Colours are without doubt, one of the most vital elements in design. whether it’s user interfaces, branding, illustration or typography, colours can convey information quickly and easily to the person viewing it.
As of late, it has increasingly come to our attention that a fresh new take on the gradient has come around – and it’s now trending. The great thing about gradients is you can almost make them so unique.
What’s A Gradient?
“A gradient is created by using two or more different colours to paint one element while gradually fading between them. Gradients let designers create something that feels like a new colour. A tone which didn’t exist before, something that looks unique, modern and refreshing.” (Gal Shir, Medium)
The History Of The Gradient.
Although gradients are generally associated with that of the previous decade and late 20th century in digital art and design, influenced by the increase in the use of Photoshop, the use of smooth colour gradients had been present in art and design earlier in the last decade. For example, the pre-Suprematist works of Kasimir Malevich, Katsushika Hokusai’s views of Mount Fuji, or the 1970s paintings of Judy Chicago.
The Early Trendsetters.
Around May 2015, Stripe updated their site and guess what? They were using gradients! The gradients seemed to feature primarily in their hero slides, but has now evolved to be a prominent part of the their website design. They seemed to be one of the first to utilise gradients in a more modern way, combining bright hues with darker colours allowed some beautiful deep navy blue to green transitions.
Spotify followed in early 2016 with duotone colour trends. Their two colour overlays has almost become part of the brands visual identity. Spotify, similar to Stripe uses duotone with a distinct gradient, balancing bright pops of colour or using a single bright hue that fades to light or dark. This seemed to be the most successful way to create a fresh new look using gradients.
Mobile photo-sharing app Instagram ditched its iconic retro camera logo in favour of a simple glyph, an over simplified flat camera set against a multi-coloured gradient brackground. In a blog post, head of design, Ian Spalter said the company had been considering a redesign for some time. “Last year, a group of us started digging into how we could support [the app’s] evolution while staying true to Instagram’s heritage and spirit,” he said. “We wanted to create a look that would represent the community’s full range of expression — past, present and future.” The design team have used it’s newly devloped brand identity to bring uniform to the rest of the apps that the company had brought to market.
Evolution From The Flat Colour Palette
When the era of flat design was introduced, gradients were abolished, however, on their return, it seems that many of the gradients are influenced by that of the flat design colour palettes as some of the most aesthetically pleasing hues have been “borrowed” directly from flat design.
These colour choices help give a fresh approach to the gradient, and what seems to be an added bonus is that it seems to intertwine with other design trends and elements really well, as you can see from the image above.
I think the gradient trend is great, because you can really allow it to compliment other trends, making it an easy transition design if you want to employ a bit of a redesign but aren’t ready to completely start from scratch.
The Duo Tone
Duotone gradients in a particular seem to be the biggest deal. Again, this is a combination of trends that seems to be a great fit. The downside to the two-tone concept is that it is being used a lot, and leaves little room for innovation. There seems to be an abundance of designers out there with the same gradient pattern using different colours with many of them using variants of blues and greens. Make it yours! If you’re looking for a tool to provide you with some inspiration, we previously wrote a post about a tool that we have used often called CoolHue. Alternatively, if you’d like some inspirtation on flat colours, take a look at our Brand Swatch catalogue that lists colours from brands visual identities from all over the world!
So Why Are Gradients Trending?
Gradients Stick In Your Mind
Gradients aren’t defined as a specific colour, therefore we don’t have a particular word we can associate with that particular pattern of colours. As we are still in, and maybe just emerging from the flat design era, we’re still predominantly surrounded by flat design, so gradients are going to stand out regardless.
Gradients Are Unique
If you think about the number of brands in the world in comparison to the number of colours, the number of brands would vastly outnumber the number of colours. But that’s where gradients step in. The number of colour combinations are almost infinite. I think there are around 20 colours we can actually name, while on the other hand there are millions of brands trying to evoke their own brand identity to you. You can’t choose blue because Facebook already did, so you try a different blue and you realise that Twitter took it.
That’s why gradients can be so useful. Designers can combine multiple different colours and the use of gradients actually allows a lot more colour tones to become available. The amount of brands that utilise a certain colour combination, such as blue and purple may be really small, therefore that gives brands the opportunity to obtain a unique visual identity.
Gradients Look More Realistic
In reality, we don’t experience things in 2D where a circle doesn’t exists but a ball does, we see way more gradients than flat colors. Every lemon has its shady half which is more brown or green. Same in flowers, the sky, different materials, and more. They are all painted with gradients. Maybe it might be more natural and logic for our eyes to see gradients also on our screens.
Gradient in UI by Alper Tornaci
Gradients Are Colourful And Playful
We all love colours, it’s in our nature, even insects and animals are naturally attracted to certain colours. For example, a bee’s eyesight is designed in such a way that it can identify colourful flowers – the brighter it is, the more attracted they are. Relating this back to gradients, the more colourful they are the more attractive they are in comparison to flat colours.
The Future of Gradient Design
Flat colours are bland, and less attractive. I believe that we will see more and more gradients throughout the year and following into next. I think we’ll start to see more subtle gradients, colours closer together on the spectrum. Take the new App Store icon on iOS11 for example: the subtle gradient is a great example of how we don’t see gradients as gradients, or as their own design element. Apple see to amplify the movement of trends, so I’m sure this is evidence enough of what’s to follow.