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Interview
November 23, 2020

Luka Marr & Alex Shatov

Discussing Top Design Trends in 2021

November 23, 2020

Even though we all want the 2020 year to pass as soon as possible, here in FlowMapp we’ve decided to share with you something good about this year. It’s going to be the best graphic design trends in 2020. Also, we are going to discuss future trends in 2021.

We are going to talk about what the trends are, how they’re born & distributed. It’s also important to know how to estimate the trends and use them in the day-to-day work of a designer. Moreover, we are going to answer the questions like “why some trends can be successfully implemented into UX/UI and some of them quickly die?”

 

For the dessert, we will present to you our list of graphic design trends of 2021 and the interviews of the pros who will work with them. Now, let’s take a close look at trends history and their distribution!

What Are the Trends in Design?

What are the trends? Following the description in the Oxford dictionary, “trend is a way of development and evolution in something”. Therefore, trends in design mean the way of developing and changing the images and developing a different visual perception. 

 

Beginning from art-nouveau with its posters and collages and then Bauhaus, which gave humanity the geometry in design, the trends are gradually changing. After that, in Europe and the US, there were popular typographical style and post-war graphics. They dictated the way of design development for the next ten years. Until the digital turn happened in 1984 and revolutionized the way we percept art.

ART-NOUVEAU illustration

ART-NOUVEAU SHOT BY ALINE TEPASSE BARTEL

MacPaint, a program by Apple, has become a game-changer in modern graphic design history. With this program, the design was made on the screen of the computer and could be transferred all over the world with web 1.0.

BAUHAUS graphic design

BAUHAUS SHOT BY NEO GEOMETRIC

Here is the point when the real design revolution of modern history begins, and digital trends allow designers and consumers of the design to meet and communicate faster and more effectively.

How Trends in Graphic Design Are Born?

Like any other language, the language of visuals reflects social and political changes in society.

 

The first reason for a graphic trend to be born – changes in society. For example in the 20th century, social changes were less spoken about, comparing to the 21st one, so there were fewer trends to reflect on. As we mentioned before, art-nouveau, Bauhaus, post-war art, and the birth of digital design were yielded after the dramatic events that happened in the world.

 

The second reason for the new trend to be born is social demand. Or in other words cyclical nature of them. It’s known that the trends repeat each other every 12 and 20 years. The trend that used to exist two decades ago appears again in a new form.

 

The main thing about the graphic design trends is that they reflect our society, have a cyclical nature and are always reborn in new media.

The main thing about the graphic design trends is that they reflect our society, have a cyclical nature and are always reborn in new media.

How Graphic Design Trends Are Distributed?

Distribution of the graphic trends in 2020 can be described in terms of ruthless competition for the users and their attention.

 

Even though we now know the nature of trends, what causes them, and how it all works, the analytics of future trends can also be bought all packed from companies like WGSN. All you have to do is to subscribe and learn about future trends. Such analytics is used by companies like Starbucks, KFC, FILA, and all the fashion industry.

Trends are distributed by market players: companies use them in branding, marketing, and user experience to get loyal clients.

 

Trends are distributed by users. The users publish content on the following media:

 

  • Printed magazines & exhibitions for photography and fashion;
  • Social Media like Instagram for user-generated content on lifestyle, travel, food, etc.;
  • Media platforms for artists like Behance are the other places to meet the works of authentic creators.

Format of Trends Matters

Formatting is the greatest challenge now for digital graphic designers. The content one produces can fit perfectly to Instagram, but might not fit YouTube or Tumblr. Before producing a piece of art, creators think first about what platform they will use to publish it.

Media platforms are the most popular places to watch graphic design trends online.

We don’t want to omit some more offline platforms where trends can be easily distributed. Offline exhibitions, magazine publications are also the way for design distribution. Still, they play a huge part in trends watching, because before trends go online they are estimated and somehow appreciated offline.

How to Estimate Digital Design Trends

How can designers estimate trends? What criteria to take into account while searching for the next trend?

 

There are lots of contradictions when estimating trends, especially the ones which use new media. But here is our shortlist of guidelines that will help you to tell if a trend is going to be developed for some time or will die the next day:

 

  1. Long living trends often meet cyclical requirements;
  2. A trend that might live more than a year has to respond to the public request. For example, the request for sustainability causes minimalistic tendencies in design, etc;
  3. One more criterion to estimate a trend is to look into the roots of the trend. If the roots are deep and last living (basic human needs), it might live long and reborn once per twelve years.

