Design Trends That Will Dominate in 2021

Design Trends That Will Dominate in 2021

A graphic designer is not creating their design without considering any sense that they have. In creating a design, their inspiration could have come from so many different sources. It is also based on the purpose and audience target. Wrapping their inspiration with the aim of designing will result in design ideas. Design ideas and inspiration are what would constantly be changed in a period, including the design trends in 2021 could have taken inspiration from 2020 and pop culture things around the world.

Last year, most of the design was filled with pale colors, pastel colors, futuristic tech, sci-fi-themed, retro typography, and striking colors. In 2021, trends tend to imply people and characters more than abstract shapes. Many design communities worldwide now include symbolism, monochromatic lines, natural elements, and pure arts as a design style this year. Creating a visual that is so special and characteristic. These are some of the design trends that would be widely used in 2021:

Abstract Psychedelia

As one of the many fine arts, music was also contributing to creating ideas on visual arts. With music, we could have a slightly imaginary journey in the time and occasion that music has been widespread. Psychedelia style has taken its form as music and related arts in the 60s. It is connected to hallucinogen and experimentation, which could also be seen in Reggae music and hippie culture. 

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This seems to be related to 2020 and this year, people who want to feel free and let all the imaginations go wild. The color choices are darker but still using pastel colors as a favorite. The background would always seem to be darker colors like black, darker blue, red, brown, or grey. The shapes are more like hands created (which could make sense since digital and lines-based art was not a thing in the 60s). The shape also uses bolder borders, excessive colors, and intensely intricate abstraction.

Psychedelia would always look full and leave the less space possible, filled with abstract shapes with vivid colors. Meanwhile, the main object of the design would be based on the natural and life thing, still with imaginary colors that are not always like a real one, like a blue human, pink lemon, green roses, and more. While distorted shapes and confusing imagery might be the point of the overall design, to form the object symmetrically can make even the most complicated of these compositions feel stable. Psychedelia designs in 2021 were found on an event poster, wallpapers, music album art, and custom-made stuff.

Symbol Revival

Graphic design is not always for the big stuff, and it is also applied in minor use like logos, labels, caps, and stickers. Symbols could have made from letters, lines, curves, basic shapes, and a small part of a real-life object. Symbols have been used universally, crated to have their means behind them. Symbols could transcend language using their iconography. 

In 2021, symbols are used to create aspirational icons of resilience, growth, and empowerment. This could be done using icons of power and strength, such as tigers, arrows, lightning, swords, goddesses, stars, and more.

Retro Futurism

Still following a trend that was brought since early 2020, a retro-futuristic theme has not just become more prevalent in music, decoration, and videography; it is also widely used in visual graphics during 2020 and 2021. The sci-fi theme of the past imagined how it looked like in the future years, which could have been wrong in this era, or we are not reaching out to that same era. 

Back to the design, retro-futurism emphasizes bright colors, computer-inspired typography, and curves. Retrofuturism design was dominated with serif and script for large fonts and monospace for smaller fonts, with bright and luminescent colors. The shape is also mostly plain with gradation and glass effect. Color that is widely used and could be seen more in retro-futurism is a color in a red and blue hue range (including purple, magenta, pink, and burgundy). Lines with luminescent colors like yellow, green, and bright cyan are also applied to the darker colors.

Seamless Surrealism

Surrealism might be heard the most in paintings, where it uses imaginative conditions or the style is nonsense. Sitting on the moon, the waterfall on a pool, or human with plant parts. But still, it contains the word “real,” which would involve something real, which is also then intertwined with imaginary perspective. 

The digital design also could apply this style of art. Primarily used as posters, book covers, album art, and food packaging, surrealism often takes a profound meaning with them, represented in the shape or colors. Two or more images which could be seen as usual would rather be unique or hilarious depends on the context or the theme. 

The illusion which combines the two different pictures seamlessly great makes it challenging to separate one another. It also could manifest a strange feeling looking at the image, which is also impossible to digest with common sense.

Authentic Representation

As we explained before, the style in 2021 was moving to more authentic and living objects as an art rather than an abstract form, also impacted much by the thing that is happening in society. Including a picture of a natural person’s character, this style also tends to send messages or lessons. Portraying a natural person or character could inspire and encourage people to reach out the purpose of the design. But something important to note is that the designer was trying not to use stock pictures to favor authenticity. 

This is why usually designers with this style traditionally related to the photographer or photography activity. This is why authentic representation would be used much on book covers, posters, advertisements, and banners. In 2021, this style would mainly celebrate or represent monumental events, such as Black Lives Matter protests, LGBTQ+ rights, the stop Asian hating act, and more. In choosing the characters, there is also something to be focusing on, and it is the similarities. Highlighting special occasions in choosing characters must have been a severe awareness to avoid misinterpretation.

