10 Design Trends to Look Out for in 2021
Feb 18, 2021
It’s official: 2020 is over! With everyone’s least favorite year finally behind us, it’s time to start looking forward. What does 2021 have in store for graphic designers (and design lovers)?
Design trends never stay the same for very long, and they can be notoriously hard to predict. That said, here are 10 of our favorite up-and-coming trends that we bet you’ll see more of this year.
Psychedelics: Not Just for Music Festivals Anymore
When you picture the 60s and 70s, what comes to mind? It might be the midcentury modern décor that’s making a massive comeback in the home design world. Fashionistas may picture bell bottoms, fringe, tie-dye, and crochet accents. It’s the psychedelic graphics commonly associated with concert posters, Jimi Hendrix, and the music scene for designers.
With other 1960s design elements coming back into style, it’s no surprise that we see more psychedelic-inspired art. The bright colors and free-flowing forms of this iconic 1960s art style lend themselves to eye-catching graphic design. In 2021, we expect to see lots of abstract and psychedelic design, especially as arts and culture events begin to return.
Activism via Design
2020 was a divisive year of upheaval punctuated by social movements. Last year, from pandemics to politics, we saw a rise in socially conscious design and art that we predict will only grow through 2021.
Expect to see even more imagery that connects to a movement or issue, especially from brands. 2020 has shown us that consumers expect companies to take a stance on many social issues, and one of the best ways companies can do this is through their design choices.
Symbolism is Everything
Graphic designers know that when it comes to art, the little things matter.
Symbols like flags, sigils, and signs made from simple shapes have universal appeal. What makes symbols so powerful is their ability to transcend language. Symbols are a tongue that anyone can understand, which makes them particularly powerful for brand design.
Brands can utilize iconography such as lions, hearts, and armor to convey strength or symbols like pouring water or the moon to project tranquility onto their message through design.
Back to the Future
After the year that we’ve all had, it’s not surprising that designers are looking back to what seems like more straightforward, optimistic times now.
Retrofuturism is our future, only imagined by our past. If you’re familiar with Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland, you know what we’re talking about. It’s old-timey and futuristic all at once, featuring pieces of our modern everyday lives like social media, phones, and technology, and presents it through a vintage lens.
Sans “Sans Serif”
Sans serif fonts, much like many other minimalistic trends, are so 2018. From a typography perspective, 2020 was the serif’s year to shine.
Serif fonts have a vintage vibe and a stand-out appearance, giving brands authority and personality.
From logos to headings and print to web, serif fonts will dominate the graphic design landscape. Designers will seek to find more unusual and unique serifs to make their work stand out against the crowd. In 2021, expect to see more of the serif!
Keep It Simple, Silly
Simple data visualizations are having their moment right now, and it’s not hard to see why. Easy-to-read data visualizations make the massive amount of statistics and numbers circulated in our everyday lives digestible.
Graphics made with data visualization in mind should make complex data easy to understand and communication more effective. Since 2020 was filled with rampant misinformation spread online, clear and concise factual graphics will be trendy in 2021.
Shaping Up to Be a Good Year
Where loose, organic shapes defined design in 2019 and 2020, 2021 will be all about rigid and geometric shapes. Geometric shapes help make designs feel familiar and approachable. We’ve seen and drawn these shapes since early childhood, so naturally, we as consumers feel drawn to them.
Can You Illustrate That for Me?
Quirky characters make for unique designs. In 2021, many graphic designers are ditching abstract visuals in favor of illustrations and characters.
Illustrations help brands establish warmer, more casual relationships with their target customers and create an aesthetic to attract new customers. Expect to see more wacky characters and unique illustrations in 2021.
Social Media’s the New Slideshow
In 2020, slideshows ruled Instagram. Popular accounts like So You Want to Talk About took the format and ran with it, making multi-slide infographics and informational posts a significant trend going into 2021.
Brands have a lot to gain from using this popular design format. Since there are multiple slides to every post, there’s plenty of room to include information while also showing off your design chops. Plus, with all the misinformation floating around on the internet, these slide decks are a great way to clear the air and concisely present your point.
Graphics Going Green
Considering that many of us spent most of 2020 cooped up indoors, it’s no wonder that natural elements are finding their way into graphic design.
With lush greens, leafy patterns, and photos and illustrations of the outside world, this trend is sure to bring a breath of fresh air to the graphic design landscape this year. The natural imagery will help to give 2021 an air of regrowth, which it will surely need.
And there you have it! 2021 will be a year full of new graphic design trends as our world continues to change and grow from 2020s’ events.