News | October 30th 2020

Little Black Book | The Lifestyle of the Gradient

What do we do with design trends that no longer feel fresh? Sam Eisen, senior copywriter at Code and Theory, wants to feed the gradient to “mother earth”

2020 keeps hitting us where it hurts - and its latest target is a particularly notable one: the gradient. “But the gradient is still young!” you exclaim. “We used one in our web designs last week!”

That’s cute. Sweet, even. But there’s no fighting the march of progress. Obsolescence comes for everyone and everything. Like puka shell necklaces, or the Roseanne reboot. So just let it go. Let. It. Go. Because the bell tolls for thee - yes, even as the once-noble gradient struggles for life, arguing for its own vitality like a peasant thrown on a corpse cart in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. “But I’m not washed yet,” pleads the gradient,its annoying little voice joining your chorus of pertinacious pity. “You can find me on’s list of the year’s top design trends! This year! 2020! I’m still belov—.”

But we can barely hear the gradient any more.

“Shhh. Go to sleep, gradient,” we whisper to no one and nothing.

Then we smirk, listening to its (for legal reasons, proverbial) screams muffled by the atonal thump of freshly shoveled earth as we literally, figuratively - and most important, sustainably! - bury it alive. It may seem harsh. It may seem cruel. So just trust us when we say it was necessary. Because at the risk of mixing metaphors, you don’t feel bad when you take the trash out to the trash. Same principle!

Of course, there’s no denying the gradient has served us well. From Apple to Instagram, the gradient has furnished our phone screens and our digital designs with a pleasant, practically narcotic potpourri of pigment. But the gradient has outlived its usefulness.

That same ubiquity has become predictability. And what do we do with design trends that no longer feel fresh and vital? We take them out back and feed them to our earth mother, so that something better may grow in its place.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Gradients have monopolised colour, derided borders, and blotted out the better angels of our design nature for too damn long. The gradient is the manspreader of design, taking up space without having anything of interest to say. It is the lorem ipsum of visual language, a dialect that passed from the lips of the living an eon ago (or in relative internet time, at least a couple weeks).

Which is why this can only be classified as an act of mercy - so that the gradient may

live long in our collective imagination as a lightbringer and a beacon of hope, not an elegantly regurgitated box of crayons. When our group creative director Jessica Lee casually declared on Slack the other day, “I don’t fux with gradients no more,” it was as if a Zeusian thunderbolt split the sky, and the burn of her words clarified and cleansed us of the need to lean on this tired-ass design trope.

You can feel it, can’t you? The possibilities. Stop reading for a second. Just listen.

Those are buds. Blossoms, peaking through the loam. In the fresh, fertile soil, where the recently necrotised gradient now lies, something new is in the first stages of life.Because life? Well, life finds a way, my friends. In the bloom of the day, we see freshand vital design trends climb to the sky, hungry for nurture, hungry for the shine denied to them for so long by the pervasive, persistent gradient.

The sky breaks. The fog recedes, shuddering aside, leaving only spectral trails to mark its passage from our atmosphere. The sun beams, feeding our fledgling little design sprouts. And from behind the retreating cloudform comes something bright, bountiful, and undeniable: a rainbow.

A rainbow. A rainbow? A rainbow’s totally a gradient. Well, hmm.


Not to be dramatic about it or anything…...

Gradient main

Grade-ient: 0/10Honestly, they didn’t even try on this one. It’s just the middle section of a rainbow rendered on an uninspired diagonal. It’s an insult.

09062607 ab5d 4f82 af30 b952010a167c

Rating: 10/10

15/10 let’s be honest. Lisa Frank was, and continues to be, an icon of epic proportions. As a ‘90s baby, I may be biased, and I’m okay with that. Where else do you get school supplies that look like the debris left behind from a really good acid trip?

Is the actual rainbow a gradient? Who’s to say?

We are.
It is.

And therefore, the gradient can never truly be just a trend. No matter how many times we bury it, it will rise.

Says a Lot —


News — 

CampaignLive | Behavior as a prompt: Why AI’s ability to anticipate will change business forever

News — 

Code and Theory Wins Three Drum Awards For AI, Creativity, and UX with YETI and Tipico

News — 

Under Armour Launches UA Rewards with Masterclass-style Video Series, in Partnership with Code and Theory

News — 

Figma Names Code and Theory as Launch Partner in New Service Partner Program

News — 

Scout by Sutter Health™ Launches an App Focused on Resilience Building for Youth and their ‘Champions’, Built by Code and Theory

News — 

Code and Theory Network Wins Six W3 Awards

News — 

Facing the Future: A Guide to AI and Design Transformation

News — 

Amazon Ads Debuts First Small Business-Targeted Campaign

We Are a Technology-First Creative Agency

What We Do

Born in 2001, Code and Theory is a technology-first creative agency that sits at the center of creativity and technology. With a global client roster of Fortune 100s and start-ups alike, we crave the hardest problems to solve and create end-to-end solutions that flex to meet the needs of today’s ever-changing business landscape.

Our Services

We provide a range of offerings built to support the entire ecosystem.

  • Data, Research & Testing

    Our data-driven approach enables us to understand every aspect of end-to-end consumer journeys, and powers our work from start to finish.

  • Business Consulting & Design Transformation

    We work with our clients not only to define and deliver products, services and communications, but also to design the business itself.

  • Transformational Technology

    We help our clients reinvent their technical infrastructure and roadmap in order to deliver for the needs of today and tomorrow.

  • Services, Platforms & Products

    We create best-in-class platforms built around both the user and the business goals, often extending into connected physical expressions.

  • Integrated Marketing

    We deliver the right messages to new and existing customers across the entire ecosystem.

Join Our Team

We're not typical, and neither are you. We're always looking to hire smart, interesting and forward-thinking people.
See All Open Positions

Code and Theory is a proud member of Stagwell Group. Stagwell is the challenger network built to transform marketing. We deliver scaled creative performance for the world’s most ambitious brands, connecting culture-moving creativity with leading-edge technology to harmonize the art and science of marketing. Led by entrepreneurs, our 13,000+ specialists in 34+ countries are unified under a single purpose: to drive effectiveness and improve business results for their clients. Join us at