13 Graphic Design Trends to utilize in 2021 — and Two to Avoid

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2020 was — in a word — unprecedented .  

The one thing nearly as unprecedented since the events of the year by itself? The number of times 2020 has been described as “unprecedented. ”

With the conclusion of a year as opposed to any other, it’s natural to search out new looks and methods.  

Desires for new and various –– but also reassuring plus less overwhelming ––  encounters will exert significant influence over customer appetites within 2021, including in visible communications and graphic style.

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

2021 Graphic Design Developments

Current graphic design trends for 2021 offer for you to update your brand’s visual, earn customers’ attention, plus unlock greater results.  

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

Inside each theme, there are a number of design techniques and styles you are going to see artists and brands employ.

You’re going to want to see this particular –– and not just because it means 2020 is over.

1 . Socially-Conscious Design

Design and tradition are integrally connected. Designer and author Robert L. Peters makes it clear in which he thinks real change starts: Design creates culture . Culture shapes values. Values determine the future. ”

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

Social unrest plus movements for anti-racism possess captured national attention, every brand and business needs to take notice and evaluate their angle.  

Socially conscious style gained traction throughout the previous year, and it’s poised meant for even greater impact in 2021. Within the theme of socially conscious design, key styles include genuine representation , sustainability , and partying diversity plus imperfection .

2 . Genuine Representation

Nike’s instantly-iconic ad featuring Colin Kaepernick exemplifies the push for genuineness and design that includes diverse voices and perspectives.  

After widespread protests pursuing the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020, Nike spoke up again, unveiling “For Once, Don’t Do It” – subverting the brand’s instantly-recognizable tagline.  

You’ll still see brands pushing limitations in 2021 when it comes to creating authentic, meaningful, and significantly powerful content over a lot more superficial designs.  

3. Diversity and Imperfection 

The trend to more socially-conscious style aligns with broader ethnic pushes to make all types of media more diverse, inclusive, plus affirming of all our various identities and imperfections.  

DesignStudio applies these values and approaches in their authentic, intentionally ‘imperfect’ rebrand designed for insurance company Getsafe.   rebrand image of smartphones for Getsafe company

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4. Sustainability 

Sure, humans had a rough 2020, but the Earth didn’t fare far better.  

And with all the time spent indoors, we had ample time to cultivate awareness (okay, anxiety) about environment change and other environmental issues. This –– plus the near-universal experiences of cabin fever after a year filled with pandemic-related lockdowns –– has sustainability featuring prominently in graphic design in 2021.

patagonia homepage

As consumers think about waste materials and their environmental footprint more than ever before, brands getting physical goods are especially sensitive to potential tension. Anticipate to see more and more packaging designs that emphasize sustainability through natural iconography, neutral colour palettes, and eco-conscious materials.  

image of nova wallet advertisement on a smartphone

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image of two bags of coffee with botanical on front

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5. Natural and Manufactured Juxtaposition 

Global lockdowns have disrupted our cable connections to our environment.  

Graphic design is leaning directly into this tension through normal juxtaposition of the natural and the manufacture, earth and metallic, organic and inanimate.  

Gucci played with all of these styles when launching their Gucci Bloom fragrance, creating a gamified virtual experience for visitors to explore an animated backyard:

gucci bloom advertisement for new frangrance

Exploring contrasts plus intersections between these pushes is especially appealing for spaces hardest hit by the pandemic. Industries like fashion and travel will emphasize elements conveying solidity and technological progress while also reinforcing connections to nature by means of floral and herbal designs, cheery hues, and azure skies.

These elements provide a sense of destination, movement, plus outdoor exploration –– even if there’s nowhere to go.  

opening ceremony design with est. 2002

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six. Color Trends in Image Design 

Socially conscious design is interesting and impactful –– but it’s also mentally demanding. As people have found themselves spending more and more time at home grappling with breathtaking and unfamiliar stressors, tastes in color have moved to hues that are proven to reduce anxiety and promote a sense of ease.

Unsurprisingly, organic and natural shades can provide welcome respite for people who stare at walls and screens all day. For optimum results, move past standard browns and greys. Understated oranges and teals evoke comfort and comfort, while providing more energy and optimism than their more boring neutral peers.

orange and teel pencil case

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These color styles are influencing interior design with regard to homes and workplaces, since luxury paint brand Farrow & Ball reports.  

Gone: dramatic accent wall space and high contrast color schemes. In: calm and moderate tones.

For paint companies, at least, pandemic-related quarantines ask them to seeing another earth firmness: green. Revenue for Farrow & Ball, for instance, was up 20% compared to a year prior.

7. Dissonance

Although some design currents aim to press society forward or discompose from all sorts of stress we are going to under, other impulses within graphic design reflect our own chaotic, tumultuous present second.  

Designs that embrace uncertainty often appear relatable to people living in unpredictable situations.

8. Color Blur 

One particular trend playing up the theme of dissonance melds colour and texture by adding grains and/or gradients. Such blending or layering adds depth and tactility to made or printed images.  

With darker, brighter pallettes, color blur adds a level of broodiness, implying a depth of emotion and feeling, as well as a sense of three-dimensional space.

