If you thought 2020 was a chaos, you clearly haven’t seen what graphic design might have in store for 2021. After such an unbelievable year (in good and bad terms), we can all expect designers to bear the marks of 2020 for quite some time, especially as we step into a new and hopeful year.
And some of the top 2021 graphic design trends identified by 99Designs are, indeed, quite hopeful, showing good will and the interest from most creatives to try and leave the past year behind. In more ways than you could expect.
Top 2021 Graphic Design trends
All the best and most inspiring 2021 graphic design trends try to show the finger to 2020 in some ways, be it with some pleasant nostalgia or the unstoppable urge to reach freedom and break free from constraints. Wolff Olins even defined this year a first step into some new Roaring Twenties. I personally find that quite easy to believe.
So I took a quick look around the web, spoke with some designers and collected ideas to present you with the top graphic design trends for 2021 that you should learn about today. Here they come!
After a long and gloomy year, even my introvert side wants to step out of my lair and do something different for a change (almost). Imagine what effect social distancing can have on a group of professionals who are required to create colourful stuff for a living.
Though late 2021 will certainly see a burst of playfulness and quirkiness, this year will be the triumph of realism. Black & white, monochrome, colour-less design and gritty seriousness will shed light on global lockdowns and governments, possibly ushering in a new age of political-centred design. It is worth mentioning, however, that 2020 was the year we invited the world into our living rooms. Maybe 2021 will have us realise that we can still be human while acting professional. I expect to see this gritty realism counterbalanced by some playful trends – though it will likely be a while before we see that happening.
Image credit: Marcus Moody
Image credit: Martina Biffa
Now, playfulness is one way to deal with the year of a global pandemic. It doesn’t mean all of us will consistently and exclusively look at the future. Nostalgia is still strong in the industry, and part of me wants to believe cyberpunk will come back in fashion.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see an explosion of nostalgia hit creative works all around the world, with tendencies towards technodystopia, computer-inspired shapes, retro colours and fonts, and an overall vintage vibe dominating a certain group of projects and works. As a fan of Neuromancer, I personally can’t wait.
Image credit: Jamie Ansell
Image credit: Ginna Mora
Maximalism & Surrealism
As part of these graphic design trends, there will also be excesses, for sure. After nearly a year stuck at home, it is inevitable to feel a certain push for freedom, especially since it doesn’t look like things will be resolved too soon (especially in the UK). Some artists and designers will be eager to manifest that by adopting the aesthetic of the excess.
We should expect to see excessive colour, surrealism and incredibly playful shapes coming from some graphic designers and illustrators, an expression of freedom that aims to embrace chaos and make it the main strength of these powerful creative works.
Image Credit: Inga Kvaraciejiene
Image credit: Maria Portela
Related to chaos there will be the tendency to pursue unharmonised design. Contrasting colours, outsized typography, optical illusions and colour-less design will be even more prominent in 2021, perhaps marking the advent of a new avant-garde in art and graphic design.
This, as most of the graphic design trends in this list, has already started happening. Some websites are daring more, and as graphic design becomes more quirky, we are seeing artists and designers who are not afraid to do the same.
Image credit: Cassie Bendall
Image credit: Hitchcock Michalski
All of the above pairs quite well with an expected return of the abstract in design. Distorted shapes and excess of colour will dominate a certain kind of art, bringing together past and future, present day and tomorrow, possibly leading to what – according to 99Designs – could even become a new psychedelic wave.
As we all hopefully come together to live our new normal, designers all around the world will be keen to expand minds by adopting the abstract, creating works certainly loaded with symbolic meanings.
Image credit: BBD Perfect Storm
Image credit: Joel Derksen
Sustainability & Nature
All this staying indoors has left the good part of us with an insatiable thirst for nature that is certain to influence some branches of graphic design. A pandemic could only make talks about sustainability and caring for our planet even stronger, and graphic design will keep reflecting that renewed interest in pursuing the best there can be for nature.
We are guaranteed to see even more organic shapes and colours, nature-inspired textures and design, as well as an interest in bringing design way closer to nature it’s ever been. And when you think about how well sustainability pairs with minimalism, you can see the immediate appeal of such a strong tendency towards nature.
Image credit: Belén Avila
Image credit: SomeOne
Authenticity & Honesty
2020 was also the year of black tiles, representation and social justice. People all around the world demanded even more authenticity from brands and creativity, be it in the accurate portrayal of marginalised groups or in the honesty and transparency of actuallywanting to make a difference today.
This is certain to bring some socially-conscious design into the picture, adopting the narrative of coming together to face adversities and reach a better world – united under the same principles. Too often we say that design and creativity can change the world – 2021 might be the year we actually start doing it for real.
Image credit: Barbara Gibson