Graphic design trends have evolved with advancements in the industry, the development of technology, periodic revolutions, and the subtle changes our world has gone through over the course of years.
Every decade brings a new set of design trends, and every year certain practices, concepts, and styles become the new cool.
Sometimes, it is the emerging generations that bring about these trends, other times the trends are set to shape and influence the newer generations. A lot of times, it is a combination of both.
Feels like it was just yesterday when millennials were the center of attention, and for a fleeting moment, the focus was shifted towards Gen-Z before Generation Alpha joined the party.
I bet Generation Beta have taken their places in the cribs already as the year 2021 commenced. This New Year brought new hopes for most of us.
We’ve been expecting a lot for sure, especially when it comes to design trends for 2021. The whole world has adapted to a drastic change in 2020, and its effects are bound to spill over on graphic design trends in the coming years.
So what should we expect in terms of graphic design trends for 2021?
I’ve compiled a list of 17 graphic design trends that will most likely takeover 2021. Let’s get to it!
3D designs make you appear interactive and welcoming because of how they mimic reality. They add more definition and detail to your design which, in turn, makes you stand out.
When it comes to three-dimensional designs, there are two ways you can follow this graphic design trend in 2021 – Adding 3D objects, and making your text appear 3D.
For more inspiration, you can explore inspiring photos from Freepik which offer a range of 3D design elements and creative ideas.
You can make your logo appear more tangible by adding three-dimensional objects to it, for example, if your theme is the world, a 3D globe will do a better job at representing you than a 2D circle with parts of land drawn on it.
Better yet! Follow the latest graphic design trends for 3D animation and bring your theme to life.
Make your cartoons move, have your 3D signature clip that shows up everywhere on your digital premises and ads, or make an introductory clip with a talking character.
Multidimensional moving objects are better at catching and retaining attention than 2D objects plastered still over a canvas.
Your range – when it comes to making things 3D – isn’t limited to objects and characters only. You can get creative with your text as well.
Your design doesn’t have to be a boring 2D print if the text is all you’ve got.
You can step up your game and catch up with design trends for 2021 by using 3D typography in your graphic design.
Make your text appeared embossed, add shadows and lighting to it, or better yet, use 3D software like Blender to create 3D text from scratch.
3D designs help you express your emotions better. Speaking of which, what’s better at expressing feelings than a nice emoji?
Most of the population below 30 has grown up using emojis. These simple yet expressive face illustrations have been there in almost all digital modes of communication.
Take text messages, SMS, messenger, chatrooms, and Snapchat for example. All of our social media communication is filled with emoticons and they’ve become a part of our language.
Most of us convey more through emojis than we can with words. They come naturally to us. This is why emojis have become an integral part of our communication.
You see a new sticker or emoji pop up every once in a while. Ever since the marketers and app developers have realized how effective emojis are at communicating, they’ve pounced on every opportunity to use and create them.
The use of emojis has been on the rise in the past decade, and I can assure you they’re here to take over most of the design trends for 2021.
But that doesn’t mean filling your design up with yellow faces of all kinds will immediately get it loads of popularity.
You have to be strategic in your efforts to target and project the emotions that are most likely to deliver the result you’re aiming for.
After all, there’s no point in following graphic design trends if they don’t deliver the results you’re looking for.
The whole point is to strike the right chords and know what people are missing the most.
After more than a year of lockdown, isolation, social distancing, quarantines, restrictions on travel, and the emphasis on staying home, we’re bound to miss nature and the outdoors.
This longing will take over and guide most of our graphic design trends for 2021. Expect to see more designs around nature, more travel, more outdoor themes, and more marketing material featuring different kinds of landscapes or wild photography.
People crave greenery, pleasant weather, and a hike in their favorite type of landscape more than ever. Giving them a glimpse of just that will make your design many times more attractive.
Connect your designs with present-day reality by including masks, social distancing, sanitizers, and every day SOP (Standard Operational Procedures) related objects to make them more relatable while you show outdoor activities, nature, and places people have been missing out on for a while.
