5 Graphic Design Trends We’re Saying ‘Goodbye’ to in 2020, and ‘Hello’ to in 2021

Out with the old, in with the new

2020 has been a tough year for everyone. Companies worldwide have been affected by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and, as such, initiatives have been halted, budgets have been cut, and people are being asked to do more with less.

Brands typically try to out-perform their competitors by being the loudest, flashiest and most eye-catching – but, in the wake of a global pandemic, that ideology is rapidly shifting. Brands everywhere are being tasked with the seemingly impossible: to cut through the chaos with calmness.

While 2020 design trends valued energy and excitement, 2021 design trends are seeking to evoke a sense of tranquility, trust, and transparency among the masses. Let’s take a closer look at 5 designs trends we loved in 2020 and how they’ll shift to meet the needs of consumers in 2021.

1.) Out: Vibrant & Gradient Colors // In: Muted & Earthy Colors

For years, designers have opted for bold, bright colors in their designs. Bright colors tend to convey energy and happiness. Often times, one bright color wasn’t enough. Hence, the rise in gradients. Gradients are when one color gradually blends into another. Brands such as Instagram, Messenger, and Skype adapted gradients into their pallet early on, thus popularizing the aesthetic.

For a long time, the thinking has been that bright colors help brands stand out amongst their competitors. But what happens when everyone is using vivid colors and flashy gradients? Consumers are left with an oversaturated wall of color in which everything starts blending together.

That’s why as we move into 2021, we’re going to see a shift away from vivid colors and gradients to more muted, earthy tones. Muted colors are primary colors with white or black added to it. If white is added to a primary color, it is light muted. If black is added to a primary color, it is dark muted.

As a result of the quarantine restrictions, people are naturally gravitating towards earthy colors that remind them of being outside: colors such as tranquil blues and lush greens. Earthy tones convey calmness and comfort. This is why spas are inspired by nature’s color palettes and earthy textures when making interior design decisions. After a year of overwhelmingly loud mixed-messages, people are looking for something quieter and more relaxed. Muted colors and earthy tones fit the bill.

2.) Out: Sans-Serif Fonts // In: Serif Fonts

Let’s do a quick typography lesson. Fonts are broken into two families: sans-serif and serif. Serif’s are the little embellishments at the end of a stroke within a single character.

Over the last two decades, sans-serif fonts have been largely favored among designers due, in large part, to the rise of technology and minimalistic design. Sans-serif fonts are visually more muted than their serif counterparts. This allows them to be paired nicely with strong visuals, such as large photography, bright colors, and detailed illustrations as seen in the examples.

Notice how the first example feels innovative and edgy and the second feels very playful and approachable. Due to the minimalist nature of sans-serif fonts, they can be used effectively just about anywhere.

Serif fonts, on the other hand, are the oldest of the two styles believed to be dated back to the 15th century. For decades, serif fonts have been used in print media such as newspapers and books. Because of this, serif fonts have a reputation for being classic, elegant, intellectual, and honest. It’s that long-standing history that gives sans-serif fonts an almost nostalgic quality. They’re reminiscent of simpler times.

During uncertainness, people yearn for simpler times. It’s crucial for brands to portray themselves as honest and dependable to gain the trust of customers. This will prove to be particularly important for industries that require a strong foundation of trust, such as healthcare, education, and banking. Ultimately, serif fonts can help achieve this level of nobility. They also make for lovely headlines and impactful callouts, as seen in the examples below.

3.) Out: Organic Shapes // In: Geometric Shapes

One 2021 trend that may come as a surprise is the rise of geometric shapes and the fall of organic shapes within designs. In 2020, we saw designs that incorporated organic shapes and flowing illustrations. For many years, designers have been taught to work within a grid to ensure that everything feels balanced and symmetrical.

In 2020, designers started pushing those boundaries by exploring asymmetrical designs and abstract shapes. Organic shapes inherently suggest imperfection giving designs a more casual, laid-back, human feel as seen in the following examples. Ultimately, this made for designs that felt unique, fun and experimental.

