:
    Authentic images, that display how your product is used and how it benefits its users, can send a strong message. Depicting people benefitting from your product draws in consumers.
  • Quality:
    Showcasing the expertise or materials that set you apart from the competition allows potential consumers to have confidence in their purchase.
  • Ethics:
    If your organization is working to make the world a better place, show it off! People want to connect with organizations that have a conscience.

Be sure to use original photography, when possible, so that your website doesn’t end up looking dated. Choose realistic images that portray the real world and the real people who live there. Don’t be afraid to try new perspectives such as selfies, drone, or head-on pictures and videos!


A background video playing on your homepage can tell your story within seconds (and seconds may be all you have in order to catch the attention of your viewers).

Video is being utilized by more brands and individuals than ever before, and its growth trajectory will only continue to spike upward. Social media users want more “in-the-moment” content, and viewers of websites want to feel like they are part of the experience.


The number of visible, main menu navigation items is now reduced to the absolute minimum. With the continued influence of mobile design, hamburger navigation icons (a button in a graphical user interface, carrying an icon consisting of three parallel horizontal lines – displayed as ☰) will become more popular than ever.

The jury is still out, though, in regard to the effectiveness of this approach. However, research is showing that hamburger lines combined with a menu label work significantly better than the hamburger icon alone (see Adobe’s use of this technique here).


Use of intelligent insight to understand what works and what doesn’t work for your website is becoming increasingly important. There’s a lot of competition on the internet, and being able to see beyond page views and unique visitors is imperative.

Website metrics must be considered in order to ensure that engagement with your site is quick and powerful – because, there is a HUGE difference between reach and engagement. Reach is fickle and means very little. But, engagement, on the other hand, is long-lasting and convertible. Create a call-to-action and TRACK the conversion ratios. Make your performace count!


2017’s most successful websites will be full of authentic images and responsive designs. Concise and succinct language is key, as are analytics and data. Navigation will be reduced to the minimum necessary and will include “hamburger” icons.

Micro interactions and bold images will continue to lead design trends, but the effectiveness of these elements depends highly upon the loading speed and ease of navigation. Now, more than ever, you literally have a split second to grab attention!

“If you can make the site load a second faster, you can drive engagement by 5%.” – Financial Times

2017 Graphic Design Trends | What to Look For…


Everything old is new again. But, everything that’s new is pretty darn great! There are several new trends in graphic design that are sure to delight designers seeking ways to create fun, ingenious visuals for consumers.

Here are the seven newest design trends to keep an eye on:


Retro styling in advertising can be fun!  The use of modern-retro design began to rise in popularity throughout 2016, and the high demand for such designs is likely to continue, thanks to modern-retro being a fun fusion of the old and new.
By using modern typefaces and color palettes, along with retro-style logos, designers are able to create eye-catching, nostalgia-inducing designs that fascinate and engage consumers.


In the expanding world of technology, we consume our information in a variety of different formats. Whether scrolling through a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or (even when kickin it old school) on the PC, logos need to respond to each and every platform.
Responsive logos adapt, based upon the environment in which they are displayed – i.e. they are smaller on phones than on laptops.  They must be simple and amenable to every device, and the importance of this versatility will only continue to increase throughout 2017.


Website viewers want an interactive experience, and cinemagraphs provide that type of experience in a simple fashion. If you aren’t already aware, cinemagraphs are still pictures that include a minor, repeated movement, and they are becoming increasingly popular.

Cinemagraphs are typically published as GIFs, and they provide a simple, effective way to captivate the viewer (since moving images work faster to grab attention).  As competition for that attention increases, expect to see more of these cinemagraphs in 2017.


The premise of minimalism is a focus on simplicity and functionality. This particular form of design has been around since the early part of the 20th century, and is still popular today – Apple is a great example.

Creating deliberate whitespace, which allows for easier reading and more prominent focal points, is essential (thanks to the drastic decrease in viewers’ attention spans). Simplicity is here to stay… at least for 2017.


Illustrations provide a human element to graphic design, and can be used as a simple way to translate complex situations. And, if we’re being honest, they’re just plain fun!

Some illustrations can be simple with a childlike feel that evoke nostalgic memories, while others can be quite intricate.  But, either way, illustrations are becoming increasingly popular with consumers, and the individualism of these illustrations will only continue to grow within the next year.


The concept of breaking up long blocks of text into manageable chunks is increasingly important, and graphic designers are quickly seeing the benefits of making website content easily consumable.

