The beginning of a new decade is generally a signal for a fresh mindset and for novel approaches to come to the fore, especially in the ever-evolving world of graphic designing. For the past few years, designs have been dominated by mind-blending gradients, bold colours, and modern compositions. But in the next couple of years of the post-2020 era, the world of graphic design will be a lot more harmonious, reserved, and natural. Except for illustrations which are possibly going to be more abstract.
As we move ahead from 2010 to 2021 the approaches to graphic designing will be a lot more novel due to the overuse of some popular graphic design trends in the past. To understand the change in creative ideas, we’ve analysed some of the best performing designs across all industries over the world. We’ve also studied the opinions and predictions of some of the best design professionals.
Here is the list we’ve prepared to keep you tuned with the latest graphic design trends for 2021:
1. Minimalistic Designs
The latter half of the 2010s have witnessed flat designs dominating the digital world and it is only going to intensify in the early stage of 2021s. In response to marketing’s ongoing quest for honesty and transparency, the designs will continue to scoop away the extra decoration and embellishment to shift toward a more straightforward and message-oriented presentation.
However, the need for minimalistic designs in web designing is also being driven by the need for smaller page sizes and faster load times. If you aren’t aware, Google prefers ranking the pages that load fast. But it’s not just Google that cares about this, most web page visitors bounce back if the page doesn’t load within three seconds.
Typically, the flat and minimalistic designs have a reputation for being boring and not having much feeling, but the modern minimalistic designs don’t have to be this way. In fact, most senior art directors believe that design minimalism will lean toward warm and cosy designs, where palettes for luxury brands will see sage, beige, pale yellow more frequently.
2. Muted Colour Palettes
For the past few years, there has been a trend of using bold colours in web and marketing designs. Brands wanted to look differentiated with colours such as electric yellows, bright blues, and toxic greens that would appear heavily on the yearly graphic design trends in the recent years.
But the year 2021 is supposed to see brands and designers taking a step back from the vivid colour palettes towards muted colours. Muted colours are those original colours desaturated with white, black, or a complementary colour. Muted colours are basically the opposite of bright and vivid colours.
The LinkedIn marketing team have been using the muted colour pallets recently:
3. A Modern Perspective on Gender and Sexuality
Well, it is not only a graphic designing shift but a cultural shift in certain parts of the world. The evolution of a broad-mindset towards gender and sexuality will possibly have a huge impact on many of the customer-faced industries.
Designs in 2021 are supposed to be more human-focused, boasting the compelling product attributes and benefits, rather just focusing on the “People” aspect of the marketing mix. We will witness more brands shifting away from the traditional mindset approach of “the product/service is designed for women so let’s use pink”.
For example, the cosmetic brand Aesop is restraining their marketing campaigns from stereotypical gender profiling and appealing to all the genders with their packaging, gender-neutral imagery, and colour palette.
4. Colour Gradients
For the third year in a row, colour gradients will still be one of the major trending graphic designs across many industries. The popularity of gradients is a surprise in 2021 as the graphic designers have many more things to replace it with. But instead of refraining from the gradients, the designers keep coming up with new ways to use them.
Gradients started a few years ago and were primarily used for some eye-catching backgrounds. Here is an example of Inc. using the gradients as background:
Now, in 2021, the freshness of gradient is over and the designers have started using it as a standard element of graphic design. For example, Grammarly is using gradients instead of solid colours in their social media designs:
5. Abstract 3D
As a backlash against the popularity of minimalist designs, last year saw abstract 3D designs coming into the picture. This trend is driven by software that has democratised the 3D render technology. Brands and designers are using a combination of typography, abstract shapes, and images that reflect the brand image to create 3D graphics.
Here is an example of a poster for The Tide created recently. The work was both in the posters as well as animation. The astonishingly designed lava lamp and a realistic bubble shape that leads the sight to the information space, catches the eye of people.
Some designers also emphasize on using Fluorescent, Neon, and vivid colours for the 3D designs. However, the muted colours and subtle gradients can also accompany the vivid colour pallets to give the design a youthful and futuristic aesthetic.
6. Text-only approach
You might have noticed an increase in the number of designs that are based on a text-only approach. Brands have started taking bold moves with their marketing campaigns and the text-only designs are often preferred over photography. This trend is expected to be continued in the year 2021.
