Graphic design trends are always a hot topic at the beginning and end of each year. “What were our favorite graphic design trends of the year just gone?” and “what will they be next year?” It would seem that less is going to be more in 2021. As far as graphic design trends go, many are pointing to the reemergence of the simplistic, the minimalistic, and the understated. While certainly not all graphic trends will follow this path, a number of them definitely will. From color palettes to typography and everything in between, one thing is for sure, the design trend possibilities for the upcoming year really do stretch boundaries in many key ways.
Why this shift away from bigger and bolder, to quieter and muted? Perhaps because of what the world has gone through and is still going through. People are gravitating toward that which is soothing, that which calms. Design in many ways reacts to life moments. 2020 presented us with one heck of a life moment. And graphic design as a career path is poised to respond accordingly.
In this upcoming year, graphic design has the opportunity to tell a story. And in telling a story, it can without question bring a sense of reassurance to the world at large. In this article, we will explore 12 graphic design trends that are going to have a major impact in 2021.
Color Trends 2021
Graphic design trends in color is always a hot topic. Graphic design if nothing else is all about color. The interaction between shapes and images and the corresponding color is key in conveying the right message. That said, many feel that in the year to come there will be a definitive shift in the kinds of colors designers use.
1. Muted Color Palette
While bold and more vibrant colors are not going to disappear, there will be more of a focus on muted colors. Why muted colors? Colors are indicative of the overall climate. Again, given the chaos and upheaval that marked 2020, 2021 is due for a little downtime. Graphic design color schemes are bound to follow suit.
The benefits of a muted color palette…Beyond the fact that such colors are more reassuring in many ways, they also lend themselves to a more natural feel. There is also greater clarity and an innate organic vibe associated with muted colors. We could certainly all use a little more clarity in our lives.
There is something a bit more trustworthy about a muted color palette versus a bolder one that seems to be trying too hard. You might say, too bright colors lack a little authenticity.
Typography Trends for 2021
In keeping with this theme of authenticity and trustworthiness, fonts will also follow suit in terms of overall graphic design trends. What style typography is going to make consumers feel best about engaging with a brand or company?
2. Classic Serif Fonts
The classic serif fonts date back centuries, quite literally. They are simple—keeping in line with what we will see in 2021—but also have an inherent elegance. Such elegance connects with older times, fonder times, better times.
In attempting to put the nightmare of this year behind us, people will be all about looking for better times. And graphic design is set to deliver. While there is definitely a classic feel associated with serif fonts, there is also a nostalgia. And this is key.
Taken in tandem with the move to a more muted color palette, the resurgence of classic serif fonts will aim to allay fears and elicit positive feelings by tying design to the past.
Data Visualization graphic design trends
Sometimes more is less in graphic design as stated above, especially when it comes to data visuals in 2021. We live in a data-driven climate. Virtually everywhere we turn there are facts, figures, and stats being represented in one context or another. But how do you make this easier for people to digest?
And at the same time, ensure that it is meaningful
3. Simple data visualisations
Simple data visualizations will be a key design trend in 2021. Using graphs and images to break down the figures and make them easier to read will be essential here. Often, what we find are designers getting carried away in presenting data. They try and cram too much into too little space. What this results in, is information overload that ultimately makes no sense.
With simple charts, for example, companies can get their point across and still keep it graphically pleasing to the eye. And again, in employing muted colors to this end, the results will be far clearer than they might otherwise be.
Social Media Trends
Social media trends will begin to push some boundaries where they’d perhaps not ventured before. Graphic designers will look to new and compelling ways to present information. With social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram increasingly finding ways to make new ways of communicating with its audience, graphic designers are always on the lookout for the next big thing. One such design trend that we will definitely be seeing: social slide decks.
4. Social media slide decks
What exactly is a social media slide deck? Essentially, it is a slide deck designed to be shared on social media channels. Among the most popular for these types of slide decks is LinkedIn. Instagram is another popular platform on which to share these.
The benefit of using a social media slide deck is that you can convey a great deal of information with one post. And it makes for a more interactive experience. The user will begin with one image/graphic and then click through to get the overall message.
A slide deck is therefore more versatile than just your standard social media post. You might think of it as a miniaturized infographic customized for social media.
Social media graphics and web designs
Across all online/digital real estate, we are now seeing and will continue to see the resurrection of simpler icons and illustrations. From social-media-based graphics to web design, designers are turning to that which harkens a more vintage and classic feel. Enter, flat icons…
6. Flat icons and illustrations
Icons of this nature and simple illustrations are nothing new. They’ve been around for quite a while actually. But in terms of 2021 design trends, they are coming back in a big way. Aligned with the trend toward simplicity and also with the move toward nostalgia, this kind of art can carry a lot of power.
Brands amazingly use flat icons to tell fairly complex stories. They are easier to digest versus more intricate and complex efforts. The other great thing about using these kinds of simpler illustrations is that their meaning can vary. That is to say, while at face value the icon represents one thing, there is a vagueness to it that can open it up to different interpretations.
Shapes and graphic design trends for 2021
Shapes, a crucial component to almost any designer. Some have preferences for certain shapes and styles, while others have a tendency to ditch shapes for a more fluid, artistic design, depending on the context and type of graphic design. (Insert link here).
