On Trend 2021: Design the Future

Published: January 29, 2021

by Justin Difazzio

We’re glad you could join us in 2021 for a look into the future! While we never could have predicted what happened last year in the world, we’re happy to say that some of our design trend predictions were correct. So that’s something to smile about, right? Well, it’s time again to see what’s coming up in the world of graphic design. In some respects what’s coming is an extension of trends from last year, in some respects these trends are reactions. Whatever the case, we’re excited to share what we’ve seen and experience what surprises us along the way. So, on to 2021 design trends!

3D design

3D Design

If there’s one thing we saw consistently across all our sources, it’s the fact that 3D design is going to be HUGE this year. Designing assets that appear to exist inside the screen and page seems to be in full swing. This includes the ever-growing-in-popularity voxel art (some of which can be attributed to games like Minecraft and Roblox) where 3D cubes come together to make something recognizable in three dimensions. And as we know that 3D is really just optical illusion, it’s no surprise that part of this trend is going to include optical illusions, lines that make things look deeper than they are or that make things pop out of the page, and other eye-bamboozling features. A third element of this design style will be 3D text (something we’ll talk about more in the next installment of this series where we tackle typography). Look for lettering with heft in 2021.

emoji design

Emotive Design

Get your silly faces on, sharpen your colored pencils, and rewatch your favorite zany cartoons, because it’s all coming together in the new year. Design that conveys oversimplified emotion is here. Think about emojis (which are going to be gigantic) as shorthand for the emotion you’re supposed to identify and feel from a piece. They’re no-brainers when it comes to trying to make people feel. But also, custom cartoon drawings are going to grace design in a big way. In the same vein as emojis, a custom cartoon design can really convey an emotion or elicit an emotional response. Take our word for it. You’re going to be feeling some kind of way in 2021 thanks to this trend.

natural design

Natural Inspiration

To combat the overblown emotional swings you might get in emotive design, you’re also going to see a lot of calming, natural elements. Lots of products are touting their health benefits and eco-friendly origins as people push for more sustainable habits and a smaller negative impact on the planet. This means earth tones, organic shapes, and use of vegetation in design is coming in a big way. And who couldn’t use a little soothing from Mother Earth after the year we’ve had?

monochrome design

Monochrome and Duochrome

Last year was a big one for simpler designs, less flashy colors, and more white space, as we predicted. And this year seems to be accelerating that concept like whoa. Look for monochrome designs, where everything is shades, tones, and tints of the same color, which has a unifying effect in a design. And past that, experimental duotone designs are tweaking that formula using tints and tones and shades of two colors, often with high contrast. Adding to these two practices and serving to offset them, we’re going to see designs galore in black and white. Plain old black and white is hard to pull off, but with the use of interesting framing and shapes, this will be a departure from last year’s white space love. We’re looking forward to all of this!

geometric design

Geometry Rules

One thing 2021 is trying to teach us is that geometrics are anything but square. And also that we should leave the jokes to the professional comedians. All joking aside, though, geometric shapes are squaring up with the rest of this year’s themes to become the champion in the graphic design circle. Look for sharp angles, well-defined edges, and lots of shapes finding their way into the hottest designs this year. They might not become the most popular or innovative this year, but they’re certainly gonna tri…angle. Okay. We’ll stop.

typography design

Typographical Chaos

Yes, we’re doing a whole installment on typography early next month (most likely), so we won’t go much into that here, but this is less about the typography as text and more about the element as graphic piece. Look for text being repeated as a background, thrown around a piece as an eye-catcher, and generally used in ways it hasn’t been too much before. Think grunge, static, and repetition. Think big and bold and assertive. It’s gonna be pretty cool. We promise.

monkey chain design

Hello, 2021

Well, from a graphic design perspective, at least, 2021 looks like it’s going to be a fun year. We can’t wait to see these trends in use across the spectrum of designs. There are always innovative people playing with established practices and warping them into something new, and this year won’t be an exception. Let us know if you see these in the wild! And if you think we missed something, we’d be happy to know about it. Stay tuned for more predictions as we get further into the year.