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Beyond Décor: Rachel Nunziata

5 Print Design Trends That Are Making a Comeback

What goes around, comes around.

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HAVE YOU EVER noticed trends from the past usually come back in some quirky new form or fashion? As a millennial, I’m beginning to notice the styles of my childhood are very present today. They remind me how much time has passed in order for it to feel like a reoccurring fad or, dare I say, appear “vintage.” Believe it or not, there’s an interior décor trend that perfectly describes this nostalgic, elder-millennial vibe called, grandmillennial style aka, “granny-chic.” Realtor.com says if you’re in your mid-to-late thirties and glass decanters, brown wood furniture, and needlepoint pillows give you the warm and fuzzies, you just might fit this category.

It’s hard to believe millennials are already channeling anything semi-vintage, but that’s just how fast trends are recirculating. Researchers and analysts give credit to these faster cyclical changes in generations due to new technology. In fact, it’s been at least five years since millennials became less of a nut to crack and Gen Z became the new center of attention. Why? You can thank rapidly advancing technology creating faster generational turnover (i.e., Gen Z has zero exposure to analog). I digress.

From quintessential beauty looks of the ’90s like button fly straight leg jeans to flare leg denim, it all comes back but in a fresh and reinvented way. The same concept can be applied to interiors, which are also heavily influenced by fashion and technology. Interiors may have that nostalgic ’90s vibe, but you’ll see modern touches like smart home technology, more sustainable materials and floor plans, and spaces that make sense to how we work and play today.

Where exactly can PSPs and surface designers capitalize on the above? For starters, we can capture the attention of millennials through meaningful attributes they care about like our sustainability practices, using eco-friendly substrates and inks married with good quality design. Morgan Stanley states the “Youth Boom” of millennials and Gen Z can increase spending trends, so don’t discredit them as your current or soon-to-be core customers or decision makers.

Next, understand your customers’ customers’ needs matched with the current state of the market. As we all know, the global pandemic has completely reshaped life and will have a lasting impact until the unforeseeable future. Antimicrobial surfaces, protection screens, and directional wayfinding will remain in-demand. Repurposing and reapplying décor trends not only saves time and energy in developing new offerings and marketing strategies, but allows your wide-format print products to maintain relevance when paired with pandemic-compliant product attributes.

What Goes Around Comes Around

Late to the game or not sure where to begin? To kick start your 2021 efforts, I’ve compiled my top five design trends from the past that you can repurpose and apply in your print business today:

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1. Resimercial design made its appearance thanks to tech companies and big brands seeking to hire millennials, paired with the rise of modern co-working spaces like WeWork. Progressive employers began to redefine traditional office settings, because if you wanted to hire fresh, young talent you needed to attract and retain them. It’s more common in commercial design to be influenced by technology and how we work rather than personal style and fashion you might see in residential. Except you may have noticed that hybrid commercial-residential look in cooler, homey looking corporate lobbies and work hubs. That’s because they invoke a more collaborative work environment, and that’s no coincidence. As workplaces have evolved, their employee structuring and hierarchy, so do their work environments. Forward thinking corporations encourage individuals to work as teams in sometimes flat organizations, and in high-stress jobs, so a slightly relaxed environment is meant to prime creative ideas while increasing productivity. PSPs can offer a multitude of vinyl products or custom branded textiles for residential soft goods like pillows and accent furniture using dye-sublimation or even latex inks. Develop a niche portfolio presentation on your website and social media presence (Instagram is a non-negotiable!) to attract potential clients and project leads.

2. Hygge once deemed “out” by top influencers is back again, but in a new way. If you’re not familiar with the Danish term, Wikipedia states: “Hygge is a Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment.” Now, casualization is on the rise across multiple aspects of daily life. Ah, the dilemma of matching your comfy joggers with workplace appropriate shirts for Zoom calls! Okay, so you might be asking yourself, “How am I supposed to help my customer create a sense of coziness?” Again, think textiles and soft furnishings, but this can even mean hitting the right warm tones and Pantone colors. Perhaps consider printing on natural wallcovering textures like grasscloth and linen instead of harsh looking metallic mylars and pearlized finishes. The key is clear communication with the client and leaning on their design tastes with good listening skills because the better you listen, the better you will consult.

3. Accent walls were on their way out (painted or wallcovering), but are now purposeful by serving as personalized, branded Zoom backdrops for virtual meetings. You might wonder why accent walls were ever phasing out, but designers have limits in terms of attention span and rooms aren’t meant to be static. The only competition you might come across here are digital backgrounds that can easily be downloaded and applied in Zoom. However, there are always benefits to print. A semi-permanent peel and stick wallcovering product could make for a great backdrop for Instagrammers, designers, bloggers, and creatives who not only see value in a tactile product, but could use beyond video in still photos of social media content, headshots, and lifestyle photography. This sometimes requires cool, creative interior decorated spaces. Consider designing peel and stick wallcovering backgrounds as a solution for the everyday person using video. Is their camera not adjusting for lighting or skin tone properly? Cool, grey colors can help with white balance. Working in a small, makeshift, at-home office nook? Develop prints and patterns that give the illusion of a larger room. With basic R&D work and some trial and error, you can develop accent wall products your customers see value in and will pay for.

4. Banana leaves, banana leaves, banana leaves. Did anyone else go a little bananas for the banana leaf print that exploded in recent years? It originated from stylist and decorator Dorothy Draper in 1942 exclusively for The Beverly Hills Hotel as wallcovering, but eventually made its way onto various applications in multiple iterations for home furnishings and textiles for fashion. Although a classic print, recent (dare I say) overuse has made this print become somewhat redundant. Interestingly, house plants and plant care have also popularized in recent years, so there is something to say about leaf patterns having a calming effect in the home. One way to avoid banana leaf burnout is to leverage another pandemic trending design aesthetic known as biophilic design, stemming from a hypothesis called biophilia or “the innate and genetically determined love for the natural world felt by all humans.” In short, plants make people happy, and if we’re stuck at home, it’s nice to bring the outdoors in. Help your customers achieve this on almost any substrate application that complements real life plants: clear window films, room dividers, fabrics, wallcoverings, and more.

5. Lastly, the one you probably expected: the open floor plan. They’re almost always impractical as learning and working from home is becoming the norm. Turns out the living room/dining room/kitchen scenario doesn’t favor conference calls. It prohibits any bit of sound control or privacy. Plus, if you don’t have a wall behind you, how ever will you have that perfectly branded Zoom printed backdrop? The same goes for corporate offices. Those large, open, coworking collab style spaces are noisy and distracting. It’s also exactly why private pods are popping up. If you haven’t seen these, they’re the tiny houses of office spaces, offering acoustically controlled booths for an individual focused and productive workspace. (I can see customization with digital print here, too!) Sectioning off areas into zones creates more surfaces to play with, which is a win-win for both designers and PSPs. There’s no shortage of application possibilities either. You can add sound dampening room dividers or window films on protective screens. Even hotel rooms have become work-from-home solutions.

As you can see, despite living in a pandemic world, there are at least five décor print opportunities you can take on today and a plethora more that can come from it. The key to surviving and thriving during any difficult time is to develop the skill set to think creatively and pivot quickly. The bridge between wide-format print and interior décor is simply having a conversation with more designers. If you can be more in tune with your customers’ customers’ needs, you’ll spend a lot less time struggling and a lot more time producing.

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Rachel Nunziata is a digital print business and market development specialist with an undeniable enthusiasm for interior and home décor segments. She is a graduate of Ringling College of Art & Design in Sarasota, Florida, and has a knack for enabling synergies between artists, interior designers, and industry experts. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter @RachelNunziata.

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