Posted by Catherine Bailey, managing director of Legal Futures Associate Bar Marketing 
As we recover from an unprecedented 19 months within our sector, marketing teams and clerks’ rooms are keener than ever to try out something new in the promotion of their businesses.
And it’s never a bad idea to trial new looks and approaches anyway. It’s the ongoing quest for contemporary, cutting-edge trends that keeps the marketing of our law firms and barristers’ chambers fresh.
Where graphics are concerned, good design tells a story. Great design makes that story unforgettable. To spruce up your graphic design work and give your visual identity the expert touch, follow these tips:
Be socially conscious
The focus on anti-racism and the climate crisis recently has led to the growth of socially conscious design.
This trend is all about authentic representation (celebrating diverse nationalities and cultures), imperfections (rejoicing in individuality in all its blemished forms) and sustainability (focusing on being environmentally friendly). Authenticity only. No faking it.
Strike a balance between modern and timeless
Go totally modern and you run the risk of quickly becoming outdated. This warning particularly applies to logo design as this is one aspect of your branding which you don’t want to change very often. Choose modern but timeless with your organisational values in mind.
Seek inspiration from social media
Visually driven social media platforms – such as Instagram and YouTube – are a great source of trending graphics. Observe, learn from and utilise these trends in your own work. An easy way of doing this is through keyword searches and following hashtags.
Adopt muted colour palettes
We’ve faced monumental, unfamiliar stressors in our lives since March 2020, causing colour tastes to shift to calming, organic, natural hues that reduce anxiety. Understated oranges, teals and greens have proven popular as they evoke comfort, warmth and optimism combined.
Stay away from drab colours like standard browns and greys. They’re overdone and a little boring.
Utilise a pure black and white colour scheme
We’ve spent a lot of time on our screens this past year. Too much exposure to blue light causes eye strain. Counteract this with straightforward black and white. Not only will it minimise eye strain, it makes your design really pop and instils a feeling of nostalgia (think black and white cartoons and films of bygone age).
Obviously it should fit your branding. A black and white colour switch isn’t for everyone.
Use simple data visualisations
We live in an era of data bombardment. By presenting data in an easy-to-understand format, your communications will be all the better for it.
You can still portray complex data. The key is using pie charts, bubble charts and infographic-style images to make it easily digestible. You shouldn’t need to explain what you’re trying to show. It’s so simplistic, it speaks for itself.
Choose flat icons and illustrations over stock photos
In design, the little things matter. Icons tell a simple visual story, giving context and meaning to your message. In a way, icons or symbols transcend language. Inject your brand colours for even better results.
It’s similar with illustrations – you can convey meaning in less space than words – and they’re far more creative than stock photography.
Bad fiction became our way of life in 2020. The real was intertwined with the surreal on a daily basis.
Whether you’re a fan of Salvador Dali or not, graphic designers are tapping into this feeling with surrealist collages, using characters or objects out of context and giving new attributes for new meaning. The effect is accepting impossible combinations as one.
Cast your mind back to past, now-trending-again designs
Some blasts from the past making a resurgence are pop art and psychedelic designs. Straight from the 50s and 60s, pop art blurs the boundaries between high art and popular culture. Fast forward to the 70s, designers are once again embracing their inner flower child with funky, psychedelic prints.
These retro vibes are unsurprising with nostalgia at record heights currently.
Make your designs 3D
3D is nothing new but the continued rise of augmented and virtual reality means graphic designers are upping their 3D game.
The popular drift is incredibly lifelike visuals that blur the digital and physical, combining with photos or illustrations, and adding movement and animation to stand out from the crowd.
Catherine Bailey is co-author, along with Jennet Ingram, of A Practical Guide to Marketing for Lawyers  by Law Brief Publishing, now in its 2nd edition.