Who knows? Your designs might serve as a positive influence on people who are still reluctant to take precautions when they get out, and help them defeat, dodge, or curb Corona Virus and its mutants by normalizing safety.
This surely can buy vaccines some time to get common around the world and prevent more mutants from emerging.
People long to be entertained with everything they want to see. Do it while you have the power to and your design might just be the reason why someone takes action.
A great chunk of our free time goes into entertainment. With the lack of outdoor options, online entertainment like Netflix, YouTube, and other streaming options have become our only escape.
In the year 2020, people consumed watchable content like never before. And that includes cartoons, anime, and animated films.
This is part of why cartoons are very likely going to be one of the most interesting design trends for 2021.
Now that I think of it, cartoons do seem interesting for both, marketers and the target audiences.
They’re animated (quite literally), a great tool for expressing emotions, and they can make some of the most important parts of marketing strategies – like Personas.
One can make buyer personas, characters your audiences are attracted to, brand personalities, and other characters of brand stories out of cartoons.
You can design your own cartoons, or use others that don’t have copyrights to make your graphic design appealing.
If you’re targeting Gen-Z, you can use a nostalgic appeal by using themes from 2000 to 2010.
If your design deals with Gen alpha, consider checking the latest hit shows popular among the elementary or middle schoolers.
If you want people above 20 or 30 to connect over your designs, revive old fandoms.
After all, old is gold. Speaking of which, there are another one of the classy graphic design trends about to make rounds this year.
An important read for you: How do you know it’s time for a rebrand?
Gold makes us think rich, expensive, luxurious, flashy, and elite. And it also makes us timeless, qualitative, malleable, delicate, polished, and original.
Whatever you think, gold will be one of the most interesting design trends for 2021, and you will have to give it some room in your palette.
With what we’ve accomplished so far in the graphic design industry, we can give gold the look it deserves.
We can make it look realistic, give it its original shine, a 3D look, and probably even the appearance it has in the real world as a commodity.
Through that, gold will likely take over this year with a newer and better aesthetic appeal. It will be used a lot as a color, object, and even a symbol.
In many places, it might even be paired with more rare and beautiful objects like jewels, antiques, and even retro-futuristic luxurious accessories.
Speaking of which, retro-futurism, tech savviness, and their blends will likely make rounds this year considering Legos and pixelated objects are building blocks of childhoods of at least two dominant generations – Millennials and Gen-Z.
The voxel is going to be the new cool. It is going to be one of the first few 3D Graphic design trends for 2021. But what exactly is Voxel?
The voxel is like the legos of the virtual world. Structures are made out of 3D blocks which make the design or the resulting object appear similar to brickwork.
A voxel design looks primitive, three-dimensional, and a lot of times, symmetrical, or even an odd combination of simple and intricate.
Voxel has a lot of potential in both, futuristic and retro design trends. Additionally, it has its place in abstract arts, and other unique virtual designs.
Utilize this well enough and your new design will stand out as a masterpiece in its domain. Combine it with a colorless palette and you will have a breakthrough.
The word colorless has many implications, hence, there are a lot of possible images that might pop up in your head when you read it.
One of the most common possibilities is that you think of a black and white image, more like a Charlie Chaplin movie.
Another one is that you may think of transparent objects or images. Or you may just think about monochrome in gray, white, or black.
Either way, these are close guesses but not accurate. The colorless palette is one of the design trends that are likely going to make things pop, and take over the decade.
It has been around for a while, and it is not the complete absence of color in a design.
Colorless design means there are only one or two colors in the picture, and the rest is just black and white or different tints and shades of gray.
Only a selected few objects of the theme have color, the rest appear colorless with a black and white scheme. This minimalistic approach to color makes the design uniquely modern and gives the steering wheel in your hands.
