Lean into Q1 with confidence this year to create projects with purpose and impact using these unique design tips for marketers and brands.
It always pays off to plan ahead, but where to start? In this article, we present 10 must-do design items to ensure yearlong success, including fresh design styles as well as software suggestions. Increase the effectiveness of your designs with cutting-edge trends, reach your target market with cleverly-designed social media, and learn about essential tools to help you make the most of your creative ideas.
Q1 represents a crucial moment for marketers and designers to craft their creative strategy for the year ahead, and the 10 suggestions below will really help you to hit the ground running.
What Should Be Your Q1 Must-Do Design Items?
Q1 represents so much potential for the year ahead, but it can be overwhelming knowing how to begin. Below, you’ll find a checklist of 10 must-do tips, techniques, and trends to ensure your design strategy gets off to a strong start and keeps up the momentum well into Q4.
Your Q1 must-do design items checklist:
- Align Your Branding to Online
- Metaverse Marketing is Here (…even if the metaverse is not)
- Try New Software for Social Media Design
- Spark Joy!
- Calendar Your Creative
- Try a Flat and 3D Design Mix
- Get Experimental with Anti Design
- Pick up a New Skill
- Think Pink with Barbiecore
- Make Time to Doodle
Let’s look at each of these design items in more detail, along with helpful tips and tricks for getting your 2023 design strategy off the ground.
1. Align Your Branding to Online
Traditionally, a brand identity entailed a logo, stationery, and a hefty printed copy of the brand guidelines. Today, identities have to adapt with flexibility to websites, apps, and a wide array of social media platforms. This might include—but isn’t limited to—icons, animations, video as well as different template sizes for posts, stories, banners, video intros, and more.
With marketers often at the forefront of actioning brand assets on digital channels, it’s vital that designers start thinking about how an identity will be actually used, to save headaches down the line.
If the identity’s usage is, say, 30% print and 70% online, it makes sense to create the brand identity with a digital-first approach.
How can you do this as a designer?
Consider whether logos can be designed with the flexibility to adapt to a wide variety of different sizes and resolutions. Can your brand graphics be easily converted into animations or video? Does your choice of typefaces and colors look just as good on TikTok as it does on printed media? Will you need to incorporate more trending elements, such as anti design (see below), into the identity to resonate with social media audiences?
In 2023, ensure that the online presence of your brand is front and center, and you’ll find that your identity has much better applicability and longevity as a result. Read: Happier clients.
2. Metaverse Marketing Is Here (. . . Even If the Metaverse Is Not)
Although its feasibility is still in contention, the metaverse is nonetheless still causing enough business hype to filter across into the design world.
Pantone’s Color of the Year 2023 is Viva Magenta, a hue inspired by VR and social media, while fashion brand Balenciaga teamed up with video game Fortnite to sell designer avatar clothing (if you’re interested, you can also buy a real-life hoodie to match your avatar for a cool $750).
Whether the hype surrounding the metaverse is justified, metaverse marketing is more real than ever, with businesses rushing to connect their brands with virtual reality and immersive gaming.
In 2023, you can use metaverse design references to connect with younger audiences through social media, packaging design, and branding. Try game-inspired neons, avatar-style illustrations, futuristic fonts, and dark mode layouts for instant metaverse appeal.
With Gen Z predicted by consultancy McKinsey to spend as much as five hours a day in the metaverse within the next five years, metaverse marketing is likely to get your brand in front of this audience and keep it there for some time to come.
In 2023, social media templates will be your new best friend, allowing you to quickly pull together campaigns for multiple channels. You can easily create professional posts, stories, and reels using one of the many new apps that have been tailored specifically for social media design.
So, say goodbye to toiling over individual designs in Photoshop, the future of social media design is looking much slicker and quicker.
Many of these apps now offer a huge range of stylish and unique templates, helping you to streamline and professionalize your designs without the time input. Try out the new incarnation of Adobe Express, which offers Page, Post, and Video templates that can be edited from your phone.
Meanwhile, Canva is continually expanding its tool set, allowing users to create designs for both social and print.
Shutterstock Create also offers users access to thousands of pre-designed templates for Instagram, Facebook, Etsy, and more, as well as integration with the Shutterstock image and video library, giving you plenty of creative content to work with.
Spend an hour or two setting up your templates for Q1 and beyond, and you’re set for a very organized (and stylish) year of social media.
4. Spark Joy!
In the same way you might do a spring clean or a New Year wardrobe purge, Q1 is also an opportunity to get your digital design house in order.
Outdated or little-used apps clunking up your laptop’s storage space? Rejected project drafts clouding your creativity? If it doesn’t “spark joy,” be brutal and hit delete.
Alternatively, invest in portable hard drives or large cloud storage to archive old content. The equivalent of a January juice cleanse, clearing your computer of unused stuff will help you to step into the rest of the year with more confidence and clarity. Bonus: You’ll now know where everything is stored, too!
If you’ve also invested in a new computer in the previous year, why not consider recycling your old laptop or desktop, and help the environment, as well as clearing desk space? Apple offers a free recycling or trade-in service for all of their products, online or in-store.
