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10 Design Trends That Will Rule in 2021

January 11, 2021
8 MINUTES
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Stefanija Tenekedjieva

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From graphic design to interior design trends, learn the styles that will mark 2021, based on the hardships and lessons learned in the year before it.

The year of 2020 was like no other in modern history. Our over-connected and over-convenient societies changed overnight due to the Covid-19 pandemic and with it every single detail that we didn’t even notice until then. Instead of conference rooms, we had Zoom calls. Instead of photoshoots and video ads, it was the year of animation and illustration. It became the year when watching people shake hands in film subconsciously made you worry about them. They say, “Life imitates art”, but it goes vice versa too. Art imitates life, or rather, should be flexible enough to get used to the new norms.

Whether it be the way an interior designer envisions what a living room should look like in the future, or how graphic design gets the viewer to consider purchasing a product, many things will be different in the new year.

Here are some of the most prevalent trends we can expect in design in 2021.

Open floor plans, home offices and repurposed outdoor spaces

Unsurprisingly, both in interior design and graphic design trends, we’ll be seeing more open floor plans in graphic depictions and spaces with more streams of air and natural ventilation.

Subconsciously or not, seeing people in cramped spaces and no distance between them creates a panicky reaction in people these days, and we have corona to thank. So, in the near future, we’ll be seeing a lot of spaces, photos, advertisements and illustrations where people have plenty of space between them. Living spaces and dining rooms will be designed in a mid-century modern style, with the need for extra personal space in mind, so homeowners in the future might expect some difference in style in place of functionality. Perhaps we’ll also see the return of the conversation pit?

oh.my Social distancing bench in Amsterdam. Photo credit: Dezeen

Another thing the past year changed in terms of interior design, is that many people reverted from typical workspaces to creating a functional home office, and most of the time that meant DIY projects. Your graphic design projects should also reflect this. Instead of depicting a conference room in your ads and landing page imagery, consider incorporating people in their home offices, with their plants and cork boards behind them. We’ve been there, and we know what an office looks like nowadays.

oh.my Illustration by Nidhi Shah

oh.my Illustration by Angelie Censon

Natural materials and herbal illustration

In the coming year, we can expect to see a lot of herbal and floral illustrations, greenery and natural materials in the creation of everyday objects.

Decor trends will include rattan, house plants, wood, twine, dried plants and similar. Expect upholstery and wallpaper designs to imitate the grandmillennial style: lots of floral, Boho, colorful design elements and usual objects with an extravagant and over-the-top look. Layering and natural light will also be prominent in living room design styles. People felt distanced from nature and greenery the last year, so this one needs to over compromise and offer what we’ve lacked.

oh.my Hadley Court

In terms of graphic design, we can expect to see herbs and flowers incorporated in patterns, illustrations, even in ads and social media posts. Many people took to planting, tending to their gardens and adopting a more organic and clean lifestyle, so packaging and advertising should also mimic that to catch their attention.

oh.my Design by Tania Yukanova

oh.my Design by Lung-Hao Chiang

Diversity

In 2020, and truthfully, beyond last year, we saw movements that fight for the rights of minorities, and the need to reflect diversity and multiculturalism as well. From Black Lives Matter to Me Too, indigenous climate activists and Women’s marches, there is always at least one movement trending.

Jumping aboard the hype train is usually irresponsible and insensitive, but using graphic design to represent different peoples and create visual interest is a much more long-term and responsible strategy. Just think about how often we see people of color, same-sex couples and other “progressive” images in advertisements and modern design today.

Design should also reflect these trends in respecting diversity and encouraging freedom, liberty and equality for all people.

oh.my Design by Alex Valentina

Less photography, more illustration

The ongoing corona crisis made it impossible (or rather, irresponsible) to gather huge production teams for photoshoots and creation of photo and video advertisements in the past year. A smart plan B for many companies was to create animated ads, illustrations, collages, even comics and stop-motion. This trend will keep going strong even in the year to come, since vaccinations aren’t available and done on a wide-enough scale yet. If you don’t have an in-house illustrator, check out ManyPixels’ free illustrations gallery, or our services to learn more about all the types of design our creators can take care of.

oh.my Video call illustration by ManyPixels

Gray and yellow color trend

Same as every year, Pantone announces its Color of the year. True to its minimalist and millennial aesthetic, as well as creating new modern looks according to current trends, Pantone this year announced that Ultimate Gray is the color of the year. The secondary color is called Illuminating. The combination of gray and yellow is “a marriage of color conveying a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting”.

Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, says that “the union of ultimate gray with the vibrant yellow Illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude”. That is exactly what the world needs in 2021!

oh.my Image credit: Art News

Optimism and positivity

After a year of being locked in and living in constant fear, it’s not surprising that people lack sunshine, color and a positive kick. Although we took the pandemic with us in 2021, there is hope that the crisis will be solved. That hope will also be translated into graphic design and art as well.

Illustrator Michelle Solomon, when questioned by Creative Boom about this trend, said: "2021 will be all about finding ways to be positive despite challenges, in contrast to the darker vibes of 2020. We all need uplifting art and design at this point!".

From creative and playful typography to brighter color palettes, and illustration that puts a smile and dynamic energy into viewers, we can easily expect to see these trends in the year to come.

Resurgence of psychedelia

The last time psychedelic art was a thing, people were shedding off the memories of two world wars, the stress of an ongoing Cold War, Vietnam, economic crises and… well everything that could have gone wrong. The 60s were youths’ answer to politics, wars and lack of possibilities for them to lead a normal, peaceful life. So they filled them with experimentation with psychedelics, music, art, the Summer of Love.

Similar to that string of horrific events that marked the 20th century, it’s easy to imagine that after we figure this out, people will be more willing to reconnect with nature, be one with the world, and return to the small things.

Enter psychedelics. A style as deep and intricate, as the music and culture that inspired it. We can see it coming in the next year, modified and adapted to fit a more millennial and minimalist palate.

Retro futurism

Retro futurism is yet another hopeful wave in art, that shows humans from the future, fully unbothered by the passing of time and disease. It’s based on the works of Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and many others. In futurism, people of the 20th century imagined us to have flying cars and be able to inhabit another body while keeping our memories intact. In retro futurism, we celebrate those ideas and aesthetics.

It’s a style that has slowly and steadily grown over the past years, from the vaporwave and neonwave style, to hit shows like Stranger Things on Netflix.

Minimalism and muted color palettes

What a U-turn, right? It comes as no surprise that the Scandinavian minimalism style will still be prevalent, especially in packaging and interior design. The nude and lilac muted color palettes that we see everywhere lately, especially in the beauty industry, are here to stay. Personally, I am a fan of clean and minimalistic, but it really couldn’t be further away from everything on this list.

Simple data visualizations

Finally, the last trend is simplicity in data visualization. People in the past years were unable to take a break from all the data overflow. All those numbers and percentages make it virtually impossible to grasp everything that’s happening around us, and all the infographics can’t explain that well. In the following year, we’ll see a change in how data is depicted and perceived. We will see visuals that boil down the most important of data researches, into a symbolic representation of its value.

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Stefanija Tenekedjieva

January 11, 2021

Journalist turned content writer. Based in North Macedonia, aiming to be a digital nomad. Always loved to write, and found my perfect job writing about graphic design, art and creativity. A self-proclaimed film connoisseur, cook and nerd in disguise.