Many dramatic changes have taken place in the world over the past year, with a clear impact on the fields of branding and graphic design. Branding has had to adapt to do a lot more with a lot less, and fewer design risks are being taken. But the surge in remote working, distance learning, and lockdown can create opportunities for much-needed growth and adaptation. The following design trends offer insight into what can be expected in branding and graphic design in the coming year, as well as a look at how we have implemented some of them into bespoke designs for our clients.
Organic design has been trending for a few years now. With the limits the present pandemic is placing on society, the urge to connect with nature is pushing this trend forward in a massive way. This trend is echoed in the continued use of muted colours, and is seen in the use of grainy textures and organic shapes.
The move towards nature can also be seen in the rise in positive packaging and sustainability. Consumers continue to become more mindful of their environmental responsibility. International lockdowns have also provided glimpses of what a greener environment would be like. This leads to an expectation from consumers for smarter, sustainable branding and packaging.
SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS DESIGN
The pandemic was not the only challenge faced last year. With great tragedies and injustices in the spotlight, the responsibility to create branding that is socially aware is no longer negotiable. At the very least, authentic representation and diversity must be standard practice. As a positive, more and more brands are connecting with users around social and environmental issues, with design incorporating more humanistic tones. International lockdowns and extended isolation is helping to push human-centred design forwards, offering brands the opportunity to reach out to users in a real and sincere way.
Design styles, like other style movements, are typically cyclical. Retro design keeps appearing in different forms.
With nostalgia at a high point, retro design is likely to continue. This can be seen in the return of pop art, grains and halftones, and the use of custom cartoons. Colour styles are leaning towards monochrome or duotone palettes, or designs are even going completely colourless.
People are looking to the creative industries to bring upliftment and positivity, to offer relief from the current gloom, and the creatives are ready to deliver. Playful and even childlike styles can be seen in an intensified form in 3D design, 3D typography, optical illusion design and Voxel art, stemming from games such as Minecraft. This offers an interactive or gamified experience, often accompanied with great depth or tactile qualities that improve user engagement. Emoji design, cartoon illustrations and custom characters also set the tone for fun design approaches. Geometric shapes and designs can be seen everywhere, with simple shapes often used to fit into more complex layouts or illustrations. These styles bring a welcome relief to a market that is yearning to unwind and engage.
HONEST & IMPERFECT DESIGN
The tumultuous and unpredictable past year is shaking up expectations of perfection. The rapid move to remote working and distance learning is bringing previous lifestyle expectations under question. Along with a global sense of fatigue and living in survival mode, comes this design trend that rebels against previous expectations to uphold appearances of perfection. Layout styles become chaotic and messy, accompanied with purposely ugly or complex typography. Illustration styles are intricate; photography shows flaws and unique characteristics. This creates authentic messaging that meets users where they are at.
The design trends for 2021 appear to be cautiously optimistic, and ready to implement the lessons learned last year to show positive change. But the value of these design trends does not end with creating cutting edge brands. Understanding the drive behind these trends offers brands the opportunity to meet users where they are, and to present honest solutions. It is clear that the design trends of 2021 aim to put people first.
Written by Melanie Evert: Art Director, The Blue Room