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Published June 14, 2019
Published June 14, 2019
Arthur Mazi via Unsplash

Gradients are a calming design treatment providing a quiet space in the cacophony of digital and visual overload. The use of gradient color is not anything new, but the design element is having a moment that got traction in 2018 and it looks like it’s here to stay—for the moment. Gradients are color transitions achieved by the gradual blending of one color to another color and so on. In 2018 the design community dubbed the trend as Gradient 2.0. and predicts gradients will become a permanent natural element of design, adding depth and dimension to design fueled virtual and augmented reality.

“It’s nice to see calming things amongst all of the social ramifications of Instagram,” says Rion Harmon of Day Job, the design firm of record for Recess. The firm has used gradient elements across the marketing materials for the CBD, adaptogen-infused seltzer.

Vox attributes the gradient trend to the confluence of three different trends: Light and Space art, vaporwave, and bisexual lighting. The first trend, Light and Space art, is a West Coast minimalist movement pioneered by artist James Turrell in the ’60s and ’70s that is having a resurgence because of its Instagrammability. The second trend, started in the early 2010s, vaporvave, is a musical and aesthetic movement derived from internet-based subgenres such as seapunk, witch house, and chillwave. The third trend, bisexual lighting, is the objectively perfect color combination of pink, purple, and blue that gained momentum in the queer community in conversations on social platforms and made its way to the mainstream.

“There’s an inherent progression in gradients, you are being taken through something. Like that progression of Live Laugh Love. Of starting at one point and ending at another point. Evoking that visually is something people are very drawn to,” says Taylor Lorenz, a staff writer at The Atlantic who covers internet culture.

Gradients are versatile, and can break through visual noise by adding depth and visual interest to flat design. However, the ability for gradient design to work as a breakthrough design element requires discretion. Don’t go overboard—as with most things, less is more. Gradient design well executed is chic and modern, but when gradient design goes wrong it feels dated and cheap. Make sure you land on the right side of this design trend.


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