Do you remember May 11th, 2016? It wasn’t a particularly eventful day for most of us, but it was a big day for Instagram. On May 11th, 2016 Instagram revealed their rebrand (here’s the official Instagram announcement).
People weren’t happy about it.
I, however, was not one of those people. For me, by mid 2016, the old faux-leather camera icon was starting to wear thin. The app’s design felt antiquated, and badly needed a refresh. From the moment I saw the new Instagram logo, I was in love.
Why? Because I love gradients.
The 2017 Design Trend
Gradients as a design trend began picking up steam in 2016 — there’s always a flashpoint with design trends when a massive company dives into them. We saw this with flat design in 2013 when Apple redesigned its operating systems and released iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks, heavily relying on flat design.
Similarly, when Instagram announced their new look in mid-2016, it became a turning point for gradients. The gradient as a design trend went mainstream. And since this design trend began to pick up steam in 2016, I expect it to mature in 2017.
Popular Gradient Examples
To show you a handful of examples of gradients in popular design, all I needed to do was open my phone. We’ve already talked about Instagram, but four other common apps using gradients jumped out at me right away.
The Philosophy Of Gradients
Just where did the gradient design trend come from? Well, to be clear, this isn’t a brand-new look. In fact, the reason most people were outraged by the Instagram rebrand unveiling was because it felt like a step backwards.
“Gradients?! Disgusting. I could have made this in Microsoft Paint.”
From my perspective, however, embracing gradients feels like the natural next step in design’s evolution from 2013-2015 where flat design dominated. Perhaps you remember that flat design was everywhere, and in many ways still is (look no further than Snapchat for a glorious example of flat design).
But after awhile, any design trend — no matter how elegant — needs to evolve. And the natural next step for flat design is gradients. Why? Because, interestingly, the base colors for the majority of the gradients showcased here would be brilliant standalone colors. Meaning, these gradients could have easily started as flat design and then evolved into gradients.
In fact, in so many ways, gradients still are flat designs. They just have a bit more depth and luster to them.
Why This Is Great News For Churches
Gradients are awesome for churches. Here’s why…
When I look at popular gradient designs I see dynamic, bright, and vibrant colors. These colors may be too much for corporate or industrial branding. Sure, the tech world might be able to get away with them (see the Spotify, Stripe, Instagram, and Apple examples above), but slap a loud gradient on a law firm or realtor’s website and it seems wildly out of place.
Not so for churches, though.
When I think of a thriving church community, I think of words like dynamic, bright, and vibrant. The words I would use to describe a flourishing church family are the same words I would use to describe a lively gradient.
The emotions are the same. Vibrant, energetic, vivid, spirited, full of life.
Many times design trends — however cool they may be — just don’t vibe with the church community. Take clothes, for instance: slim jeans have been the dominant trend for awhile now. If your body type suits the narrow silhouette, awesome! But we’ve all seen guys that wear skinny jeans, because they know they’re trendy, and look ridiculous in them. That’s unfortunate. They’re on trend! But everyone has their own style that can’t be shoehorned into every trend.
The same is true for design. I don’t care how boutique or hip your law firm, if you slap a glowing neon gradient on your website, it will feel out of place. It’s like your grandpa in a pencil suit. It’s edgy but it’s still wrong.
Churches and gradients were made for each other. Just do a quick search for Hillsong Young & Free in Google Images and you’ll see gradients everywhere in their designs.
How To Create Beautiful Gradients
Admittedly, gradients are more difficult to execute well than flat design. (Just as it’s easier to create stunning typography with a single font than by pairing two fonts together.) When you pair two colors to create a gradient, you’re introducing a second variable into the equation. Do the math: the more variables in an equation, the higher likelihood of making a mistake.
To make things easier to create your own gradients, check out a cool site I discovered called UIgradients.com. Here you can generate as many beautiful gradients as you want, find one you’re inspired by, and start designing using the colors the engine provides.
My Gradient Design Experiment
Of course, I wanted to experiment with creating some gradient designs myself, so here are a couple of graphics I came up with.
What I’ve found with gradients is that, although the backgrounds aren’t very busy, they’re so loud that keeping typography minimal is a must. The focus of gradient design is the gradient, not the text. Try to do too much with fonts and text and you’ll have a battle on your hands. Let the gradient be the primary focus and the text be secondary.
I’m declaring gradients to be my 2017 design of the year best suited for churches to explore.
The emotions of a lively gradient match up perfectly with the feelings of being part of a spirited church family. It’s a match made in design heaven.
What do you think of gradients? Do you like this design trend? Tell me in the comments below. Let’s talk.