Predictions for a new decade: Patrick Burgoyne

To mark the start of the 2020s, we’ve asked a selection of our regular columnists to offer up predictions of what lies ahead. Here, D&AD CEO Patrick Burgoyne foresees an end to design blandness, and makes a plea for the industry to get serious about climate change

My first design prediction for the coming years? An end to ‘blandification’. Almost any conference now includes reference to that notorious slide and Twitter favourite, which lines up a series of fashion brand logos opposite their minimalist new versions. Burberry, Balmain, Saint Laurent – all of them fallen victim to a design sterilisation process in which all legacy quirks and character have been surgically removed to leave a sea of sans-serif blandness.

Something similar has happened in the tech world as the logos for our Googles, Facebooks and eBays have become visually less distinctive in inverse proportion to their stock market valuations.

What’s going on? For so long branding has preached the doctrine of differentiation, now it seems that in the screen-centric world of ‘customer experience’ our loftiest ambitions are for our brands to be sleekly efficient, offering no surprises (and certainly no delight), just the promise of frictionless ease of use.

Are we going to see a design equivalent of the Post-Modernists’ reaction to inhuman blandness in architecture? Stefan Sagmeister’s recent book and touring exhibition calls for the return of ‘beauty’ – of ornament, flourish and humanity. Digital veterans such as Daljit Singh have taken to the conference stage to remind us of the playfulness and joy in discovery that were such important elements of the early days of digital.

On this very site, Graham Wood argued for the essential ‘magick’ of design and worried that, as design has started to be taken more seriously by the corporate world, so is its very essence in danger: design as process, recast in the service of business innovation and not creativity.

If for no other reason than boredom and the cyclical nature of fashion, expect to see a storming of the sans-serif fortress in branding at least.