13 graphic design trends for 2021 – and two to avoid

2020 was – in a word – unprecedented.

The only thing almost as unprecedented as the events of the year themselves? The number of times 2020 was labeled “unprecedented”.

With the end of a year like no other, it is natural to look for new looks and approaches.

The desire for new and different – but also calming and less overwhelming – experiences will have a significant impact on customer appetite in 2021, including visual communication and graphic design.

Here, let’s dive into the graphic design trends you will see in 2021. Also, what design techniques you want to avoid.

2021 graphic design trends

Current graphic design trends for 2021 provide an opportunity to update your brand’s aesthetics, attract customers’ attention, and get better results.

These trends fall into three dominant themes or sentiments: socially conscious design, dissonance, and optimism.

Within each theme there are a number of design techniques and styles that artists and brands will employ.

You’ll want to see that – and not just because it means 2020 is over.

1. Socially conscious design

Design and culture are closely linked. The designer and author Robert L. Peters makes it clear where, in his opinion, real changes begin: “Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values ​​determine the future. “

To strive for a better future, it helps to visualize it.

Social unrest and movements against racism have attracted national attention and every brand and company needs to take note of and evaluate its position.

Socially conscious design has grown in importance over the past year and will have an even bigger impact in 2021. Within the topic of socially conscious design are among the most important trends authentic representation, sustainabilityand celebrate Diversity and imperfection.

2. Authentic representation

Nike is an instant icon Advertisement with Colin Kaepernick illustrates the urge for authenticity and design, which embraces different voices and perspectives.

Following widespread protests following the 2020 murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Nike spoke again and revealed “Once, don’t do it” – Undermine the brand’s instantly recognizable slogan.

You will continue to see brands push boundaries in 2021 when it comes to creating authentic, meaningful, and highly performing content via superficial designs.

3. Diversity and imperfection

The trend towards more socially conscious design is in line with broader cultural aspirations to make all forms of media more diverse, more inclusive, and reaffirm all of our different identities and imperfections.

DesignStudio purposely applies these values ​​and approaches authentically ‘Imperfect’ rebranding for insurance company Getsafe. Rebranding image of smartphones for Getsafe

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4. Sustainability

Sure, 2020 was a tough year for people, but Earth wasn’t much better.

And with all of our time indoors, we’ve had plenty of time to raise awareness (okay, fear) about climate change and other environmental issues. This – plus the almost universal experience with cabin fever after a year of pandemic-related bans – has sustainability Prominent in graphic design in 2021.

patagonia homepage

With consumers thinking more than ever about waste and its environmental footprint, brands that deal in physical goods are particularly sensitive to potential tension. Expect more and more packaging designs that emphasize sustainability through natural iconography, neutral color palettes, and environmentally conscious materials.

Image of the Nova Wallet advertisement on a smartphone

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Image of two bags of coffee with botanical on the front

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5. Natural and manufactured juxtaposition

Global lockdowns have broken our connections to our environment.

The graphic design is based on this tension through regular juxtaposition of nature and manufacture, earth and metal, organic and lifeless.

Gucci played around with all of these themes when it launched its Gucci Bloom fragrance gamified virtual experience for visitors to explore a busy garden:

Gucci Bloom advertisement for new frangrance

Exploring the contrasts and intersections between these forces is particularly attractive for spaces that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. Industries like fashion and travel will highlight elements that convey solidity and technological advancement while strengthening the connection with nature through floral and herb patterns, cheerful hues and blue skies.

These elements convey a sense of aim, movement, and exploration in the open air – even when there is nowhere to go.

Opening ceremony design with est. 2002

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6. Color trends in graphic design

Socially conscious design is interesting and effective – but also mentally demanding. As people spend more and more time at home grappling with monumental and unfamiliar stressors, color tastes have shifted to shades that have been shown to reduce anxiety and promote a sense of lightness.

Unsurprisingly, organic and natural hues can provide a welcome respite for people who stare at walls and screens all day. For the best results, bypass normal browns and grays. Understatemented oranges and blue-green provide warmth and comfort, while offering more energy and optimism than their dreary, neutral counterparts.

orange and teel pencil case

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These color trends are influencing the interiors of homes and workplaces as a luxury paint brand Farrow & Ball Reports.

Gone: dramatic accent walls and high-contrast color schemes. In: calm and muted tones.

At least for paint companies, quarantines caused by pandemics have a different earth tone: green. Income for Farrow & BallFor example, it increased by 20% compared to the previous year.

7. Dissonance

While some streams of design are aimed at propelling society forward or distracting it from all sorts of stresses we are under, other impulses in graphic design reflect our chaotic, turbulent present moment.

Designs that involve uncertainty often seem to be related to people living in unpredictable circumstances.

8. Color blur

A trend that brings up the topic dissonance blends color and texture by adding grains and / or gradients. Such blending or overlaying adds depth and tactility to rendered or printed images.

With darker, lighter color schemes, color blurring creates a degree of brutality, implying a depth of emotions and feelings, as well as a sense of three-dimensional space.

