Design Industry Predictions 2021

24 May 2021

Design Industry Predictions 2021

We are well into the swing of 2021, so what trends are we expecting to see this year?

2020 was – in a word – unprecedented. We are now well into the swing of 2021 and after a tumultuous 12 months, we are hoping this next year brings us some better news and reassurance.

Last year we looked at some of the trends you will be expecting to see in 2021. One trend we have seen come over this year is minimalism, it still seems to be a popular choice by many. See last years blog post to see if our predictions came through.

Current trends for 2021 offer the opportunity to update your brand’s aesthetic and earn customers’ attention. Here at Third Floor, we have our predictions for how brands will be built in 2021. You are going to want to read this….

Trend One: Sustainability

Firstly, what is sustainability?

To be sustainable is to not have a negative impact on the environment.

Humans may have had a pretty rough 2020, but the Earth didn’t fare much better either. Most of our time was spent indoors giving us time to reflect, which made some of us think a bit more about climate change and environmental issues.

Even though the idea of developing a new, more sustainable relationship with our environment has been growing steadily throughout the 2010s, 2020 was a year like no other. During a time where many of us got to spend more time taking in the great outdoors, enjoying open spaces and plane-free skies, a sustainable future seemed more achievable than ever before.

Consumers will be thinking more than ever about the environment and the impact of what they buy has on this. So expect to see more packaging designs that will be emphasising sustainability – with natural iconography, neutral colour palettes and eco-conscious materials.

Ultimately it comes down to responsibility. When the first plastic bottle launched, recycling and disposal were on the consumer – it was their property now. That model can no longer stand, consumers are finally starting to push back against brands and are demanding they produce planet-friendly packaging that can be disposed of ethically.

Trend Two: Retro Vibes

This year we are going to keep seeing the evolution of a trend that has been growing in the past year; retro styles are about to have a big moment. Momentarily taking us back in time before pandemics were at the forefront of our day-to-day lives.

Whilst we have previously seen various “retro” and “vintage” styles, this most recent revival will see designers take visual elements or inspiration from the trends. Driven by fun fonts, period-specific colour schemes, illustrations, and photography, vintage-inspired designs are a classic and fun way to represent your brand.

In 2020 we saw one of the worlds leading fast-food chains revert to a logo used during the 1980s, Burger King’s new logo pays homage to the brand's heritage and was refined to be confident, simple and fun. The image below shows the campaign by Jones Knowles Richie. 

We expect to see a lot of vintage-inspired typography, using big, bold letter reminiscent of the retro poster graphic design, but updating the fonts to be cleaner and more straightforward.

Trend Three: Geometric Patterns

Following on nicely from this we have trend number three – geometric. We already saw a rise in this trend during 2020, with graphic designers using geometric shapes in their designs as a vital part of its way to create a unique visual aesthetic for brands. However, we predict 2021 will be the peak year for geometric shapes in graphic design.

By utilising geometric shapes it can help your brand to add consistency, order and visual structure when using different types of images mixed with geometric elements. 

A great example of other agencies using this trend which you can see below is Pearlfisher. They have recently taken on the redesign of McDonalds packaging. The renewed design brings a sense of joy and ease to the brand through bold graphics, using vector style illustrations to represent different items on the chain's menu.

Here at Third Floor, we have previously worked with brands where we have touched on geometric shapes by subtly bringing these in, without fully committing. For example our work with Think Project. Our work was to create a single proposition and unify a global organisation. By using clean geometric designs it gave Think Project a sharp, modern look, allowing your eyes to be drawn where you want them to go. The geometric shapes were used to complement and frame an image or text.

We hope to see more of this throughout 2021.

Trend Four: Optimism and Playfulness

Whatever happens, people will be looking to the creative industries to help uplift them in 2021, and we’re predicting positivity, playfulness, colour and vibrant patterns will all make a big splash.

This next year will be all about finding ways to be positive despite challenges, in contrast to 2020. In general, there will be a lot of bold, colourful and vibrant work in the next year, reflecting the hope we all feel – optimism.

Colourful designs along with fun fonts catch consumers attention – encouraging them to pause and take a closer look.

We have recently worked with Visit Cheltenham on a colourful and playful campaign called ‘Happy Place’. It is a feel-good campaign that celebrates the re-opening of Cheltenham and interacts with businesses and hospitality owners, residents and visitors to discover what they’ve missed most about Cheltenham during lockdown and the places and experiences that make them happy. The campaign will encourage people to share their happy place, highlighting Cheltenham’s renowned hospitality, feel-good vibes and year-round visitor offer. It will celebrate Cheltenham’s sense of place and popularity as one of the UK’s favourite places to live.