Come 2021, designers will be going back to the tried and true symmetrical designs and utilizing geometric shapes. You might be asking yourself, “If we’re moving towards more earthy, organic colors in 2021, why are we moving away from organic shapes?” The answer is simple. While 2020 designs favored motion and energy, 2021 designs will favor structure and consistency. After a year like 2020, people are yearning for order and predictability. Geometric shapes offer that secure while also giving a design a polished and professional feel.

Geometric shapes can be used to frame an image, tell a visual story, or they can simply float in the background as a secondary element. Regardless, they are a great way to add depth and interest to any design, as seen in the examples below.

4.) Out: 3D Graphics // In: Line Illustrations

Due to the rise of 3D rendering software, designers in 2020 prioritized depth, motion and realism. Some graphics verge on hyperrealism — almost like you can reach into your screen and touch it. 3D rendering software gives businesses everywhere complete creative license to develop graphics that best fit their brand. In these 3D renderings, every single detail can be controlled, no matter how small, meaning zero compromises. The artist’s creative liberty truly sees no limit, as seen in the example below.

However, this is very labor-intensive and expensive. Two things a lot of businesses can’t necessarily justify when budgets are tight.

For this reason, we’re going to see a rise in simple line illustrations in 2021. We shouldn’t see this as a down-grade. Line illustrations can be a very powerful tool! In fact, when working on a tight budget and a tight deadline, line illustrations are a designer’s secret weapon. They’re able to be produced quickly, but look sharp, timeless, and elegant. Simple line illustrations are easily customized and can be used across many platforms, such as social media, email templates, and presentation.

Consumers find line illustrations aesthetically pleasing and easy to comprehend. They can be a powerful communication tool as many consumers have short attention spans. If done well, a consumer can understand what an illustration is communicating at a single glance. This saves both you and the consumer valuable time (not to mention, money) in the long run and can have a profound and lasting impact.

5.) Out: Complex Infographics // In: Simple Infographics

Infographics should always be clear and easy to digest. After all, the very goal of an infographic is to communication complex data in a simplified way. But somewhere along the way, infographics turned into an opportunity for designers to flex their creativity. Consequently, we’re left with many complex infographics that have little to no practical value.

Infographics can still be fun and flashy, so long as the information presented is still at the forefront of the design. If the data is being muted, visually, by the complexity of the design around it, the infographic fails.

Similarly, infographics should never overwhelm the consumer with too much data, if it does the infographic fails. It should be abundantly clear to the consumer what the infographic is trying to communicate at a glance. If needed, consider breaking up a study into multiple smaller infographics.

Color and size are both excellent ways to visually communicate importance within an infographic. For example, consumers tend to associate the largest most bold element within an infographic to be the most important. As such, their eye will be drawn to that element first. Keep these visual patterns in mind when designing infographics as to not mislead the consumer.

We’re not saying “goodbye” to the 2020 trends, we’re simply saying “until next time.” The day will come again where consumers will desire fast-paced, bright and flashy designs but for now, we all are being asked to slow down and proceed calmly. The design trends of 2021 are shaped by this very sentiment.

At Americaneagle.com, our designs are visually impressive while still adhering to user pursuits. We believe a fantastic design balanced with flexible technology empowers marketing professionals to deliver the ideal customer journey, with brand authenticity across all channels.

With an informed foundation, our award-winning user experience designers create visual masterpieces. Through the use of wireframing, conceptual visual design, branding, and design system management, we produce designs that are intuitive, appealing, and aligned with your goals. Contact us today to maximize your web design.

About Author

Paityn Langley
Paityn Langley is a graphic artist based out of downtown Chicago. During her four years at Americaneagle.com, she has designed everything from brochure websites, to ecommerce websites, to mobile applications. Combining her knowledge of creative design and user experience design, Paityn is able to deliver quality products with a seamless user interface. In her free time, she can be found at home reading books while snuggling her two cats or out at her favorite local venue watching live music.

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