However, for the majority of cases, shapes are fairly commonplace in graphic design. But which shapes will be in for 2021?
7. Geometric shapes in 2021
Geometric shapes will likely dominate in 2021 graphic design trends. While in previous years we have seen quite a bit done in terms of more abstract design, many brands are reverting back to geometric based images. Again, this could be in part because there is a more retro feel to geometric patterns and shapes. This in turn, evokes that nostalgia that will be so key to 2021 graphic design.
Not only that, but by using geometric shapes and angles for instance, there is an increased feeling of structure. Order and structure seem to be really important in an atmosphere marked by, well, the opposite.
From a graphic design standpoint, integrating geometric shapes proves quite a bit easier than working with more complex design images. And of course, simplicity is key across the board when talking about design trends for the coming year.
Video Trends for 2021
Due to COVID 19, many will continue working from home for the foreseeable future. Because of this, text-heavy video will likely take off in 2021. Video conferencing as we have seen has skyrocketed. Like never before people from ages 8 to 80 are taking to video to communicate. And of course, using video to transact business is now a no brainer.
8. Moving Text in Video
The graphic design trend associated with the rise of all things video: text-heavy formats. Going “on location” to shoot something is less feasible than it once was. Imbuing video with text and even adding moving text thereby communicating your message that way is much easier and cheaper. This way too, you don’t need an entire crew or a ton of equipment.
Plus, using text and textual images on video changes things up a bit. We are all well accustomed to seeing/listening to someone talking into their camera. But in using a text-based approach, you offer the audience variety and compel them to become more engaged.
9. Vintage Effects in Graphic Design
It seems this theme is pervasive throughout graphic design trends. Old school effects, colors, and stylizing are going to factor heavily into design in 2021. Even just integrating images of those icons and photos that speak to a sense of nostalgia is going to be huge.
While yes, much of design is focused around appealing to Millennials and Gen Z, there will be something of a shift in 202, to reach out more to Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. This play on all things vintage and retro is perfectly suited to attracting these particular generations.
Not to mention, in going this route as far as graphic design, you do give younger generations more of a connection to a past that their parents/grandparents lived through. And 2021, as far as graphic design goes, will be all about creating authentic connections where possible.
10. Animation Trends in 2021
With the prevalence of social media, more and more designers are working to create eye-catching and engaging animations. Over just a flat post, for example, an animated one has the potential to create a more dynamic experience for the user.
Numerous brands are working to include more animation effects into their designs. This way they are able to create mini-stories and plots. Such that immerse the user in a particular experience. Also, brands are using animation to update older designs and images and therefore become more relevant overall.
There are many tools and ready-made solutions intended to help the designers to create more impressive visual effects. For example, plugins like Visual Effects & Animation Kit for Elementor page builder help to revive the website design and make it look really impressive and eye-catching.
11. Nature in Design
Increasingly we will see a shift to graphic design that takes nature as its centerpiece. If nothing else in 2020, people began to reexplore nature (as of course, they had little else to do). Graphic design is coming to reflect this “back to nature” stance.
And with the trend toward a muted color palette, it makes sense that natural themes and details are going to be more pronounced. The other aspect of this nature trend is the fact that in some instances we will see the use of flowing elements. After all, natural design is organic.
Images and illustrations that crop up in regard to a more nature-inspired design is going to emphasize that which is positive and beautiful about the world around us.
12. Mascots in Graphic Design 2021
While lines and geometric shapes are going to play a prominent role in 2021 graphic design. We are also beginning to see the rise of the mascot as a brand image. Why? Perhaps because mascots humanize a company. People can relate. In some cases, mascots offer that feeling of familiarity.
Done right, a mascot, either by way of logo or some other such associated image, can elicit a feeling of trustworthiness combined with a bit of fun. Think Mailchimp or Hootsuite for example. Again, it really is all about building connections in 2021.
Graphic design that centers on a lovable mascot—be it animal or some other iteration—can certainly help establish that connection with your audience.
13. It’s All About Authenticity
Perhaps the main trend that we will be witnessing more and more of in the upcoming year: a shift to a more authentic point of view. Graphic design, as with anything, is influenced by the climate. By what is transpiring in the world around us. People want “realness,” they crave authenticity, now more so than ever before.
Why are customers attracted to a brand? Because they feel that they can trust that brand. There recognize that a brand has an inherent reliability. Graphics and images that are overly done or too salesy and gimmicky, are bound to drive people away. Whereas, keeping it real and honest conveys your authentic intentions.
That which is generic by way of typography and illustration just won’t cut it in 2021. You have to put your brand’s true personality forward.
What we are overwhelmingly seeing now and such that will continue, is a move toward a simplified and yet a more meaningful graphic design arc. Designers will have creative freedom to try a multitude of things, but ultimately it will come back to the integrity inherent in the design. Are you being true to your brand with your design ideas? Are you trying to tell a story or just sell a product? Is your design original and thoughtful or is it reminiscent of a more generic approach? These are all key considerations for graphic designers thinking about upcoming graphic design trends as we approach 2021.
Anne is a former English professor turned content writer. Holding a PhD in Literature, she spent almost a decade in academia putting that degree to use, until finally realizing it wasn't exactly the best fit. A full-time writer, she's learned a great deal about the numerous subjects. She knows a lot about design trends and design templates. A mom of five (two teenagers and three dogs).