You can make it look vintage, trendy, or futuristic and it will go well with each of those themes. It offers you time-traveling abilities and the power to create a unique blend of different eras coming together.
Additionally, you get to have full control over the objects and areas you want to highlight or emphasize upon.
It is great for people who don’t like the sensory overload of various flashy colors in front of their eyes, distracting them or screaming at them from different directions – which brings us to our next guess about the design trends for 2021.
Seems like pastel colors are making their way back into the mainstream. It’s not just the bright pastel colors though, toned-down versions of almost any color will be more acceptable in the market than vibrant or saturated ones.
Sometimes, the more vibrant color is, the more overwhelming and shocking it appears. It is similar to how we perceive and compare capital letters with lowercase.
A sentence composed entirely of capital letters is more likely to appear as if the author is screaming at you. The same can be the case with color.
Saturated and bright colors can overwhelm the senses of certain audiences. And if any of those happen to be the colors that are frequently used in alerts for your viewers, they will appear triggering, and come off as screaming.
Toned down or diluted versions of colors on the other hand may appear peaceful, harmless, soothing, and reassuring.
After going through a year full of emergencies, uncertainty, and disasters, you can guess what type of color palette will make up the design trends for 2021.
People are more likely to crave stability and a sense of normalcy. For the sake of appeasing the longing for a sense of safety, the design trends are more likely to be governed by lighter or dimmer variants of colors and symmetrical objects – such as shapes.
Geometry is predictable. It is visual math. The symmetry and predictability of shapes give people a sense of stability and control.
When the shapes are pointed and symmetrical, it establishes an authoritative pose. When they are curved and soft, they maintain a friendly and casual vibe.
The combination of both can be attempted when you’re looking to maintain the right balance for your audience.
Either way, this is one of the design trends for 2021 that has been in the mainstream three decades ago.
The 90s were full of geometric shapes, and math inspired designs. People loved to put triangles, circles, squares, and squiggly underlines everywhere.
Let’s welcome the trend back with open arms and be the first ones to adopt it while the world catches up.
Icons are everywhere. Our screens, laptops, the internet, and all digital interfaces are full of them. It is much harder for us to operate without those little visual guides.
Do you know what else we can’t operate without? A logo – the unique mark of identity.
People have grown accustomed to icons, the simple little objects that impart all the necessary information about subjects they represent.
Logos are in every way similar to icons, and that is exactly why they should be as simple as icons.
But logos aren’t the only ones that need some inspiration from icons. Other designs need to follow the lead too.
Since icons are so catchy, it would be a great idea to carry well-known icons your viewers interact with daily to appear familiar and catchy in your designs.
The logic applied here is quite similar to the one for emojis, but an icon’s sole purpose is to represent a file, data, or a portal to an application, not to express emotions.
Using icons for social media addresses on your brochure will increase the likelihood of an interested viewer to follow you.
A Twitter icon on your Twitter handle in a poster will likely get you more followers and leads through Twitter.
A Facebook icon beside your page’s name on a landing page will likely bring more traffic to your Facebook page. A Gmail or other email icon beside your email address will bring more leads because interested prospects will likely spot the icon quicker.
Other than that, making your own icons is a good idea too if you’re looking to create your brand image from scratch.
Icons make your designs digestible and catchy. They are modern, and they reveal more about you than words ever can.
It is especially well suited to your niche when much of your audiences are visual learners who like interactions that involve all of their senses more than just reading.
You should also read: Negative Space Logos: What’s the Hype About Them?
The future of this world at present is Gen-Alpha. Most of them have reached adolescence by now. The babies born in and after 2010 are no longer being cradled in the arms of young adults.
These little kids are now walking, talking, and using social media more than anyone has ever used. Their choices affect a lot of consumer decisions, and they make up the present and future markets for many brands in the industry.
Many of them are shaping the design trends for 2021, aspiring to be and succeeding in becoming influencers by garnering attention and gaining support from the world around them.
