Trending towards 2024: Where brands shake hands, styles collide, and AI gets real
In 2023, diverse trends reshaped industries and consumer behaviors setting the stage for continued innovation in 2024. Here are 7 trends that will impact the year ahead.
Brand partnerships have symbiotic relationships that are often deeply tied to color.
In 2023, brands were looking for collaboration opportunities to broaden and deepen their reach. Successful collaborations in 2023 prove that seemingly unlikely collabs can make the best pairings. Color was often the primary creative driver in many of the partnerships we saw. Examples include Backdrop + Porsche, Tiffany + Rimowa, Barbie + Airbnb, Crocs + Hershey, and Ruggable + Pantone.
We saw collaborations perform extremely well as an invaluable exchange of exposure for both sides. Success in this space is often measured by the consumer reach, and with increasing collaborations, brands will have to get more creative in their collaboration options. In 2024, we will witness brands doubling down on this strategy, and designers will be even more crucial in identifying the perfect pairs.
In 2023, consumers were more interested in products that don't feel mass-manufactured.
The second-hand and homemade elements in these products connected them with the maker, brought them back to a different time period, or gave them a sense of pride. The steady, continuing growth of sites like Etsy embrace the ability to deliver unique and handmade products directly to their consumers. Gen Z is actively thrifting instead of buying new. Beauty brands such as Rare Beauty and Fenty are tackling this trend by creating products that embrace imperfections and encourage consumers to own their individuality. This is also seen in luxury brands, such as Gucci and Haus London, whose products are inspired by discordant and organic forms.
Honesty and authenticity are paramount in this trend. In 2024, we may see how big brands pivot their product strategy to incorporate elements of imperfection, or see a continuation of smaller brands fully embracing it. Designers can help brands discover authentic and honest ways to celebrate this trend, and they can help decide how big or small brands should go.
As we sway away from minimalism, we are embracing completely different styles existing at the same time within the same space.
While a version of this has always existed, we saw an uptick in 2023 across different categories. Architectural Digest and Interior Design Magazine have featured an increasing amount of interior spaces that showcase this eclectic, maximalist approach. Fashion brands continue this way of styling but in bolder ways. In social media, these types of uncommon combinations are celebrated as showcasing someone’s true style.
We will see a bigger acceptance of different styles living together overall, and this might extend further into how brands approach their visual brand strategies. 2024 may prove that a variety of forms, colors, materials, fonts, and graphics can happily and meaningfully co-exist.
Consumers have come to expect the option to personalize the products they buy.
At times, it may become a deciding factor in choosing what’s right for them. Whether it is personalizing your health products and behaviors, laser etching your name on devices, or seeking out print-on-demand websites for products and clothing, the ability to personalize our products is a feature worth considering to remain competitive.
Designing with personalization in mind during the early stages of a design project is critical, because waiting only increases the difficulty for everyone involved. Brands that build personalization into their product strategy early can help enable it quickly at launch or as an option to enable later. In 2024, a brand’s personalization strategy may be just as important as the success of the product itself, and designers can help get you there.
Brands and consumers alike are beginning to experience the uniquely different values between VR and AR.
During 2023, hardware updates and completely new products were introduced that showcased specific experiences and purpose. Products like Meta’s Smart Glasses and Apple’s Vision Pro exist on an AR and VR spectrum. Each has its unique approaches to these new digital realities, and each has specific tasks they are designed to excel at.
AR products and experiences may start to change our workplace, fueling new productivity methods and even replacing products like monitors. VR products will become more accessible, creating the opportunity to evolve media consumption, mobile gaming, and the arts. Designers can help facilitate this shift into new ways of communicating, working, gaming, and collaborating.
In 2023, we witnessed AI services like Chat GPT and Google Bard launch in existing tools we use everyday, but they might begin to drive hardware design.
As with most new technology, making it physical may assist in adoption and acceptance. Most of the physical representations of AI are in a rough conceptual stage, or they are being integrated into existing archetypes like robotics, phones, and computers. With the AI pin, we’ve seen an early glimpse into what we might experience with AI-first hardware.
In 2024, we may see additional explorations, prototypes, and Gen-1 hardware introductions for bringing AI into the physical world. Designers will be crucial in creating the best experiences and forging acceptance for consumers.
The emergence of AI tools have highlighted how the quality and types of inputs/information can shape the outcome.
Through our own research at Smart Design, we’ve seen the real world cases of how inputs can greatly effect AI results. We’ve also seen the blowback from Sports Illustrated magazine using AI as an author. As we move into an election year, this issue will be increasingly elevated.
As we navigate a world of increasing AI generated content, we need to be discerning not only of the generated content itself, but equally inquisitive of the inputs. In 2024, we may see fact checker tools baked into AI software or procedures in publishing content when AI has been used. Designers can help guide consumers to creating better inputs, hopefully leading to a more truthful outcome.
About Louis Filosa
Louis Filosa is an industrial design director who balances good design practices with being commercially-minded. He brings expertise in the comprehensive industrial design process across CPG, consumer products, home, beauty, luxury, and oral care industries. His past notable clients include Method, Quip, Pepsi, Paul Mitchell, BoConcept, Lamborghini, Gantri, and EOS. His awards include Red Dot, Good Design, A’Design, Pentawards, Dieline, and Interior Design Best of Year. He holds an industrial design degree from Purdue University.
About Lulu Mills
Lulu Mills is a senior industrial designer who has a knack for seeing the big picture while staying focused on the details. She brings experience from a multidisciplinary background in healthcare, consumer goods, homewares, and tech. Notable clients include AstraZeneca, Google, The Gates Foundation, Samsung, Mrs. Meyers, and Gantri. Her work has been featured in notable outlets such as the New York Times, NYMag, Wired, and Fast Company. Lulu holds a degree in Industrial Design from Syracuse University.