Modular, clean layouts create a better viewer experience, and encourage interaction. They also  look extremely professional (when done well).


Bold photography and sleek text is a staple in the graphic design world, because it captivates viewers and exudes style. This mixture of bold and sleek is essentially the little black dress of design, and will likely never go out of style.

Great pictures and appropriate text quickly grab attention, which is increasingly difficult to do. Time magazine recently cited a study from Microsoft that notes human attention spans to be (literally) worse than that of a goldfish, thanks to our digital lifestyle. Check out the Time article here:

How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul – A Review


It’s easy to explain our individual sources of inspiration; they can be acquired from many things, whether it be from a specific genre of music or a famous designer – anything that pushes us into our creative state in order to begin our creative process. Everyone finds inspiration somewhere. You don’t have to be a professional designer to do it. But, will knowing what inspires you help you to find a real world job once you have that piece of paper (aka a diploma) in your hand? And, when you land that design agency job, how will you know if the job is a fulfilling and meaningful one? Will it be the perfect fit, or will you feel like you lost your soul?

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a designer somewhere who could give us advice on how to overcome these unknown obstacles? In How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul, Adrian Shaughnessy does just that. Throughout this book, Shaughnessy addresses the concerns of the just-starting-out designer. Whether it be about how to manage the creative process or how to generate ideas for projects when you’re drawing a blank, this book – written by a designer for designers – offers clear and concise guidance on how to solve these common problems.

The advice in this book is insightful and sound; Shaughnessy expertly guides us through his own experiences as he narrates each and every page. One of my favorite topics is found right in chapter one where Shaughnessy explains three key points:

  1. Cultural Awareness
  2. Communication
  3. Integrity

Cultural Awareness

To be culturally aware, a person must know his or her surroundings: the people, businesses, history, etc. But, how can you become culturally aware? If, for instance, you move to a new city, what sort of research should you do to acquire this information? Is an intense Google search sufficient? Shaughnessy uses this example to open up the concept of cultural awareness within the design process.

As Shaughnessy notes, designers are attuned to everything around them. They notice every minor detail in everything they see (much like being aware of your surroundings: the people, businesses, history, etc). However, designers must also go the extra mile by being aware of their audience at all times. An awareness of audience allows designers to target these individuals and sell them on skills and abilities.


Communication, then, is tied directly to cultural awareness. In order to sell a project, designers need to build relationships with clients and discuss their ideas in a way that makes sense. Shaughnessy stresses the importance of striving for designer/client harmony, which is achieved simply by having meaningful conversation and getting to know one another on a personal level. Once ideas have been discussed, and a project is started (and soon finished), a designer needs to articulate his or her creative process, ultimately explaining why they believe it will work for the specific client.

Designers also use communication to generate client buy-in – essentially, persuading the client into thinking that the designer’s ideas are the right ideas. This is ultimately achieved by explaining what was done and why. A clear, concise explaination is always necessary, because a client does not want to hear, “this works because I said so.” A client needs to know that their ideas were taken into consideration while the project was in production, and that the final result may or may not reflect the ideas they brought to the table.


The final topic Shaughnessy discusses is integrity; What do strong moral principles have to do with being a successful designer? Shaughnessy states, “If we believe in nothing, then our clients will have no reason to believe in us.” I feel that this statement is exactly where the “losing your soul” phrase comes into play. If a designer participates in a project for something he or she does not believe in, they slowly chip away at their underlying core principles – eventually losing bits and pieces their souls. But, the designer is getting paid for it, so what other option do they have, right?

I believe that Shaughnessy uses the topic of integrity to explain that each person has to know his or her limits, ultimately deciding when to accept work and when to turn it down, based upon individual standards and values. If designers continue to produce work that has no meaning (and has a negative impact on other people), then our souls will slowly disappear and we will possess no morals at all.

How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul offers real experience for designers who are just beginning their careers. The book is packed with interviews from well-known professionals in the design field, do’s and dont’s of the industry, and so much more. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone starting their career (Click Here to Read).

Want more on design? Check out Measurable Goals for a Graphic Designer

How to Use a Moodboard


The most sensible way to present a client with all of the ideas floating around in my head is to use visual references. It helps them (and me) picture the website, print and/or branding concept that I am about to create.

I’ve been around the block a few times, and have joined some very creative teams. However, it wasn’t until I reached my present position that the creative director said, “Hey! What do you think about this mood board process?” As I started to research other design agencies, I began noticing something… all the cool kids are doing it! Where has it been all my life!?

