5 Design Trends To Watch In 2021

Welcome friends, it’s been a while since I’ve written a little thang about design, but I’m back and today I want to talk about design trends in 2021. Hopefully, I can do it effectively by providing a little substance.

Design sounds sexy and we designers know that you think it’s easy. Just slap a box up there with a photo and some text. We’re good right? Nah. That’s kind of like telling a cashier to throw your bananas into a cart 12 feet away. Cool story bro…

Being a good designer is hard enough, being a great one feels damn near impossible, but in 2020 we saw the industry expand in new and interesting ways. Not all of them make a lot of sense, but here we are. Not everything has to make sense for it to work.

So I give you, 5 web design trends to watch in 2021.

1. Clean Lines

This isn’t exactly new, but it’s become the standard. Clean lines, especially in logo design continue to dominate the market. There’s so much of it happening that’s it’s starting to get difficult to create something truly unique. The reality is that almost all designers take inspiration from other designers and eventually being “original” will require a pivot in the industry (I’ll touch on that later).

Sticking with logo design for a minute …. the creative industry and businesses are really digging big’ol fat lines and simple color treatments. Why? Because they’re strong and easy to see. They’re effective and that’s really all you need in a good logo.

You’ll continue to see this style expand for the next decade.

2. Modern Still Matters

Okay, so the design world has been obsessed with modern and minimalistic design for the last 5 years and now, we’re starting to see things shift back towards more complex and crafty pieces.

What do I mean by “crafty” you ask? 

Over the last half-decade we’ve been obsessed with white space, big scrolling sections, large font, and simply designed pages. This approach is still valid but you’re seeing it less and less. That trend will continue. This is due in large part because brands are trying to find ways to “stand out” in a crowd. What used to be edgy and unique is now “samey.” Instead, brands are looking for designers to create something really tailored for them.

For example, if Coca Cola really adopted the polar bears as a core brand element, you might create a site design with an arctic feel full of complex graphical elements like snowy hills, snowflakes, icicles, and more. That’s not to say you should just go full ham with the concept, but there’s definitely a clear indication that the site is for them. It’s not a template. It truly feels custom.

If you aren’t designing this way right now, I would prepare to head this direction and learn new skills, if needed, to prepare for opportunities of all sizes now and in the future.

3. Stepping Outside Color Theory

Blue is medical. Brown is financial. Green is environment/energy. 

If you’re a designer, or even if you’re not, you’re aware of the connections we’ve made between color theory and the visual products we build. It’s easy to meet with a financial client and come to the conclusion that brown and gold are going to be included in the color palette…..

….but in 2020 that started changing. In 2021 it’s going to change even more. You’re now seeing wacky and wild colors being used for top brands because while color theory is still important, nothing matters more than standing out. Businesses are struggling to find ways to appear different. The rulebook goes out in the window in these cases and it’s a lot of fun.

Designers are playing with neon colors and shades that they never get to work with because brands want something new and eccentric. It feels a little uncomfortable at first, but this trend will continue.

4. Even Less Stock Photography

This kind of goes without saying, but brands who only rely on stock photography don’t feel as authentic as they could. Custom relevant photography is the way to go. Even as stock photo resources expand, you still need to balance this kind of photography with images of your people, your workplace, and candids of your team in the trenches. 

Seeing real photos builds credibility and helps create a connection with your users. Can’t hire a photographer? No problem, just snap some photos with your smartphone. Assuming it’s an Android or iPhone, you should be able to get some high-quality images that a designer can touch up for you. Just be prepared to pay a little extra 🙂 

5. Comprehensive Brand Packages

In the last few years, businesses have been seeking one-off services like a website design or a logo design, but I think we’ll start seeing a shift in 2021 where these organizations focus more on their overall image. In other words, I think they’re going to want a more cohesive brand experience. 

This means designers should be prepared to design not just websites, but brochures, shirts, brand books, vehicle wraps, and more. If you’re capable of delivering a range of branding services, this will set you apart from competitors. This gives customers the one-stop shop they need to get their business’s brand updated for 2021 and beyond.

Let’s Get to Designing!

These are just 5 design trends to look out for in 2021. I’ll add that you should be brushing up on your illustration skills too. Graphic design has always mattered, however, I believe it will become a necessary component for all facets of design. 

While you might feel like you’ve gotta update your brand to be “trendy”, that’s not always necessary. Your ultimate goal is to deliver an experience to customers that resonate with their personal journey. 

Great design is more than a few boxes, text, and color. It’s feeling, energy, and inspiration that helps elevate a product or service.

As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you again next month.