Almost every business needs to focus on Gen-Alpha and create designs that take the current and future consumers into account.
This generation is growing up around TikTok and Snapchat. To get their attention, you have to involve all their senses and get them moving, but it also has to be short and fleeting.
Just like our generation did in past, this generation will develop a newer and more fresh perspective on morals. We better be ready and open to different views. I suggest we start practicing now so it may come as a reflex a few years down the line.
Some of the major changes in trends surrounding morals and politics will be a result of the collective rebranding of many famous products that once had racist, sexist, or otherwise discriminatory or derogatory themes.
A new decade brings a new set of normalized standards, protocols, or morals, and as always, not everyone may agree with them, but the ones responsible for dealing with the masses will have to cater to every call for political correctness.
Branding, advertising, and design trends for 2021 will have their own set of principles, most of which will be based on inclusion, diversity, and sensitivity towards minorities.
It can mean a lot of things for a lot of people. It can mean gender equality and equity being perceived as the status quo.
It can also mean racism will be unacceptable towards all races. It may as well mean neuro-divergent people will be considered for opportunities that only neuro-typical people once had.
It might also mean people like aces, aros, or intersex individuals will get more acceptance from society.
Able-ism will be another hot topic, and diversity, in general, will be the main objective behind redefining most of the policies surrounding objectivity, tolerance, morals, and acceptance.
There will be many sets of written and unwritten rules in cyberspace with regards to marketing, advertising, privacy, and data mining.
Previously blurred lines will start to take a definite shape as people come to a point of agreement about what’s acceptable to them and what’s not.
In short, new generation, new rules, and those will be translated into graphic design trends for 2021 for sure!
Most of the tech industry has been working towards making every virtual experience more interactive, more immersive, and more realistic.
It has been the goal from the start, and it will progress further in this decade. Designs that pull their viewers into a whole new world by submerging the audience in a potion of feelings through as many of their senses as possible will more likely be a hit.
We’re seeing it already. Augmented reality, virtual reality, 360-degree view, motion sensors, and similar features are designed to intertwine the digital world with our reality and give us an immersive experience.
But that’s not the only way we can create immersive designs. We will be seeing many optical illusions, objects appearing to stick out of our screens, characters reaching out of the frames of their interfaces, and more of such creative art this year.
This is one of the graphic design trends for 2021 that is aimed at audience engagement, and it might serve you well to follow it at the suitable stages of the customer journey.
There are no hard and fast rules though. You can use immersive designs to create brand awareness instead of engagement as well.
Whatever floats your boat, you must do. Your freedom is what unleashes your true creativity.
Freedom has been a recurring theme that has gone in dormant stages and it comes out again with a new face every time.
Every generation has sought freedom in one aspect of their lives or another. Some eras were filled with portrayal freedom from social constructs, others from political rules, many from financial constraints, and a lot of them were simply a result of conventions being revolted against.
This time though, there’s a whole new meaning to freedom. It is literal, physical, and mental. The graphic design trends for 2021 with regards to freedom are mostly a result of a year-long lockdown and ongoing restrictions due to Covid-19.
People crave to be set free from their households, families, roommates, chores, and restrictions on travel. They want to be able to breathe fresh air, take in new environments, and interact with others without fear.
The symbol of freedom here is travel, wind, and wildlife.
Let’s get this straight. Symbolism when done right, never fails. Part of why we understand things better when teachers use analogies while explaining is that more complex things are simplified by associating them with simpler concepts.
The same happens when you use symbolism in your designs. Whether it’s conscious or subconscious, the messages are clearer with symbols.
For example, a lit bulb represents an idea, so a business that values innovation, creativity, and ideas might do well with light bulbs in their designs, especially in the logo.
With new eras come newer symbols, and when used in designs, they integrate everything they are associated with into your outlook.
Design trends for 2021 might bring newer symbols, and they will be used more frequently, especially when people have gotten used to more visual analogies than ever.
