Top Design Trends of 2018: Elemental Forms

As 2018 draws to a close, we’re looking back at design fair debuts, taking stock of the visual and material themes driving the industry.

trend 2018 elemental design
ORDINAL by Michael Anastassiades for Cassina,, Salone del Mobile Courtesy the designers and manufacturers

As 2018 draws to a close, we’re looking back at the debuts and launches from the year’s design fairs, taking stock of ideas and imperatives driving the industry, like the evolution of work or the refinement of a sustainable consciousness. But we’re also digesting the visual and material themes that emerged throughout the year in fairs from Milan to Chicago, Helsinki to New York, Cologne to Stockholm. 

Today’s streamlined designs don’t quite fit the quest for “honesty” so often seen in architectural history—the idea that a chair or a building should clearly reveal its structure and materials. Our contemporary legibility is more gesture than furniture: stripped-down forms in monochrome, with edges made seamless through injection molding and powder coating. These pieces seem elemental, presenting some essential concept of a table or chair, but they aren’t severe or even dull. In each, it’s proportion—a length that’s a little longer than usual, a leg that’s a little broader— that makes the reading fresh and fun.

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