For a more unsettling effect, combine a color blur or a gradient with distorted text.

This changes everything that repeatedly blurs on a green background

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9. Oversized typography

Another dissonant trend in graphic design purposely misplaces typography in a way that goes against expectations and disregard of design conventions. Images that cut off or cover up portions of text or unpolished elements disrupt slim designs, including glaring “flaws” that catch the eye.

In the case of excessive sizes and violations of conventional hierarchies, this approach plays with both scaling and alignment – two of the Basic elements of graphic design. The effect: arresting and unforgettable.

puma this is my flow ad

Designer Danielo SilveiraDesigns for puma “”This is my flow“uses these concepts with visually stunning results.

Hype- and buzz-focused streetwear brands use these techniques with a studied casualness, which throws the uninitiated viewer off balance – and reward their die-hard fans for their knowledge.

10. Surrealism

“The real is intertwined with the surreal, and in no year has it been felt as deeply as in 2020” – 99designs.com

I feel that. Don’t you?

Given how jumbled – and jumbled – daily life often appears, it’s no wonder graphic design explores images that push the boundaries of reality.

What does it mean if you’re not a Salvador Dali lover or a critic of modern art? Well, you should probably prepare to understand more pictures like this one:

Design of a woman jumping out of the pool of another woman's headImage source

11. Optimism and reassurance

You are not alone when you crave calming, upbeat visual experiences.

The third and final major theme in graphic design for 2021 reflects the shared desire for brighter, more familiar and more comfortable days.

12. Retro-Futurism

Retro-futurism is the first trend within this broader slant towards optimistic design in 2021.

No, this is not just another new genre of music known only to your dormmates avant-garde. Retro futurism refers to designs that take symbols and approaches from the past and present them “mixed with elements of the imaginary future. “

NASA logo

Superior: NASA’s worm logo and “space age” designs. These forms have their origin in the future-oriented decades around the first moon landing. This type of design feels new and familiar at the same time. It strengthens mankind’s confidence in the potential of technology and interstellar flight.

Retro futurism design

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Yes, nostalgia promises to do well in 2021. Colors and shapes that are both vintage and technically inspired combine calming with a sense of progress.

13. Icon resuscitation

In an environment where so much is routinely questioned or called into question, graphic design provides vital tools for connecting with the universal and uniquely human elements within us all. Carefully selected and constructed symbols have this potential – for communication that goes beyond language.

The simple, powerful depiction of a square pen that fits into a round hole makes a strong brand identity statement Paula Scher designed by Pentagram for the Mental Health Coalition.

Coalition for Mental Health homepage

Here, a symbol typically used for exclusion or inappropriateness is reclaimed as a visual metaphor for inclusivity and acceptance. It’s socially conscious, reflective, and calling the viewer into a brighter future – and you can look forward to a lot more graphic design than in 2021.

Graphic design trend to avoid: faking authenticity

The ‘trend’ you absolutely want to avoid: turning away from the ally to co-opt complex and painful topics as if they were just more trends to copy.

Nike, Shinier –– These brands had already taken proactive anti-racist positions and viewed this as an important part of their identity. You can speak authentically about related events and problems.

Many chose to reinforce or repeat similar messages to reflect their own values ​​or to reinforce a call for change. That’s all well and good. Opportunism? Not as much.

In short, make sure your design accurately and authentically reflects your values.

(If you do decide to re-check your stats, you’ll have more power – but work on your stats first and hold the button down when you hit submit on any trendy graph.)

How to stay up to date with graphic design trends

Designers tend to like visually driven platforms Instagram, or Behance – Adobe’s proprietary social media platform designed to showcase creative work. Instagram is the most visual of the ubiquitous social media platforms, and it offers a multitude of ways to observe, learn from, and keep up with graphic design trends.

You can easily spot broad trends and drill down on specific skills or details of the field using keyword searches and following hashtags. Interested in handwriting designed after tattooing in the 1950s? You are in the right place.

YouTube is also an invaluable resource for designers of all types and abilities. You may never find out from the rabbit hole of the top 10 lists, design techniques, and how-tos – but you are sure to learn a lot by the time you’re down there.

Choose a timeless design to make sure it will last

Before you apply all of the 2021 graphic design trends to create adorable and chaotic – but somehow calm and calming and progressive – images, take a word of caution. Use trends sparingly and carefully, or risk becoming a quickly outdated cartoon.

This is especially true of logo design, which requires you to avoid looking out of date – and maybe even worse, constantly changing your primary branding. Do something modern but timelessand make design decisions based on your company values.

Hit that balance well to capitalize on and learn from the trends of 2021 without having to hit the road to need a rebranding in 2022.

What to Expect from Graphic Design in 2021

In 2021, graphic design will continue to be inspired and influenced by culture. Maybe it will be as turbulent and unpredictable as 2020 (although we certainly can’t hope).

However, one thing is certain about 2021. For the foreseeable future AdobeThe Photoshop team deserves credit for naming the trend that is most likely to carry over from 2020 to the New Year:

Adobe Photoshop Tweet describes 2020 in one word: masking

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