For a more disconcerting effect, pair a color blur or gradient with distorted text, as well.

this changes everything repeatedly blurred on green backdrop

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nine. Outsized Typography 

Another dissonant trend in graphic design intentionally misplaces typography in ways that defy expectations and flout design conventions. Images cut off or obscure servings of text or unpolished elements disrupt sleek styles, among other glaring “errors” that catch the eye.  

Exaggerated sizes and violating conventional hierarchies, this approach plays with both scale and position – two of the fundamental elements of graphic design. The result: arresting and memorable.  

puma this is my flow advertisement

Designer Danielo Silveira is designs for This is My Flow” uses these concepts with aesthetically stunning results.  

Hype and buzz-focused streetwear manufacturers employ these techniques using a studied nonchalance, leaving the particular uninitiated viewer feeling off balance –– and rewarding their die-hard fans for being in the know.  

10. Surrealism 

“The actual is intertwined with the unique, and in no year was that more deeply felt than in 2020” —   99designs. com

I feel this. On the web?  

Considering how confused –– and messed up –– day-to-day life often appears, it’s no wonder graphic style is exploring imagery that will bends the edges associated with reality.  

What does that mean, if you’re not a Salvador Dali-afficionado or modern art critic? Well, you should probably get ready to make sense of a lot more images like this one:

design of woman jumping out of pool of another woman's head Image Source

11. Optimism and Reassurance

You’re not alone if you’re yearning regarding reassuring, optimistic visual encounters.

The third and final large theme in graphic style for 2021 reflects a typical desire for brighter, more acquainted, comfortable days.

12. Retro-futurism

Retro-futurism represents the first tendency within this broader inclination toward optimistic design in 2021.  

No, this isn’t one more new sub-genre of music known only to the most avant-garde of your college dorm friends. Retro-futurism refers to designs that will take symbols and strategies from the past and existing them “mashed up with aspects of the imagined future. ”

nasa logo

Think: NASA’s worm logo and “space-age” designs. These forms, originating in the forward-looking decades around the initial moon landing. This type of design manages to feel each new and familiar at the same time. It reinforces humanity’s self-confidence in the potential of technology and interstellar flight.

retro futurism design

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Yes, reminiscence promises to do well within 2021. Colors and shapes that seem both classic and tech-inspired blend peace of mind with a sense of improvement.  

13. Symbol Revival

In an environment where so much is routinely challenged or called into question, graphic design offers key tools to connect with the universal and the uniquely human elements within us all. Carefully-chosen and built symbols possess this possible –– for communication that will transcends language.

The simple, effective imagery of a square peg fitting into a round gap makes a strong statement within the brand identity Pentagram’s Paula Scher designed for the Mental Health Coalition.  

mental health coalition homepage

Here, a symbol typically used to connote exclusion or ill-fittedness is reclaimed as a visible metaphor for inclusivity and acceptance. It’s socially conscious, reflective, and also calling the particular viewer towards a better future –– and you can look forward to much more graphic design like in within 2021.

Graphic Design Tendency to Avoid: Faking Authenticity

The ‘trend’ you definitely want to avoid: swerving away from allyship to co-opt complex and unpleasant issues as if they’re just more trends to duplicate.  

Nike, Glossier –– these brands had currently taken proactive anti-racist stances, embracing this as a prominent part of their identity. They can speak authentically about related events and issues.  

Many chose to amplify or even echo similar messages to reflect their own values or affirm a call for alter. This is well and good. Opportunism? Not so much.  

In a nutshell: make sure your design accurately, plus authentically, reflects your beliefs.  

(If you decide to reexamine your values, more power for you –– but work on your own values first, and hold off on pressing ‘send’ on some trendy graphic. )

How to Keep Up with Graphic Design Trends

Designers gravitate toward visually-driven platforms like Behance — Adobe’s proprietary social media marketing platform geared to showcase creative work. Instagram, as the most visually-driven of the ubiquitous social networking platforms, offers a wealth associated with opportunities to observe, learn from, and keep up with graphic design trends.  

You can easily see broad trends and also drill into specific skills or minutiae of the field through key word searches and following hashtags. Interested in hand-lettering styled after 1950’s tattooing? You’ve get to the right place.  

Youtube . com is also an invaluable resource for creative designers of all stripes and ability levels. You may never ensure it is out from the rabbit hole associated with top 10 lists, design techniques, and how-to guides –– but you sure will learn a great deal while you’re down there.  

Choose a Timeless Design to Ensure It Lasts

Before you go and apply all the 2021 graphic style trends in making delightful plus chaotic – but in some way calm and reassuring plus progressive –– imagery, there exists one word of warning to take with you. Employ developments sparingly and with care, or even risk becoming a quickly-outdated caricature.  

This is especially true in logo design, where you’ll need to avoid searching outdated –– and perhaps a whole lot worse to constantly change your major branding. Go for something contemporary, but timeless, and make design decisions with your company values in mind.  

Hit this balance well in order to benefit and learn from 2021 trends while not putting yourself on course to need a rebrand in 2022.

What to Expect from Graphic Design in 2021

In 2021, visual design will continue to each draw inspiration from plus exert influence to change tradition. Perhaps it will be as turbulent and unpredictable as 2020 (although we can certainly hope not).

One thing about 2021 is certain, though. For the near future, Adobe’s Photoshop team warrants credit for calling fashionable most likely to carry over through 2020 into the new season:  

adobe photoshop tweet describing 2020 in one word: masking

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