3 graphic design trends to embrace in 2021

- January 8, 2021 4 MIN READ

Given the events of 2020, pretty much everyone on the planet is ready for a fresh start. As we head into the new year, now is the perfect time to reflect, reassess and start planning for success in 2021, writes Shayne Tilley Head of Marketing at 99designs.

What graphic design trends should you embrace in 2021?

We spoke to the global community of freelance creators working on 99designs to find out what they think the biggest graphic design trends shaping the twelve months will be. So if you’re looking to give your business a new lease of life and a fresh look– whether it’s your website, packaging or social media assets – tapping into some of these current design trends can be an easy way to keep your brand up to date.

Irreverent Characters

Social connection is a fundamental human need. So, after spending so much time isolated from one another, it’s only natural that we are craving it more than ever. As such, one of the main themes across the board in our trends forecasting this year is a noticeable shift towards design that places vibrant people and characters front and centre.

From graphic design and creative branding to logos and packaging – many of the most popular visual trends for next year lean towards the humanisation of businesses and brands through the use of cheeky figures. Whether human or anthropomorphic animals, they not only bring a (much-needed) sense of humour and fun to design for 2021, but also enable people to connect with the more human element of a brand.

If you’re looking to form genuine and long-lasting relationships with your customers in the new year, think about how you could bring some of your own unique band personality to life through the use of quirky characters.

Image credits: design by Wintrygrey

Image credits: design by Raluca De

Elements of Nature

Being cooped up inside for the majority of 2020 also has many of us longing to be in large outdoor spaces and connecting with nature again, and this is filtering into an aesthetic that encourages feelings of serenity, renewal and growth as we move into 2021.

The best part about this trend towards natural imagery and textures is that we are seeing it extend beyond traditionally environmentally conscious brands. Businesses from all walks of life are now tapping into this greater appreciation for nature and incorporating natural and earthy tones, shapes, and illustrations into their visual identity.

We are also seeing an increase in the use of colours often found in nature in our colour palette trends for next year too. So, if you’re planning on building a brand that embodies the fresh spirit of a new year, an easy way to experiment with this trend could be to start by weaving in subtle natural colourways into different touchpoints of your brand.

Image credits: design by Z a n a                                                     

Image credits: design by monostudio

Authentic Representation

It’s not just pandemic-related events that are shaping the trends of tomorrow. Design is an incredibly powerful tool for communication. Without words, it can communicate who you are as a brand, what you do, what you stand for, and how you are different from the rest. Therefore, when the Black Lives Matter movement prompted an examination of societal systemic prejudices, it’s no surprise that design had a vital role to play in how brands responded.

We saw brands in all corners of the globe assess their own inclusivity and take steps to diversify the people portrayed in their marketing collateral. It’s fantastic to see this reach right through even to logo design, with portraiture increasingly reflecting diverse races, cultures, genders, age groups and more, rather than the homogeneous representation we are so used to.

As this move towards inclusivity evolves into what we hope will be a true celebration of human uniqueness, small businesses can make a difference in ensuring that people from all cultures, generations and genders feel welcomed and seen. Simply reviewing any imagery and illustrations you use to ensure there is diverse representation within it can be an important first step towards creating a more authentically inclusive brand.

Image credits: design by Vuk N. 

Image credits: design by Giocovision

With many of us eager to leave behind the year that was, it can be tempting to completely overhaul everything and start anew. However, even incorporating a subtle nod to some of these visual trends can be a great way to refresh your brand for 2021.

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