Irreverent Characters

When the designer decides to move from abstract visuals to real-life characters in 2021, the implementation also makes it memorable as the characters are imagined with explainable meaning. The more personality these characters embody, the more memorable these characters become. Concept illustration is the base of this design, which gives the character to poses and its essence as hand-drawn figures. 

This style could be varied in the making, from simple colors, lines, and shape, striking cartoons, detailed cross-hatching, or combination in between. The concept itself could represent the comedy in the design but also sending messages behind the design. The color choosing also not striking, which only between no more than five primary colors. This design was commonly used in a poster and packaging.

Comics and Pop Arts

The design styles of the past were never be replaced. This year, graphic designers resurrect grainy colors and pictures, palette colors, heavy inking, and comic-style drawings. The typography also more comic style, which is thick and had a visible border. In the past, comics were styled in a halftoned, or simplified dot shading in representing color grading, shadows, glows, and effects. This approach is also used in minimalist styling in recent years, such as flat design using grainy textures and grains depth. 

In 2021, the designer moves from a stock design to animated, illustrative, or hand drawing characters and objects. Real comics and novels mostly inspire them. This design approach would work well with kids’ and teens’ products, comic-themed advertisements, and for comic geeks.

Fine Arts Infusion

While the designer started to leave abstracts shapes, this could not mean that they go the arts overall. Fine arts with bush strokes style, canvas effect, and water-colored filters are now a thing. This could be misinterpreted with the abstract shapes, and abstract arts are more unimaginable. This could represent the freedom of expression toward creating the visual design because abstract arts are not limited in color, shapes, textures, and spaces. 

Using various surface variations and depth, it could make painting infuses design look real to touch. For that reason, this style would suit well with physical and texture printed products. Things are getting more interesting where both texture printed products and fine arts are related to culture, crafts, and pricey background. It is helpful to be used in premium product tags, wine labels, cosmetics packaging, and limited edition electronics. 

Painting effects also result in darker tones than other styles explained in this article, and this gives designs a true feeling of solemnity. Designs like these could have naturally invited the viewer to take a moment to appreciate the product and handle it with care.

Elements of Nature

2020 has been a tough year. Many activities and places have been closed temporarily, and it is tough to go outside since it was prohibited to be in places and in crowds. This would also impact a designer, especially designers who take inspiration from some things around this world. They now might have experienced their work-from-home freelance lifestyle, which also could affect their ideas in design. 

The feel of missing being outside could make its way inside the designer’s ideas. A strong desire to spend time in green spaces may appreciate the nature-inspired design during 2021. 

This trend could result in more greens, leaves, earthly color, and sky resemblance. This design was also going furthermore not limited to the nature-oriented products. This style could be found now in posters, banners, book covers, packaging, and labels for non-environmental products.

Blur and Grains

Gradients and color transitions have made their way from 2019 to 2021, especially in digital use. In 2020, the designer combined gradients’ style with pastel colors. Still using angles, the designer in 2021 will go into more blurry and color-blended backgrounds and images. 

Add in grain filter and colored similar to the majority colors. This design managed to be retro and alive. This kind of style could allow foreground elements such as typography and more minor details could pop out among the blended and blurred backgrounds. 

This also could give stronger feelings toward the design, whether it’s cheery design in brighter colors or a tragic character in a darker color. Grainy textures could evoke the sense that the picture is old and would not be strange with lighter shadow adjustments. This design could be seen in posters, websites, applications, and digital advertisements.

Socially Conscious Design

It is clear that 2020 has a significant impact on society, and they need the world to change to a better place. From healthcare problems, environmentalism, social matters, and disasters around the world. Putting this in mind, designers also try to contribute more to the campaign using their talents in the hope of a better story in their community. 

This could be seen in oversized and clear letterings using fonts or hand drawings, which stands out in the design but still shows the illustrations as explanatory. The exact purpose is to deliver messages of unity, responsibility, and advice. It comes in protest posters, mask-wearing guidance, and social distancing illustrations. Whether this is charity work or a paid project, 2021 has shaped the industry into more social awareness media. Many brands are also implying their messages through product designs and advertisements.


Last year might be awful to businesses and digital creators, but they still would not let down the creativity inside the designers to give the best to the world. You could use these styles in your visual design later as inspiration and be a part of the movement to a better world.

Author Bio:

Ulfah Alifah Yuliarso is an SEO Manager and a Content Writer from RRGraph Design.

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