Digital and Design Trends: The Year in Review, 2019

By exploring the most popular things people searched for and bought, we can reveal insights that could help inform your work in 2020.

Year in Review 2019
Portrait for Helen AlexanderBy Helen Alexander  |  Updated June 13, 2023

As you prepare to embrace a new year, we take a look at the top trends that have emerged on Envato Elements and Envato Market over the past 12 months. By exploring the most popular things people searched for and bought, we can reveal insights that could help inform your own work this year. For more inspiration, check our trend predictions for 2020.

Visual Design Trends

2019 Visual Design Trends

01. Modern​

This is the Modern Way

“UX illustration styles for SaaS websites have been emerging since 2017, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down,” says GraphicRiver and Envato Elements content specialist Kate McInnes. Designers are seeking inspiration via the search terms ‘modern’, ‘minimalist’, and ‘isometric’ across graphics, web, and video. They’re discovering artistic add-ons, Photoshop actions, and animated text layouts to help them create visually appealing work.

02. Minimalist

Minimalism Matters

In response to an increasingly cluttered online world, we are seeing a desire to strip down design to its most essential elements. As a result, simple sans serif fonts like the Tundra typeface, social media bundles that put simplicity front and center, and ‘clean’ infographics are all having a moment.

03. Isometric Design

Illustration Goes Isometric

A beautiful blend of flat and 3D, isometric design takes complex visual information and makes it less confusing. Always one step ahead of the curve, our Adobe tutorials will give your technical illustrations the edge, while isometric graphics and WordPress themes were among the most popular items on Envato Elements and Envato Market this year.

04. Comic Style

Cartoon Capers

Kapow! Comic book typefaces, speech bubbles, and cartoon strips have been adding a visual sense of fun to graphics, photos, and videos this year. The style translates to sound, too. As AudioJungle content specialist Adrien Gardiner says: “Comedy Stomp is a great little zinger with an upbeat groove and some quirky zest. That comical feel is unmistakable and instantly lightens the mood.”

05. Neon

Together in Electric Dreams

Electrifying fashion runways and lighting up Instagram feeds, this year’s biggest pop culture trend has to be neon, with bright and bold colors injecting a healthy dose of eye-catching energy across our visual platforms. “The neon trend can also be heard in 80s-inspired pop tracks,” says Adrien. “Neon and synthesisers go hand-in-hand, like two perfectly matched cultural icons.”

06. Cyberpunk

Design Gets Dystopian

With the much-anticipated Cyberpunk 2077 videogame set to be released early next year, content specialist Kate McInnes says it’s no wonder cyberpunk is creating a retro storm in graphics and video. “And then there’s the connection between 80’s dystopian cyberpunk films like Blade Runner and Akira, which are set in 2019. Where’s our hover car?”

07. Glitch

Let’s Get Glitch-ed

“Today’s cyberpunk is an evolution of the Vaporwave subculture that popped up around 2010, which mixes glitch art with themes of 80s/90s consumerism and cyberpunk tropes,” says Kate. It’s both a visual style and a musical genre, and we are seeing creatives incorporate digital or analog ‘errors’ and seemingly unintentional distortion into their work, from scratchy videos to skewed fonts. Embrace this haphazard trend by learning how to create a glitch effect in Photoshop.

08. Futuristic

Future-Gazing Themes

Who knows what tomorrow holds? Videos featuring robots, spacescapes, and the odd binary matrix dared to venture into the void in 2019. Supporting this visual trend, audio is being used to build anticipation. “Futuristic styles of audio will often tend toward a sense of mystery—the shrouded unknown or the yet unseen,” says Adrien.

09. Retro ​

We Take a Retro Step Back in Time

“To me, this year’s retro trend says ‘post-ironic’. The examples I’ve seen are oddly awkward and intimate,” says Kate. “Take Gucci’s make-up campaign. Tinged with influences from maximalism and luxe nostalgia, it’s jarring and familiar at the same time. A softer interpretation that retains a vintage flavor is what I like to call retro romance. Think luxurious florals, 70s-inspired serif fonts and dreamy photo filters.” Meanwhile, video openers featuring 80s titles and retro road-trip postcards confirm that yesterday is here to stay.

10. Graffiti

Spray-Can Creativity

Spontaneous and often subversive, there’s plenty to love about the street-art aesthetic. Bringing spray-paint blots, spots and strokes to Photoshop designs and giving fonts a hip-hop edge, searches for graffiti-themed items are shaking up our graphic content. Put your writing on the (metaphorical) wall with our text and photo effect tutorials, and select a riotous audio track to really make your mark.

2019 Thematic trends

01. Podcasts

Turn On, Tune In

Listen up: people love podcasts. Not only is the sector booming—podcast mobile app usage has risen 60% since January 2018—it was our highest trending cross-category search term this year. In 2019, we’ve been pricking up our ears to podcast-themed web templates and code for audio apps and web players. Meanwhile, background music, intro themes, and short ‘stings’ are all sound searches on Envato Elements.

02. Movie Magic

Screen Idols

Game Of Thrones, Marvel, Avengers… you’d think we were running a streaming service. This year’s TV and film blockbusters have popped up as search terms across our audio, graphics, and video categories, with users downloading templates to create their own superhero-inspired trailers and flyers featuring that sword-studded throne.

03. Cannabis​

High Times

The rules around recreational and medicinal cannabis use are starting to relax, and CBD oil has well and truly entered the wellness space—US sales are expected to exceed $20bn by 2024. As a result, cannabis is one of the strongest cross-site trends we’ve identified this year, with people searching for product information templates and website themes that offer WooCommerce compatibility. In the photo category, cannabis images are performing more than 10x as well as the norm, according to our content insights specialist, Andrew Hobson.