By using playful, bold colours it gives the campaign positivity and the optimism we are all looking for.

Trend Five: Muted Colour Palette

In contrast to the fun colourful palette of trend four. For those not looking to explore the bold and bright, another trend that might appeal to you more is this one.

This trend really took the design world by storm last year, and it has no sign of stopping anytime soon. Pastel colours with softer hues mixed with either a black-and-white base taking the edge off as to not appear so bright. It is becoming more popular to want something a little more relaxed and understated. With so many negative and confusing messages, muted colours make us feel a bit more safe and secure – maybe even a little more nostalgic.

Feeding into some of the other trends we have touched on – for example, sustainability, the muted colour palette can make a brand feel more natural and organic, so we expect to see these two marry together.

Trend Six: Minimalism

The minimalist trend is a modern, clean and popular brand style. We often see images and graphic design pieces that are text on solid or minimally designed backgrounds. Allowing ‘white space’ in designs, allows the words and images to breathe instead of overcrowding and overcomplicating things.

A minimalist design is a design that only uses the most essential elements, including basic shapes and limited colour palettes, to create something that’s very simple yet memorable.

This is a trend that has followed from 2020, in our previous blog we explored simplicity as a trend to watch out for in 2021. Simplicity looked at not only the design but how a brand is communicated. Minimalism is an extension of this, we are still wanting brands to be made crystal clear and simple. Our work with Pebble and Loop shows how we have demonstrated minimalism into a brand, and how beautiful it looks.

We don’t see minimalism going anywhere, anytime soon.

Trend Seven: Authenticity

After a year of hollow promises, being put in and out of lockdowns with no real conclusive plan has left us all a bit drained and cynical. We certainly don’t want to be talked down to or patronised by empty marketing campaigns. We believe this will be reflected in 2021 through more authentic work that speaks to its audience with a much more transparent attitude.

With 2020 seeing the rise of different movements, designers across the globe are making a conscious effort to ensure authentic, diverse representation. It is no longer enough for your branding to be current – it needs to be ahead of its time.

You'll continue to see brands pushing boundaries in 2021 when it comes to creating authentic, meaningful, and deeply powerful content over more superficial designs.

Trend Eight: Growing Digital Presence

With the problems caused by the coronavirus, many businesses have begun to rely on their online presence; whether this is social, app or website.

Stemming from this, we have also seen developments made to brands as a result, for instance, more accessible fonts used and additional space around content blocks to break up information. In addition to this, we have already seen an increase in the number of websites that offer a dark mode alternative to help reduce eye strain for customers who are now spending significantly more time on screens.

We will start to see more and more design-focused around this, at Third Floor social design is a popular ask from many of our clients. Getting the right aesthetic for your brand is important and we are very aware of this when creating your social posts.

Trend Nine: Unconventional Type

For years now we’ve seen crisp and clean typefaces that have adorned many of the brands we’re all acquainted with. This year however could be the year that trend is bucked and we could see plenty of packaging with bold and even aggressive typography. If it's barely legible then you’re probably on the right track – the longer it takes you to read the label the better because you would’ve stopped someone dead in their tracks to register what the product is.

In 2019 Danielo Silvera created a campaign for Puma ‘This is my flow’. This campaign is a great example of the unconventional type. It uses distorted and twisted typography along with bold imagery with visually stunning results. Take a look at his work in the image below.

This trend intentionally misplaces typography in a way that defies expectations and flouts design conventions. Images distorted and cut off and unusual proportions of text, disrupting sleek designs with glaring ‘errors’ that catch the eye. Exaggerated size and violating conventional hierarchies, this trend is sure to cause a lasting memory.

Trend Ten: Create an Experience 

When creating your brand – you want to stand out. Your brand is not just your logos or website or even packaging – it's all that and much more. Having a well-designed product is great but not enough anymore, people want to be taken on a journey, an experience. 

With the increase of online purchasing, unboxing is now a big part of a customers experience, now more than ever before. Designers will be thinking through the entire process, from your first website or social visit to the opening of a package. You will want to be making this a unique experience, by ensuring that even the smallest detail is on brand and captivates the customer. 

We go on that journey with you, make you think about the little things you may not have thought of. Your brand is important to us and so is the journey we take with you.