“Collecting design pieces and parts is extremely important in the collaborative creative process.”

Let’s start out with the definition of a mood board.


noun: mood board; plural noun: mood boards; noun: moodboard; plural noun: moodboards

  1. an arrangement of images, materials, pieces of text, etc., intended to evoke or project a particular style or concept.
  2. “we put together a mood board with key images and words that best convey the essence of the brand”A mood board is a collection of like-minded design examples, organized and presented to accomplish a task, and I use them for just about everything. Mood boards can set the tone of a project, guide a team during the design process, and assist the developer, digital manager and other designers.

Here is my process of putting a mood board together (there are no rules!)

Meet with the client

Ask questions! What is the business about? What are the company’s goals, successes or branded collateral? Gage the client’s personality… I swear this helps! Are they laid back, a little conservative or open to new ideas? I take all of these factors into consideration before I even fire up Photoshop.

Before design kicks off

I honestly spend hours researching; I scour the web for inspiration. Based on the client brief, my own interpretation of the goals and tone of the project, I start collecting anything and everything that evokes the mood I’d like to see in my design.

I collect photos, snaps of design, color swatches, and typefaces (everything is fair game). By the end of my collecting spree, I will have a folder full of images.

As you begin to collect bits and pieces for your mood board, take time to study each example. Figure out what works, and why you think it works. Is there a reason that the background image you plan to use is so effective?

Amid the design process…

With a awesome, spot-on (and agreed-upon) mood board in place, you’ve got a handy tool available for constant use during the design process. It’s like a style map you can go back to and study any time if you get lost along the way.

A mood board helps direct my creativity with imagery, color and reference, and using it to drive design decisions is a low-resistance way to keep all people involved and on the same page. So the next time you stop to think, “Does that new landing page fit well within our product’s running theme/mood?” – The mood board will tell you.

After launch, in public – the “brand board”

Over time, your product and its design system might take on a mood of it’s own. That’s a good thing, but it means it might be time to make a new mood board – one made up of your brand’s design, style and underlying principles.

Unlike a pre-launch mood board, which is filled with photos and design inspiration from others, a “brand board” can be used to share logos, source files and original photography. While this is super handy for an internal team, it is even more important when the public is thrown into the mix.

“Mood boards can help avoid surprises surrounding the design process.”

When in doubt, turn to the board

Ask any creative person: a totally blank page can be overwhelming. Being dropped into an assignment with zero framing and big expectations is a recipe for disaster.

Mood boards and collecting pieces of inspiration are the perfect way to put a project’s goals and expectations into perspective. They can help avoid surprises surrounding the design process, which are very rarely a good thing, and always provide a frame of reference for everyone involved.

Check out our 10 Steps to a Powerful Portfolio

10 Steps to a Powerful Portfolio


Looking to build your first portfolio, but not sure where to start? I don’t blame you: portfolio organization is tricky! But, I’m here to (hopefully) make your life easier. I’ve put together 10 steps that will help you on your powerful portfolio journey!

1. All Killer, No Filler

Only show your best work! Go for quality, not quantity. An employer will be more impressed with a few “wow-factor” pieces than a multitude of projects that simply show the amount of work you’ve done (that’s what your resume is for). Which brings me to my next point…

2. Decide on the Number of Pieces to Showcase

10-15 pieces/projects is plenty for a printed portfolio. Any more than that, and the viewer will have completely forgotten the first few projects by the time they reach the end. As for an online portfolio, I personally feel that there is no limit to the number of pieces – but, I also advise organizing your projects into categories so that they are not all grouped together on one page.

3. Start Striking and End Flawless

Start and end your portfolio with a strong project, and fill with a plethora of equally striking projects in between. Consistency is key: the first and last projects should be on the same design level/skill level as the other pieces you include. Don’t showcase any duds!

4. Let Your Work Do the Talking

Don’t over-embellish, especially on your portfolio website. Having animations on your site will be too distracting. The most important thing that should stand out is your work, so interactive animation isn’t necessary. Allow the work to speak for itself by making your projects easy to view in large formats.

5. Organize for the Job You Want

Include pieces that are tailored to a specific employer. If you are applying for a print design position, don’t show much, if any, web design work (I speak from personal experience on this). Unless, of course, the website correlates with print work (in order to showcase brand consistency)… Then it’s a whole different story.

