Graphic Design Trends for 2021


Striding into a new year, we’re glad to have shut the door on 2020. But, as with any transition, we carry a few bits and pieces from the past along with us.

The graphic design industry itself has changed drastically in the last 30 years, from layout boards and film separations to workstations that actually fit on desktops. However, we’ve retained our natural inclination to craft words and pictures into impactful messages in support of the businesses we serve, always keeping an eye on new technology and creative tools for the future. 

2020 gave us lockdowns, which changed how we communicate, learn, and consume. Graphic designers, through the services they deliver, like brand development and website design, are poised to help businesses navigate the new waters of 2021.

Here are 5 of the ideas and directions taking shape right now.  

1: Colour — Calm or Contrast?

Two camps are emerging in graphic design and apply to the use of colour: more minimalist muted tones derived from nature, or maximalism — strong and intense to deliver a sense of chaos. The best advice for choosing a direction is to consider a brand’s voice and model it accordingly.

The case for toning it down

The decade-long trend toward softer, more organic, and earthy desaturated colour — that reflects consumer demand for more sustainable products and packaging in the face of the climate crisis — is amplified by the response to the pandemic. 

After months of lockdown restraint, people feel a distinct and measurable need to be in nature, in open spaces, to recover and refresh. They find in muted colours an emotional sense of security and safety in the face of the upheaval of recent months.

A brand in need of a refresh might consider adding tints, shades, and tonal admixtures to their existing palette, reducing colour intensity and becoming more appealing to those who relate to the calm and collected aspects of life that many so desire after the calamity of 2020. 

In addition to reducing intensity, developing textures and gradients to simulate nature and natural patterns, like wood surfaces, stone, water, or plant forms are pleasing to customers who’ve been overwhelmed by the sea of bold hues and contrasts present in the marketplace for some time.

Bold and dissonant packs a punch

It only seems fitting that a trend on the other side of the spectrum is emerging alongside one so quiet and calm, as we move into 2021. 

Jarring contrasts and illustrations flooded with psychedelic colour reminiscent of the 1960s invite the consumer to pause and take another look. Bold motifs and strong textures add to the disharmony… and the resulting fun. 

2: Back to Basics: Geometric Shapes

Flat, simple shapes like circles, triangles, and squares are going to be important building blocks for larger, more complex patterns and representations in 2021. They’re suitable to any palette, and convey a sense of structure and orderliness, while still eliciting the creativity and flair of cubism and even surrealism.

The combination of distinctive shapes and colours is easy to recognize, giving a quick visual read to consumers and enhancing brand recognition. 

3: At-a-Glance Data Communications

A content-rich design that expresses facts and data can stop the scroll and deliver information succinctly and completely in the form of maps, charts, graphs, and infographics. 

If you’d like to deliver important information, visual representations cut through the clutter and help customers make decisions. And if you can stop them in their tracks (or scrolling), even better for conversion rates.

Dividing complex information into a series of easy-to-digest slides is proving to be a successful way of conveying information to a data-hungry audience on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Even better, provider algorithms direct more traffic to your decks than to single images.

4: Storytelling with Characters

Brands that would like to stand out in the multi-channel marketing world might consider developing a character to add depth to their story — it’s a trend that is proving popular this year

Whether cartoonish and cute, hand-drawn and unusual, or somewhere in the middle, a character can communicate volumes about a brand, a product, or a service. 

5: Text-Only Videos

Video is a powerful tool to include in a marketing strategy, delivered on websites and across social media channels, and growing in popularity with end users. With remote work still largely the norm in many locales (and likely well into 2021), the prospect of shooting live video with real people is complicated. Content served as text and motion graphics is one solution that is poised for success this year. 

Graphic designers can create new content, using brand colors, fonts, and iconography, or resample existing content from slide decks and infographics quickly and easily. For brands that are facing economic challenges, such videos are gentle on their budgets while still keeping communication lines open with customers and clientele.

Here is an example of a video from Intuit QuickBooks that combines text and motion graphics to convey a marketing message in 15 seconds. 

Ready to invigorate your brand in 2021?

Master the art of cross-channel marketing with a cohesive brand identity. For expert assistance, reach out to TDW Digital Solutions. We provide branding services tailored to your startup or small business.

With print management, web design, and more, we ensure that your brand makes a powerful impact no matter your marketing strategy.

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