04. eSports​

Players Gonna Play

In the year Fortnite’s inaugural World Cup made 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf a millionaire, the terms ‘eSport’, ‘gamer’, and ‘gaming’ trended across multiple item types. The number of worldwide eSports viewers is projected to hit 300 million by 2020, and we’ve seen a steep rise in people visiting Envato to score images of teams competing in leagues and web themes featuring the live-streaming platform Twitch. Our graphics offer has also enjoyed a level up with gaming logo packs and overlay templates.

05. Era​

Trends of Two Eras: 80s and 90s

Nostalgia-fueled searches saw ‘80s’ and ‘90s’ dominate this year’s video and graphics search terms. Seems everyone wants to be a member of Mike and Eleven’s gang. As designers seek inspiration from retro tech, we expect to see analog effects, like 8-bit pixel textures and videos of VHS static, become increasingly popular.

06. Niches​

Nothing is Too Niche

Let’s get into specifics. Trending search terms have revealed a number of familiar niches this year, including health (medical, hospital, dentist, doctor), lifestyle (natural, yoga), education (college, learning, teacher, university), and business (company, real estate, insurance). But there have also been some surprises, says Stephen Cronin (our web content specialist), including searches for ‘fish’, ‘comic’, and ‘table’. “We’ve also seen an increase in the submission of WordPress app and landing page themes.”

2019 Code Trends​

01. WordPress Plugins​

Plugins Enhance Performance

“People are increasingly looking for ways to transform their WordPress installation into a fully-fledged business,” says Siddharth Pillai, our web security and code content specialist. Luckily, our platform features a variety of plugins designed to do just that—from adding appointment booking functionality to taking a site’s functionality to the next level with responsive menus.

02. PHP Resurgence​

We’re Still Speaking PHP

With the rise of modern, open-source frameworks like Laravel, which takes many of its cues from industry darling Ruby on Rails, hypertext preprocessor is once again asserting its dominance in the web development world. And while commentators love to predict the death of PHP, it remains the most used server-side programming language on the web.

03. Social Media​

Social Media Survives the Storm

Our love affair with social media continues, despite many of the industry’s giants being embroiled in privacy and data scandals this year. People are looking for plugins to make scheduling posts simpler and speedier than ever before, as well as ways to create social streams—for example Flow-Flow, which allows multiple feeds to be displayed as one responsive wall or gallery.

04. AI + ML

Artificial Intelligence Gets Clever

“Variations on the following keywords – ‘artificial intelligence’, ‘machine learning’, ‘deep learning’ and ‘neural network’ – have been buzzing around Silicon Valley start-ups these past few years,” says Siddharth, “and our markets have also seen an influx of items in this space, especially within e-commerce.” Think product recommendations based on algorithms and AI-powered sentiment analysis that harnesses the power of natural language processing.

05. Chatbots and Virtual Assistants

It’s Good to Talk

Siri and Alexa are now household names, and it seems everyone has a question for these chatty virtual assistants. Chatbots, meanwhile, help a brand to communicate with potential buyers by offering up automated replies and quick responses—boosting customer satisfaction levels in the process. Expect chatbots to continue to dominate the conversation in 2020.

06. Crypto​

Cryptocurrency is on the Money

Estimates of an end-of-year bitcoin price of $21,000 might be looking increasingly unrealistic, but that doesn’t mean the sector is done. “BTC and its crypto brethren are powering along and items catering to them are as well,” says Siddharth, who predicts more and more people will be buying into cryptocurrency trading platforms in 2020.

2019 Web Trends

01. Movement and Animation

On the Move

“Movement within a web page is far from new, but there is a trend towards more animation and increasingly sophisticated animation,” says web content specialist Stephen Cronin. From parallax scrolling to engagement-boosting background videos and elements that animate on interaction, 2020 will see our web items continue to feature lots of moving parts.

02. Large Images​

And Then a Hero Comes Along

Images have always been an important part of design and, over the past year, we’ve only seen them get bigger. Literally. Fullscreen slideshows, above-the-line photos, and hero images are taking up space within the web design world right now.

03. Illustration

Illustrations Spark Inspiration

Google’s homepage is a celebration of illustration, Asana and Slack use sketches to introduce their services, and Shopify and Dropbox are all about the doodle. It’s clear: big brands love ‘hand-drawn’ digital designs. This year, ‘illustration’ has been a high-volume search term on ThemeForest, with template and theme authors tapping into this always-evolving trend.

04. Tech​

From JavaScript to WordPress

In a move towards modern site-building tools and frameworks, JavaScript was by far the most talked-about language in 2019, while libraries such as React and Vue have also proved to be very popular. We are seeing content being provided via a headless CMS running GraphQL or a REST API interface, while Site Generators have also gained traction. That said, traditional CMSs are not disappearing—WordPress powers 35.2% of the world’s top 10 million sites.

2019 Audio Trends​

01. Genres​

Genres That are Generating a Buzz

In 2019, users were turning up the search volume on epic and orchestral tracks by authors like Vuorinen. Other genres proving to be a hit in the audio category included pop, stomp percussion, and drum and bass, while we’ve also seen growing demand for ethnic music—from Africa-inspired tracks to traditional Turkish instrumental pieces. “The growth of these genres is a natural evolution of the types of visual projects our customers are working on, which require these types of tracks,” says content specialist Adrien Gardiner.

Looking Forward to a Creative 2020!

Thank you to our community of creatives who use our products to buy, sell, download, and create—the items that you upload and the searches you carry out present us with an incredible opportunity to take a look at what’s sparking inspiration. Without these insights, we wouldn’t be able to compile our 2020 trend predictions. We’re so proud to have the opportunity to play a part in so many creative projects, and we can’t wait to see what you all come up with in 2020! You may want to also check out our previous review, looking into Video Trends.

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