Your symbols need to be clearer, simpler, and more accurate in representing your values to meet the standards of 2021.
2021 is likely going to be the year of diversity. Now, what do we mean by that?
Marketers and businesses around the globe are not only focused on eliminating hints and reminders of racism, xenophobia, sexism, and all sorts of offensive material from their brands but also making efforts to ensure more representation across the industries.
But that move can backfire if we don’t ensure accuracy along the way. You can be inspired by many cultures when designing a logo, poster, or any type of advertising material, but it has its risks.
It can come off as either cultural appropriation or mockery with one wrong move. All of your hard work can go to waste. It can even affect your career, and yet, you cannot give up on diversity.
Why? Because graphic design trends for 2021 will be based on it. You will have to show inclusion, and involve people from different ethnic groups your target audience is likely to come across – Might as well get them on board now to ensure accuracy and better representation before it’s too late.
People like unique and original brand personalities. And those personalities are shown through designs more than the products themselves.
With demand for diversity comes the requirement for unique yet tangible personalities. A quirky personality will keep the audience engaged and intrigued.
Your designs must arouse curiosity in your audiences. An out of the ordinary look stimulates excitement and invites your audience to explore.
Your profile can be as different as you want, and it can go as far beyond the limits as your mind can. You can go all punk with unsettling designs that no marketer would dare to put out there.
Or you can choose a rather odd color palette. You may as well create a whole different world and capture bits of it in your designs.
Possibilities are endless, so long as you satisfy the audience’s craving to see and interact with someone new and interesting.
Design trends for 2021 will bring a lot of quirky and unique personalities to the limelight. They could be brands, celebrities, influencers, or just about anyone.
You can try being one of them with your own peculiar traits and tastes.
You may also want to read: Merchandise Branding: Why Is It So Important For Your Brand?
We’re well into the first month of 2021. Although not much has changed, things are taking a turn for the better as people have gotten used to many of the safety-related habits.
They’ve learned to resume work with caution and safety. Some have realized their work can be done from home, while others have concluded that nothing can get done at home.
The discomfort is still there. It is a bittersweet year in its own way. While the vaccines are out, so are new mutants of the Corona Virus.
As we entered the new decade, we’ve realized there’s a lot to catch up with. The design trends for 2021 are most likely going to be poles apart from what we’ve been seeing in the past decade up until 2019.
The SOPs and the 2020 lifestyle are not the only factors affecting these trends although they’ve got sweatpants and comfy shirts trending. Advancements in the IT and graphic design industry have played their part too.
Designs related to outdoor activities and natural landscapes will attract people longing to travel and feel the wind.
Emoticons, cartoons, and visually expressive objects will appeal to the masses who have grown accustomed to spending time on and communicating through screens.
You can expect a minimalistic approach to colors and toned-down hues since those are more comforting to the public that has gone through months of uncertainty.
3D objects, digital art, geometric shapes, and voxels will be the new cool. And since we’re on the subject, gold will gain a refreshing look and a new appeal with better tools to give it the actual look it deserves.
Graphic design trends for 2021 will take a new turn with icons becoming an inevitable part of majority of designs.
Diversity, morals, symbolism, accuracy in representation, and Gen Alpha focused designs will matter the most.
Immersive and interactive designs have always been foolproof. They will continue to be so in 2021.
I bet you’re more than ready to go out there and nail your next design. Keep these 17 graphic design trends in mind and get ahead of others in your field!
If you’re looking for professional help with graphic designing, FullStop has a team of top-notch graphic designers at your service.
You can get logos, brochures, packaging, and almost anything designed here. Contact us or drop us a message if you’re interested and curious.
Stay safe and hang in there.
Waqas D. is the co-founder of the branding and website agency, FullStop™. He supercharges brands by crafting memorable logos, brand identities and engaging websites. Besides thousands of startups and medium-size businesses, FullStop has worked with likes of Microsoft & L’Oréal. View our portfolio or get in touch.
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