Key design trends for small companies this year

Here, we look at some predictions for small business website and marketing communications design trends.

Designing a logo is just the first step in launching a new business. From our experience in running an international design marketplace over the past 12 months, here are some thoughts and predictions about the key SMEs trends.

Ability of SMEs to do more and take on a DIY mindset

Business owners can now build their own websites, send their own emails through email services, create their own social media templates and essentially function as their own marketing team. Customers don’t have to know that they’re a one-man team.

Personalisation of marketing collateral is a trend within this DIY segment. Advances in technology mean SMEs can segment their customer base and tailor marketing collateral, as well as the user experience, to different customer personas.

Better access to templates is a factor driving this DIY trend. There’s now an abundance of template options available that can make your website professional and functional. There are e-commerce capabilities on a number of tools, and you can build a customised website on your own without spending thousands of pounds.

With that said, the convergence of similar web designs may lead to an influx of more custom designs to stand out among the competition. This could mean more innovative typography, hand-drawn elements, interesting animations/videos, micro-experiences and storytelling

SMEs adopting more simple and adaptable logo designs

Flat and simple is THE trend for logos. There’s a clear move towards more simplicity and less distracting elements, and as a bonus companies save on printing by using only one colour and no gradients.

Adaptability is another big trend in logos; you can expect to see more adaptable logos (a la last year’s Airbnb) in the future. As companies begin to focus more on highlighting their communities and showcasing members’ individual personalities, logos and brands will become more dynamic to support them. This also adds more flexibility to collateral and company swag.

Quality content catered to customers; a dynamic social media presence; storytelling and micro-experiences

Don’t target your customer in general; try to find ways to create a bond with your client through a personal story. Gather all the personal information you can (legally) have from your client as an individual. Use surveys if needed. Once you know him/her, tailor their campaigns. It’s all about customer-centricity.

Looking towards the future, how can SMEs ensure they are prepared?

Be mindful of mobile

The past few years have been all about ensuring your business has an online presence, but you must be prepared to take it a step further and ensure your business has a mobile presence. Mobile usage has surpassed other device usage this year. Additionally, Google recently started using mobile usability as a rank, so if organic search traffic is a major source of traffic for your business, you’re definitely going to want to make sure you have a mobile-friendly site, and a mobile-first mindset. Optimise all of your collateral for mobile an expanding of your digital presence through both mobile and social media.

A brand style guide that includes both the look and the voice will ensure efficient and consistent branding across all media. This leads to more efficient marketing collateral output and a more unified brand message. Evaluate your assets to determine whether they need a refresh based on current design trends (eg flat design, simplicity, etc).

What three strategies should SMEs use to prepare?

Invest in the user experience

Make sure customer experience is always first in your business, especially when you’re content and testing new products.

Know your audience segments and be prepared to tailor all aspects of the customer experience to these segments.

Invest in video content

It doesn’t have to be perfect quality; maybe it’s a product demo or DIY topic, but video can help you be a better storyteller. Your customers want to connect with something and video can help personalise the experience.

Think ‘micro-experiences’

Tailor content to your unique audience segments. Personalisation is part of this experiential marketing; think of the recent Coca-Cola promotion with bottles featuring a customer’s name on the bottle.

99designs is an international graphic design marketplace.

Further reading on design

Alan Dobie

Alan Dobie

Alan was assistant editor at Vitesse Media Plc (previous owner of before moving on to a content producer role at Reed Business Information. He has over 17 years of experience in the...

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