6. Create an Online Presence

Create an online portfolio website and promote yourself on social media. Having an online portfolio is great for a couple of reasons: 1 – It allows you to display more work, and 2 – Employers will be able to research you before bringing you in for an interview. And, if you really want to get noticed by potential employers, promote some of your projects on social media platforms like BehanceLinkedin or Facebook (Click Here for more info on creating an online portfolio).

7. Include Self-Initiated Work

Including self-initiated work shows where your passions lie. Showcasing a few of these types of projects will give a potential employer a better idea of your skill level and whether or not you are the right fit for the job. But, don’t include too many of these projects – employers are more concerned with your past “real-world” work experience.

8. Showcase Variety

Include a multitude of different design forms, such as web design, logo/brand identity design, print material, etc. When applying for a job, employers want to see what you are capable of, so showcasing a variety of projects is a great way to sell yourself on your abilities.

9. Stay Current

Don’t include anything older than 3 years in a printed portfolio. One of the more important things I’ve personally discovered is that you constantly need to be up on the latest design trends and techniques – and then use what you find as inspiration! Include as many of the most recent findings/projects in your portfolio as possible.

10. Be Confident

Don’t be afraid to show that you are proud of your work (but, don’t be arrogant about it, either). End of story.

Having a strong portfolio is important – it will put you above the other candidates for a job position, and, quite frankly, it just makes you good as a designer *wink*. Good luck, and happy designing!

How do you begin your design career? Check this out

Beginning Your Design Career: My 8 Tips


Is there a set list of rules to follow on how to be successful when beginning your design career? Before you read on, the answer, unfortunately, is NO… But, even though I haven’t been a designer for long (I’ve only been out of college for a year), in that short amount of time, I’ve come up with a few personal tips that have worked for me – and maybe they will work for you, too!

1. Make Personal Connections with Your Classmates

It’s easy to forget that your peers/classmates are not your enemies or your competition: they’re your collaborators! Being in this industry is not something you can do alone; I love having second opinions on my work, and I truly believe that having someone to critique your work and bounce ideas off of makes you a better designer.

2. Watch Tutorial Videos

There are many resources out there when it comes to tutorials on software and techniques. YouTube is one of the more obvious choices, but if you have Adobe Creative Cloud, you can generally find tutorials on their website, as well. If you’re trying to learn how to properly build websites and learn CSS and HTML, my favorite resource is Tree House – I could spend hours on this site!

3. Utilize Other Creative Skills

Primarily, my job is centered on web design, but I do have an underlying love for fine art and illustration. I don’t get many opportunities to utilize my drawing abilities, but that never stops me from trying! If you have a unique ability that you can incorporate into your work, USE IT – you’ll shine when you do!

4. Join Design Organizations

Design organizations are an excellent way to meet other designers and make connections for potential job opportunities. Larger organizations, such as AIGA, often have smaller chapters in your local area that you can join – Youngstown State University, for example, has an AIGA student organization for its design program.

5. Submit Work to Competitions

There are major design competitions you should compete in (each and every time they’re offered). I participated in one during my last semester of school: the Adobe Design Achievement Awards of 2015. This competition was world-wide, and a fellow classmate and I ended up with semi-finalist awards – inevitably earning us bragging rights *wink, wink*…

Submitting as much work as you can to competitions gives you experience that can be added to your resume – and equally as important, the feedback you receive on your work helps to better your projects and skills as a designer. It may take a little time out of your day (and away from that masterpiece project you’re currently working on), but trust me, it’s worth it!

6. Create an Online Portfolio

Having a portfolio website gives potential employers the opportunity to “meet you” before calling you in for an interview. But, you may ask, where do you buy hosting from? My advice – buy through bluehost or GoDaddy. These providers are the most popular, and their plans are the most cost-effective. And, as far as building websites is concerned, always, always, ALWAYS build in WordPress!

7. Get Internships

Internships are an excellent way of getting your foot in the door of the design industry. If your school offers an internship course, it’s in your best interest to sign up for it, regardless of your class schedule (if I was able to work an internship, two retail jobs, and attend school full-time, you can handle an internship while attending school, too). An internship with a good design studio will provide indispensable experience that you will make use of as you progress in your design career.

8. CMD + S and Back Up Your Work

If you haven’t found out already, you will soon discover that it’s incredibly easy to get completely absorbed in a project – and at some point, you will forget to save your work. SAVE YOUR WORK every few minutes, and then back it up – either onto an external hard drive or to Google Drive.

These are just a few of the many tips you can reference when beginning your design career. Hopefully they will help you like they did me! Good Luck!