Many designers find this technique very effective as it helps brands to communicate with the audience via very simple but strong statements. It is a preferred technique for the brands that are well established and like a straight talking approach.
Mcdonalds recently introduced a new marketing campaign using the minimalist text-only design approach to flex the visual identity that it has built throughout their lifetime. See the image below:
However the year 2021 will be the year for variable fonts. We are expecting to witness more bold and decorative typography to push through the conventional boundaries.
7. A new way to use GIFs
We’ve seen more and more brands using animations to bring life to their brand message. GIFs are quickly gaining popularity across various social media platforms and social networking platforms such as LinkedIn (LinkedIn has a new cool feature where the business pages can use the logo animation as the account picture).
A social media post by Vue cinema using GIF format:
Brands are using GIFs in many ways for their marketing campaigns including email marketing templates, social media posts, webpage content, and digital advertising. As the shift goes to more interactive designs with minimalism, designers cannot afford to sit still. It’s time for thinking of innovative ideas to communicate with the target audience. Brands need to find newer ways to use updated GIF formats to tap into these opportunities.
8. Motion Designing
In 2021, motion designing skills are in demand as the moving images are getting more popular in comparison to stills. Brands are getting aware of the fact that the motion pictures aren’t just for unifying every single aspect of their design, but it also helps in communicating the primary message.
Apple blistering their new AirPods with motion graphics:
Many designers argue that as the people’s desire for immediate gratification is increasing, the attention span is shortening and therefore brands need to invest in motion content to make their message easily comprehensible. The future holds a reality where brands will attempt to be recognized by their style of motion graphics.
9. Backlash over Insta-perfection
A couple of years ago, bright, bold, and colourful stock images with instagram-inspired notion of perfection became very popular. Photographers were portraying models and designers were using high saturation photos that didn’t even look real.
Lately, brands have started using real people over models to represent diversity and establish a truer connection with their audiences. Brands are finding benefit in celebrating diversified faces instead of promoting the obvious and outdated aesthetic.
Glossier’s biggest marketing campaign featured real ordinary people in society:
All of it means that in 2021, we are expecting brands to use a lot more realistic pictures. As stated a few times in the article, the use of muted colours can help designers make graphics feel more authentic and natural.
10. Device Focused Designs
In current times, most of the web and mobile app developers create websites or mobile apps that work across all devices. For some specific use cases, they also create websites or apps that only work on a specific platform such as Android. The industry experts believe that in the coming years, we’ll see an increase in the usage of both cross-platform applications and native apps.
Responsive designs will gain even more traction in 2021 and the experiences will become more tailored for the specific platforms it is being used on. We can expect to see websites, web apps, and mobile apps designed to provide unique experiences for various devices and platforms.
11. Caused-based Marketing Designs
Times are gone when brands would be restraining themselves from taking a stand on social and political issues. We’ve seen many brands using a social message as a part of their marketing campaigns.
The image showcasing an Instagram post by The Body Shop, a cosmetic brand:
Cause-based marketing will continue as brands want to position themselves as a corporate citizen which is socially responsible. During this Covid-19 outbreak, many brands such as Decathlon and Nike have started to market PPE kits and ventilator masks. In the past, there were brands that used this technique, but in 2021, the trend is going to grow even further.
For some years, storytelling has been the centerpiece of branding. And in 2021, brands will be under pressure to make those stories more realistic and believable. There will also be an increase in the number of brands that will work towards introducing their ‘roots’ in their stories.
Brand story has been in fashion for the last couple of years, but this year, it is expected to explode. The stories can also be focused on customers or the social impact. For example, while celebrating their 70th anniversary, Land Rover brought out a true story from a remote area in the Himalayas. The video shows how the local drivers of Himalayas provided transport and supplies via the treacherous mountain roads of Himalayas. The Land Rover vehicles they used were meticulously maintained 1957 models.
Design trends are ever evolving and vary as per socio-cultural transformations. Graphic design trends that are getting traction in 2021 might fade away maybe 4-5 years later. The talks and predictions can be for the near future, with the 11 graphic design trends you’ve gone through ruling the digital landscape.