If you want your brand to stand apart from the crowd, or if you want to be at the cutting edge of graphic design, add these trends to your repertoire.
Graphic design is constantly evolving, and new trends seem to define each year.
Here are the ones you should pay attention to in 2021.
1. Animated logos
Logos are moving beyond being static elements as motion design becomes more pervasive. Animated logos help companies stand apart from the competition, particularly in a design field where a bias toward minimalism means many static logos can look similar.
Animated logos can be enormously beneficial to the brands they represent. A motion element means users view a logo for longer, increasing the chances of retention. They also help companies better communicate their identity by using playful animation to convey their brand.
This year is one of extremes for graphic design. While designers will go big, bold and busy with their creations, we’ll see an equal number of designs stripped back to their bare essentials. According to the minimalist philosophy, you should strip a design back until it can’t be improved by removing more elements.
Minimalism will be especially ubiquitous in logo and packaging design, but web and app design will also follow the trend. Minimalism puts functionality front and center for websites and apps, and creates a more intuitive UX.
3. 3D design
Tools for 3D design are getting better and more intuitive, making it a simpler task for designers to make their creations pop off the screen. In 2021, expect to see 3D design everywhere.
Designers will use 3D to create realistic, immersive environments, as well as to bring depth to simple 2D illustrations.
3D will also be big in typography in 2021. The technique works for any kind of font. We anticipate seeing the move toward 3D typography married with the trend towards typographic elements dominating designs. Look for big, bold 3D typography that serves as the focal point for a design.
Motion Graphic in C4D by Deszignr
4. Big, bold fonts
Typography is the hero for 2021. Rather than playing a supporting role, 2021will see designers use typography as the focal point for their creations. This trend will combine with other 2021trends such as the move towards 3D and asymmetric, grid-shattering designs. Motion graphics will also allow typography to interact with other design elements to stretch, skew and bend around its environment.
5. ’80s and ’90s retro
Everything old is new again. Our cultural obsession with self-referential nostalgia extends to the design world with retro ’80s and ’90s art. While ’80s design has been prevalent for some time, 2021will see a shift towards late ’80s and early ’90s-themed design.
What does this mean in practice? Expect to see vivid colors, abstract geometric designs and retro human illustrations and photography. Think hot pink, teal and neon yellow. Bold colors like this grab viewers’ attention, inspire nostalgia and make your design eye-catching.
Fashion by Shira B.
6. Breaking the grid
Web designers and developers alike love using grids because they provide a simple way to place UI elements on a page. They ensure all the elements are sized proportionately and arranged in a navigable way. Well, forget them for 2021.
Asymmetric web design really took off in 2018, and 2021is set to see it come into its own. Designers will use images and text to break the boundaries of the traditional 12-column web grid. This can be done in both bold and subtle ways. Good designers will find ways to create asymmetry without sacrificing user experience.
7. Using grain and noise for depth
If you’re a 2D illustrator and want to add depth to your creations without diving into 3D design, grain and noise can help bring 2D designs off the page. While 3D design will be a major trend in 2021, flat design will remain popular. Designers will gravitate towards simple retro illustrations, adding grain and noise effects to create texture.
8. Isometric illustration
Isometric illustration, like the use of grain and noise, helps create depth in 2D illustration. Using it creates a three-dimensional feel with the use of shading and different perspectives, but without the pesky need to actually add converging perspective lines or do 3D rendering.
It helps add detail and complexity to 2D illustration. It’s particularly helpful to convey complex, related information in infographics, but can be used to bring some unique visual flair to any design.
City by Shira B.
9. Complex, colourful gradients
Gradients fell out of fashion for awhile there. Like many graphic design trends, they suffered from overuse until they became synonymous with cheesy, amateurish design. But 2021is the year gradients once again rise to ascendancy.
Forget a simple linear gradient transitioning from one color to another. This year will see designers layer gradients to give greater depth and complexity. This trend will often go hand-in-hand with the trend towards ’80s and ’90s color palettes. Expect to see vivid colors layered together.
10. Amorphous and asymmetrical geometry
This trend springboards off the Memphis Group style movement, which came to prominence in the 1980s by rejecting minimalist design standards and adherence to traditional form. The style uses bright colors and abstract shapes, like its iconic bacterium squiggle.
Memphis will continue to be big in 2021, but expect to see designers expound on the trend with more complex abstract geometric patterns. And abstract geography isn’t just bound to the Memphis “more is better” mindset. It can also work a treat with minimalist design.
11. Playful people
Retro human illustrations are everywhere in 2021, mostly due to the work of designer Pablo Stanley. Stanley’s free Humaaans library lets designers mix and match bodies, faces, hair and environments to create simple, charming retro people. But other designers have put their own spin on the trend, creating their own playful human illustrations. These design elements help form an emotional connection with the audience and convey a sense of whimsy.
People by Shira B.
12. Natural colors
On the other end of the scale from the vibrant gradients and vivid colors that we’ll see throughout much of 2021, designers are also moving toward a more natural, earthy palette. Muted colors create a calmer palette that adds a touch of class and gravitas to your design.
Any highly saturated color can be tweaked to fit a muted palette by adding tints or shading. Think beiges, dusty pinks, mossy greens and mustard yellows. This color palette works particularly well for Art Deco and Baroque designs.
Machala Coffee by Harriet J.