8 HOT Branding and Design Trends for Startups

By David Card

Are you curious what the latest, greatest, and somewhat run-into-the ground branding trends are for 2019? Are you wondering what fonts, illustrations, colors and photography will crush your competition and make them wish they never got into business? Do you crave to find out why so many websites have creepy hands reaching up from the bottom of the page? Read on for all this and more!

HOT Trend #1:  Solid pastel color backgrounds
Holy copycat, Batman! It’s the attack of the clone website army. Seriously, this is one trend that is not going anywhere soon, and in all honesty, it looks HOT.  The formula is simple: choose a pastel flavored, tertiary hue, and place your product in this flat environment. BAM! Instant awesome. 

The only drawback, if you haven’t guessed, is the lack of differentiation. Below we have socks, plants, tampons, ED medicine, sheets, and invisible braces all more or less with the same brand look. So yes, it’s “startup,” but no, it’s not ownable.

Now for some firms, this really might not matter in the long run – but if differentiation is essential for how you are positioning your startup, it might merit some consideration.

Startup Branding


“Think about the ‘startup look’: hyper-clean, sans-serif fonts typed out—literally—as a logotype, placed on a solid-colored background with a silhouetted product shot… It’s kind of amusing and alarming to see that we ended up at a point where one look can be applied to anything, sell anything: luggage, toothbrush, shoes, cosmetics, pet products, lingerie, insurance. You name it.”

Natasha Jen, Partner, Pentagram



HOT Trend #2:  Hand-Drawn Illustrations
When it comes to icons and illustrations, the more creative, the better, especially for appealing to younger B2C customers. The custom artwork has several advantages: It’s unique, and hence it’s ownable, it makes an emotional connection, and it’s just plain fun – and if one of your brand qualities is that fun, approachable, smiling blob-type… well, you’re in business.

Startup Branding


HOT Trend #3:  Sofia Pro
Sofia who? Sofia Pro is the (HOT) font you see in all the examples below.  It’s a font that is so scorching our asbestos-insulated keyboards are melting under the flames. This font, along with several very similar-looking clones, is employed in an absurd number of startup websites recently.  Can this trend last or is the Fonz airborne over the shark? Only time will tell, but for now, if you want folks to know their groceries will come to them in the coolest way possible, use Sofia Pro.


HOT Trend #4:  Serif & Sans Mashup
Continuing on our typographic tangent, our fourth HOT trend concerns pithy headlines set in a modern serif font paired with a simple sans serif body copy. Much like artisan chefs utilize contrasting flavors and colors, web designers are creating a similar tension with letterforms. The result, when done correctly with HOT fonts (Times New Roman and Arial are failsauce) is our trend du jour.

Startup Branding


HOT Trend #5:  Lively Product Arrangements
Semi-related to HOT Trend #1, lively product arrangements are finding their way on to more and more B2C product sites.  We really love the creativity and thought put into these photo shoots and post-production. Who knew razors and seltzer water could look so extraordinary? We’re also noticing the use of clever, simple props to (literally) elevate the product and add visual interest. The one-two punch of creative product setups and the solid color backdrops is a knockout combination that drives energy and user engagement. LOVE.

Startup Branding


HOT Trend #6:  Colorful Lifestyle (People) Photos
Executing great lifestyle photography is difficult and often expensive. One needs to source talent, photographers, producers, locations, and so on.  Keeping in tune with the overall theme thus far, the latest HOT way to shoot people is isolated on a colored background that aligns with the brand direction. Aside from having to separate hair from the background (be sure to hire a HOT retoucher), this creative approach can help trim costs by eliminating hefty location fees and permits.

Startup Branding


HOT Trend #7:  Centered Logo at Top
Gone are the days of upper left logos, that is so, so… 2017. If you want your brand to be on top (center) of its game, you want that logo to be smack-dab in the middle.  Like some other trends, this looks cool mainly because everyone else isn’t doing it until they do do it, in which case it’s no longer cool…  So, set your alignment tool for centered and click away, you’ll be that much closer to the HOTness.

Startup Branding 

(Semi) HOT Trend #8:  Disembodied Hands
So in the process of researching this article, we noticed a disturbing trend we could not ignore and must bring to the public’s attention: an over-abundance of body-less hands coming up from the bottom of the picture frame to hold product, props, and even caress your face.  This falls under the category of things that look cool in isolation but absurd when viewed en masse.  And, it’s probably (hopefully) a temporary blip on the radar. Perhaps next we will see feet or cat paws…?                                                                                                                            

Startup Branding hands


Rounding it all up
Obviously, this article is tongue-in-cheek, and many of these brands have had successful launches and upward trajectories towards unicorn-land. They are all well-designed and executed. 

Staying on the cutting edge is mandatory for startups looking to make a dent in the collective consciousness. With new products hitting the market every day, it’s crucial to be both on-trend and unique, to stand out and not look like everyone else. It’s not easy.

Hiring a branding agency is the first step to exploring where you have an opportunity to differentiate from the competition, and how that can be brought to life visually. With the right strategy, who knows, perhaps your brand will be the next HOT startup for 2019.


All trademarks © their respective owners. 


If this article helped you, please help us by sharing it or recommending to a friend. Thank you!



Branding 101: Why does brand typography matter?

Read More