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Top Design Trends for 2021

While the world continues to change around us every day, we’re constantly finding new ways to adapt and react. It can be challenging to stay creative during times like these, but it’s also new and exciting territory. As designers we’re always trying to push boundaries and create something new and fresh, yet sometimes the end product is something that seems so familiar. Designers are finding ways to revive trends that we thought were dead, and quite frankly, should have died way back when, all while forging ahead and finding inspiration to create new ones. So what are the top design trends for 2021? Throughout 2021 we’ll be seeing a lot of “something old, something new” as old trends are modernized and new trends are born. Although we’re navigating unfamiliar landscapes, these are the times that creativity can flourish.

Loud Patterns

Bold and loud patterns have become more and more popular throughout the fashion industry, which may seem unrelated to Graphic and Web Design, but these mediums draw plenty of inspiration from what’s currently “in” in fashion. Today, things are transitioning more and more to the digital landscape and unique patterns are one thing that brands are utilizing in order to stand out from the crowd. These patterns are great conversational pieces and immediately catch the user’s eye and draw them in.

Loud patterns

“Blast from the Past” — Nostalgia

Let’s face it — 2020 was pretty darn awful so it’s no surprise that everyone is looking back to their childhoods and remembering how good things were. People are holding onto the things that generate fond memories and bring happiness to them. This is causing more brands to reintroduce products and designs that have been long discontinued in order to bring that connection back. Millennials are getting older and gaining access to higher, more influential positions within companies — having more say in the way things are run. It just makes sense that many of these companies are turning back the clock and cashing in on nostalgia. They say history repeats itself and design is no different. Nostalgic design, a design trend for 2021, is utilizing elements such as 8-bit illustrations, retro typefaces and patterns, vintage color palettes, and a plethora of other things that harken back to the good ‘ole days. These “retro” elements are also being used in tandem with more modern approaches to create a “something old and something new” aesthetic and we’re all for it.

Nostalgic brands


“Gradients are so ugly.”

“Gradients are so 2000.”

“Gradients are tacky.”

These are just a few things that every designer has probably said about gradients at some point in their career. They may not be entirely wrong, but when gradients are used correctly, they can bring vibrancy and life to something that’s dull and lifeless. Designers have come to realize this recently, which is why the gradient resurgence is a design trend for 2021. Designers draw inspiration from the world around us, and in our everyday lives we very rarely see flat color, so it just makes sense. In web design, gradients can help draw the viewer’s attention to specific things and can also help indicate what things a user can or cannot interact with in digital design. In other forms of design — let’s take packaging design for example, gradients can help certain products stand out on a shelf of countless other competitors.

examples of gradients

White space

White space has always been common practice when it comes to design — You want things to have some breathing room as to avoid clutter and confusion. Of course, this is just common sense. However, the current trend seems to be taking white space to a whole new level. Instead of using it as “breathing room” around elements, designers are implementing white space in a way that creates negative shapes and elements that actually add to the aesthetic. Used in conjunction with a grid, what seemingly appears to be a mistake, is actually a beautifully thought-out balance of content and negative space. While this approach is becoming more and more popular in web design, it is also being practiced in print as well — primarily in multi-page designs and layouts.

examples of white space

Photography/illustration hybrid

Photography has always been a core element that we use in design. It can help tell a brand’s story, incorporate personality, and give context to supporting copy. However, it’s always been especially difficult to find and use unique photography, especially if you don’t have access to a professional photographer or custom assets.

One way designers are overcoming some of these obstacles is to utilize photography and personalize it with custom illustrations. The marriage of photography and illustration creates something beyond just a static image — it creates something one of a kind. For web especially, custom illustrations can draw attention to specific areas of the image that you can use to further reinforce the story you’re trying to convey. And on top of that, animations can be applied to the illustrations, creating a truly memorable experience.

image / illustration hybrid

Inclusivity and Diversity

With race issues and gender inequality being at the forefront of news and media throughout 2020, many brands are choosing to address inclusivity and diversity in marketing campaigns and other media types. We’ve seen a lot of new websites pop up that have been devoted to spreading awareness for these ongoing issues, making this a design trend for 2021. Many brands and companies are becoming more and more cognizant of what messages they portray on their websites/branding materials and what imagery they use. With the current state of the world today, unfortunately these issues aren’t going away. However, with more and more companies taking a stand and reevaluating marketing strategies and how they portray themselves, we’re moving towards a much needed change.

diversity examples

With a new year off to a lightning fast start, now is as good a time as any to take a step back and reevaluate your business or brand. It may be time to shake off some of that dust and slap on a new coat of paint. With things seemingly changing every minute of every day, we can’t just sit back and get left behind — we must be proactive and look forward to the future in order to remain relevant.

If you’ve been thinking about something completely new, need help maintaining your brand, or anything in between — we’d love to work with you. Connect with us and let’s get creative together!