“We have to think more and more about if [an album] sleeve will work at iTunes size as apposed to CD size,” says Paula Benson, founding partner of design company Form (form.uk.com). “Also with logos we now have to bear in mind how it would work as a Facebook profile. We’ve always checked our work, whether a record sleeve or logo, will have impact in black and white, colour, big and small etc, but making simple marks and messages are key to some projects.”

Jason Holland, creative director of digital agency Underwired Amaze (underwired.com), also sees logos returning to their ‘simple’ state. He says, “Gone are the 3D elements, complicated fades and colours. We are now shunning this in favour of clean lines, colours and geometric shapes. The most recent example is the new 7up logo, or the evolution of the Pearlfinder logo that we completed as a first stage of a complete web design.”

Jason sees this simplicity extending across all areas of design, including online. He explains, “Cleanliness is king at the moment and although unique colour schemes, sharp edges and flat colours are popular, we must be careful to avoid this looking bland or even boring. Subtle detail makes a huge amount of difference in a visual that is simple, for example extremely slight gradients within flat colour gives a sense of value or premium service and quality.”

Design and branding agency Halo Media’s creative director Nick Ellis feels that most of the groundbreaking work that we’ll see in the coming months and years will be from the next generation of design graduates. He reckons that they “hold the key to unlocking an agency’s potential because their ideas are fresh, they have a fresh perspective and they’re more likely to be ‘digital native’, as opposed to the old codgers among us who can remember when a Tamagotchi was hi-tech.”

Digital advertising for Dunlop Slazenger by KavanStudio

One such upcomer is Matthew Kavan Brooks, who runs KavanStudio (kavan.co.uk) in Nottingham. His portfolio encompasses digital painting on Wacom tablets to custom painted skate decks, digitally printed white inks to old school letterpress and embossing. As well as creating work for Universal Records, Howies, BSkyB, and custom interiors for restaurant chain Zizzi, the designer is now mixing the digital with the industrial in projects like Electric Bird. This is a reusable tessellating graphic pattern tile arrangement for interiors, which was created using traditional drawing techniques, vector drawings in Adobe Illustrator, an industrial laser cutter, and a combination of modern furniture materials.

As Matthew explains, “The design itself is a repetition of shapes that are designed to appear as though they swell and expand like the movements of the oceans. Using a whole range of traditional techniques, designers are really challenging new boundaries in creating a full tactile and visual experience. Soemone, Justin Maller and Rob Shields are taking advertising to another level, utilising 3D elements, state of the art photography, and digital software to create some out of this world artworks.”

A spread from the Lettucewear Spring/Summer 2011 catalogue

Another young designer is Dan Mountford (bit.ly/gOXd76), who is producing work very much on the cutting edge while still a first year student working for his BA in graphic design. His current work focuses on the juxtaposition of natural forms such as humans, animals and the environment, mixing the output of a medium format camera with digital and traditional drawing tools.

“I’ve always been amazed at what can be seen within double exposure photography and thought it was a technique that has been played around with but not really deconstructed and used effectively,” he says. “I tend to look outside my creative field to things such as motion design for inspiration, which focuses more on visuals which communicate through abstract or minimal forms, rarely seen in my medium of illustration.”

White heat of technological advancement has always driven design to some extent, and today is no different. As David Hitner of Studio Small says, “The development of digital printing and availability of a wider range of paper and card stocks has helped with the realisation of some ideas which would have not been cost-effective a few years ago. This is particularly pertinent in the current climate. Also with print complementing online work, print runs in some projects are reduced so digital printing allows you to make a client’s budget go further.”

Double exposure photography by Dan Mountford, created using nothing more than a camera

Dan Mountford adds, “I’ve had experience with only a few new printing techniques such as risograph printing, which isn’t exactly cheap but is very quick and is similar to screenprinted work. This makes it easier to mass-produce work, which has the same effect as if you screenprint something. Hexachrome isn’t a cheap printing process either, but is very useful if you have very colourful work that needs to appear vivid and eye catching to the viewer.”

Look to your style icons

Style magazines have always been good indicators of design trends – look at Neville Brody’s work on The Face and David Carson’s on Ray Gun, for example. David Hitner views men’s fashion magazine Fantastic Man and its sister publication The Gentlewoman as modern examples. He says, “The typography, layout style, production – use of different paper stocks, printing sections in a single colour – and writing style are all trends that you see recurring in current print, publishing, and online design. The Mr Porter website [mrporter.com] is a good example of this.”

Dan Mountford says, “I have always made visuals that included some sort of symbolic animal such as a deer, owl or lion. I like working a lot of mountains into my digital illustrations”

Interactive design is usually considered to be at odds with graphic design, as the former requires a fluidity of layout and focus on function and information architecture that can often seem to be at odds with aesthetics. But the fixed resolutions and ‘lean-back’ reading experience tablets such as the iPad has seen a resurgence of graphic design principles.

Seeing true graphic design on the web requires a greater leap of imagination and a longer-term view – but some designers can see a time when web and graphic design will merge into a new form.

Morten Iveland concludes, “I think services like [font embedding technology] TypeKit and the possibilities with CSS3 and HTML5 will support designers to execute their ideas in a better way. In turn the bridge will be gapped between what we today know as web designers, and traditional graphic designers.”

We now focus in on five areas that designers will need to grapple with to keep themselves at the cutting edge: from logo design and hand-drawn type to branding and interactive design.