5. Calendar Your Creative
On how many occasions in the last year did you feel rushed to produce a creative design within a tiny window of time? Second question: How many of these occasions were caused by last-minute client requests . . . and how many were due to your own scheduling?
We’re all human, but a disorganized design calendar will only add to the pressure of your normal workload. We often say to ourselves we can do things in a day when, in reality, it might take three.
If working up to the deadline (guilty) is normality rather than rarity, make 2023 your year to give your schedule a realistic refresh. Set deadlines for yourself a week in advance to give extra breathing space, and make sure to set aside time for creative thinking, as well as actioning ideas.
You might find this simple action gives you the headspace to produce your best work yet.
6. Try a Flat and 3D Design Mix
In recent years, we’ve seen a tug of war play out between flat design and 3D design. Because flat design is more user-friendly on apps, it often wins out against more complicated three-dimensional graphics.
However, as 3D design styles feel increasingly current, what can designers do to reach a compromise?
Mixing flat backgrounds with 3D graphics is a perfectly-pitched blend of the two design styles, and merges the advantages of both. Try a boldly-colored, flat graphic background teamed with a single 3D illustration for maximum effect.
The contrast between the two perspectives will help your designs to pop from the page. And, for online designs, aspects of either the flat or 3D elements can be animated to create an on-trend optical illusion effect.
License these images via contributors klvaksun, Lauritta, and Adpragus.
Look to Nike’s recent designs for their New York pop-up event “Beyond the Court” for inspiration, which used a merged flat-3D identity to give the designs a retro look.
7. Get Experimental with Anti Design
If you want to connect with younger audiences on TikTok and other social media networks, anti design is the style to know and use in 2023. Gen Z are more online-savvy than their Millennial predecessors and have a knack for sniffing out inauthentic or try-hard campaigns.
Anti design—an experimental and anarchic design style popularized by the grunge designers of the 1990s, such as David Carson—is a much-welcome antidote to online designs that now feel a little too polished and airbrushed. Bring back the authenticity in designs with collage styles, grunge textures, and a dose of retro-tinted “bad taste.”
With Gen Z nostalgically revisiting the ’90s and ’00s through fashion, pop culture, and design, anti design offers a different and more honest take on this macro-trend.
8. Pick up a New Skill
Maybe learning a new language or marathon training is a little too much to tackle for the new year, but designers and marketers can definitely benefit from a little skill boost every once in a while. Short courses, YouTube tutorials, and how-to eBook guides are low-commitment ways to subtly level up your skillset.
Carve out a half hour over lunch or with your morning coffee to learn something new and you’ll be amazed how much more motivated you’ll feel overall, as well as having something new to offer to a project.
With the digital design sphere turning at lightening speed, you don’t need to turn into a tech mogul overnight, but why not consider taking a short coding course or acquainting yourself with a new software (see social media app suggestions above)?
Alternatively, dive into print design with Ellen Lupton’s brilliant design books, covering a range of graphic design topics from typography to poster design, in clear and ever-inspiring language.
9. Think Pink with Barbiecore
For designers weary of Millennial pink and Valentino pink, it might be time to stop reading, as pink isn’t going anywhere in 2023. The once divisive rosy hue is the flagship color of Gen Z and Millennials, and remains enduringly popular for social media campaigns and branding aimed at these demographics.
Before you despair, perhaps it’s time to reconsider your relationship with pink. Cast aside aspersions and get ready to embrace a much more fun and carefree take on the color. In 2023, we’ll see pink go brighter and—if possible—pinker, referencing Barbiecore and Y2K styling.
With Greta Gerwig’s highly-anticipated Barbie movie to be released in summer 2023, a brighter, bolder pink is going mainstream. Team pink with early ’90s-inspired neons for a fitting tribute to Barbie and Ken’s rollerblading gear, or team with black and white for a more sophisticated punk-chic effect.
10. Make Time to Doodle
With design becoming increasingly digital, designers and marketers run the risk of losing touch with the tactile world. Although picking up some new coding skills and social media templates will help your Q1 projects to really lift off, it’s important to touch base with non-virtual design too.
If you’re a designer who fears they may not remember how to draw or a copywriter who hasn’t handwritten a paragraph in recent memory, you’ll find that reconnecting with these tactile skills will help you to feel more motivated and invested in your work.
The easiest way to do this is simply to pick up a sketchbook and set aside your laptop for an hour. Sketching has been proven to boost brain function and creativity, helping your ideas to flow more easily, kind of like a form of mindful meditation.
A University of Plymouth study even demonstrated that people who doodle while listening to a lecture retain 29% more of the information than non-doodlers.
So, if you were ever told off for doodling in class, this is the right time to reclaim the humble doodle as more than a daydreamer’s pastime and, instead, as a tool for increasing your creativity and productivity.
To Q1 and Beyond!
Q1 represents a fresh slate for designers and marketers to rethink their design strategy for the year ahead. With these tips in hand, you should feel more confident stepping into 2023 with a creative and effective plan.
Whether it’s trying a new software app, tidying up your creative schedule, or learning a handy new skill, there are numerous ways to start the new year on the right foot.
License this cover image via Khosro.