7 Rising Design Trends in 2021
By MaKenzie Hall
With this chaotic year coming to an end, no one can perfectly predict what’s ahead for 2021, but most of the world is feeling quite hopeful. This new-found optimism definitely includes creatives who spent much of 2020 working with greater restrictions in clientele, but experimenting and expanding during their own personal design time.
2021’s graphic design trends are expected to reflect on the previous year, carrying over some of the successful trends, but making way for technology-forward innovation, adaptability for the reliance on our machines, and responses to large scale societal changes. These are the seven design trends predicted to take over 2021:
Symbols are a classic element of design that represents a universal way of communicating. Used for centuries, it easily transcends most barriers and finds use in everyday life and in niche circles, as well. From every stop sign to the “X” on this tab, iconography is one of the most recognizable aspects of design.
For 2021 in particular, symbols are expected to be revived to represent growth, unification, and global perseverance in both social and branded designs. It can be expected to see the modernization of classic symbols, as well as, completely new visual systems to represent these changing times.
Many large-scale movements and events transpired this year that sparked global outrage and protests. It led to progression past the idea of mere inclusivity to actual support, recognition, and celebration. Designers are using less perfected ideals instead choosing to illustrate characters with flaws, history, and differences. These designs are seen as both unique and honest and to many one-of-a-kind. Creatives in various fields are painting a more authentic picture of the world around us. This has further pushed the idea of global unity as a result of 2020’s events and has been one of the positive outcomes of the year.
3D Designs & Typography
On the rise in 2020, more and more designers are seeing 3D design as a must-learn for their practice. Between virtual reality and augmented reality becoming more commonplace, it is an eye-catching visual statement in product designs, marketing, etc. This design trend is pushing the envelope on software capabilities and the advancement of design, as a whole.
This is also being seen in typography. This year type has been visually dominating part of many designs, sometimes practical and sometimes playful. Designers have been turning to 3D typography to create stunning artistic pieces using different textures, patterns, environments, some seem so realistic it looks like you could reach in and grab it.
In 2020, one of the biggest trends was abstraction: fluid shapes, patterns, overlapping, gradients and colorful palettes were being used everywhere. With a current dependency on digital interfaces, it is expected for much of 2021’s designs to be simplified.
This is expected to take shape through rigid and geometric structures, muted color palettes, minimal excess, and classic serif and san-serif fonts. This is also seen in UI and UX teams making dark modes a priority and continuing to simplify application layouts. Because most people are spending 8-10 hours of their day every day on their computers it is being considered more important than ever to make the consumption of web design practical and efficient.
Socially Conscious Designs
As stated above, many large-scale movements and events transpired this year that sparked global outrage and protests and led to large scale efforts to increase representation. The world understood that it needed to change and much of this progression is thanks to social designers and social media designers. Social design, as a whole, is expected to be a trend of 2021. It’s focus is to tackle complex human issues, placing the social issues as the priority using the designer's role and responsibility in society, and of the use of the design process to bring about social change. This year’s focus was heavily on being cautious during the pandemic, voting in the presidential election, environmental issues, and representation. However, social design takes form in more than just illustrations and flyers, it’s trending in sustainable packaging, natural elements and symbols, people-oriented ideas and marketing, etc. That being said the best use of social design this year, that is expected to continue is on social media.
Social designs are currently text heavy in order to spread information rapidly with little budget and time wasted. Formatted for instagram stories, timelines, and twitter threads the rise of informative social decks and threads is taking the world by storm. Contributing to the rise of accessible design, these eye-catching designs are clickable, shareable, and make an effort to leave out bias, jargon, and increase interactivity.
Quirky Cartoon Style
While much of design is heading toward simplification, one personality packed aspect of design is making a comeback, cartoon style. With the decrease in abstraction, many designers are favoring quirky, recognizable characters to help draw people in and sell products. This trend is also making use of eye catching muted colors, stylized fonts, and a variety of drawing styles. Much of the design is skewed toward flat vector illustration, but the return of hand-drawn, simple shapes, and detailed lines is eminent. It's playful, imaginative, and multi-functional and is a technique not going anywhere anytime soon.
Motion Logos & Graphics
In a world of accessible design, there’s one struggle that never fails to arise - engagement. It’s a necessity and one of the hardest roadblocks to overcome. To counter this most branding identities are turning to motion elements in their designs - especially in their logos. This method of design is visually captivating and attention grabbing, it’s slightly interactive and can be used across any digital platforms. With the current content-heavy focus in the digital sphere, most brands in some way are considering this a must.
If 2020 has shown anything, the future is unpredictable. None of these trends are written in stone, but serve as a good starting point for inspiration. They are a result of this year’s events and heavily focus on progression and inclusivity around the globe. What design trends do you expect to arise in 2021 and will you be integrating them into your work?