Why Some Trends Die and Others Thrive?

You may already notice the connection between the cyclic nature of the trends and their life, their roots, and their expression. Here are some more reasons why some trends die and some of them thrive forever.

 

The popularity rise and fall of a trend also depends on the time of this rise. The longer it takes for a trend to become popular, the longer it dies off! To that conclusion came the scientists from Stanford University, who also proved this dependency in the fields of music and design.

The longer it takes for a trend to become popular, the longer it dies off

How to know if the trend is going to vanish soon? If something is ubiquitous and you can meet it almost everywhere, you should know that very soon it will die off. But what makes a trend live?

 

The trend is a tendency that can be popular locally or on one or several particular continents. But it can’t be trending all over the world. Learn what’s popular on the other side of the earth and this where you can catch your next trend.

Top Trends in Digital Graphic Design This Year

  1. The collage technique is a trending one in 2020! Especially in graphic design, combined with animation or photos.
  2. 3D art and animation are now an integral part of the UX/UI design.
  3. Simple and naive animation which is the favorite instrument now of all the graphic designers who work with SaaS platforms or B2B business.
  4. Retro style is coming back. Product package, marketing, social media is getting the retro style to be returned.
  5. Metallic and monochrome are getting back this year. They can be frequently used in companies' identities, branding, and marketing.
graphic design trends

DESIGNED BY (FROM LEFT TO RIGHT) ANDREY, TATABI STUDIO, KLAWE RZECZY, ANNA KAJDA, ISAAC POWELL

These were the trends in the digital graphic design of 2020, and now we can come to the part where design experts share with you their honest vision on the rise of the trends in 2021.

Top Design Trends in 2021 According to the Experts of the Industry

FlowMapp has spoken to experts in the field of digital design to learn how the tendencies in 2021 are going to develop and affect our lives.

 

Here is our first companion, Luka Marr, who thoroughly answered all the questions on design and trends, even the weirdest ones. Here we go!

Hi, I’m Luka, a digital product designer at Bien

Particularly interested in observing how design elements work, scale, and break in different mediums. Previously, I worked at Five, Shoutem and Axilis, where I had a priviledge to work on projects for clients such as Napster, Web Summit, School of Motion, Nanit and Winq.

I love to make things, so I made Poster, Instagram mobile app for MacOS and Gem, a daily source of intelligent reading recommendations, based on your interests and a little bit of AI.

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WHAT THERE WILL BE THE MOST POPULAR DIGITAL GRAPHIC DESIGN TRENDS IN 2021 IN YOUR OPINION

 

I believe the most popular digital graphic design trends in 2021 will be:

 

  • Serif fonts
  • Low saturation color palettes
  • 3D elements combined with all the graphic design stuff, no matter if it’s a website, an app, a poster, or a VR workplace
  • Skeuomorphism / metamorphism
  • Minimalism, modernism, and brutalism will have the best time of their lives!
     

Luka Marr reveals digital graphic design trends in 2021

— Serif fonts, low saturation color palettes
— 3D elements combined with all the graphic design stuff, no matter if it’s a website, an app, a poster, or a VR workplace
— Skeuomorphism / neumorphism
— Minimalism, modernism, and brutalism will have the best time of their lives!

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WHICH TRENDS ARE FRUITLESS, AND WHICH ONES MAKE SENSE?

 

On one hand, fonts and colors are fruitless, they’re nice and fun and all, but there is no point in discussing fonts and colors: we’re a long way past that point. On the other hand, 3D elements and neumorphism have something in common – they’re combining reality and virtuality; we’ve also started implementing the third dimension into our digital products.

 

I believe the reason for that is simple – there’s a lot of going on in the VR world and the digital content we consume is trying to adapt to the new reality.

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HOW TO WORK WITH TRENDS CORRECTLY?

 

You can’t be always right, but even when you’re not right, you will learn something. Follow trends, learn from them, but don’t get blinded by them, because there are always new trends around the corner. Also, Douglas Bader once said.

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Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men

I tend to remember this one a lot when I see a new trend popping out because 
I believe the same thing works with trends.

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HOW DO YOU TRACK TRENDS?

 

I track trends mostly through my social media. Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest are the ones to look at. There’s a lot of content and accounts that share other people’s work are always a good place to start with.

 

Follow as many Instagram accounts as you’d like, don’t be afraid of following a big number of them, because there’s a lot of unique stuff and you can never go wrong by seeing something or learning something new.

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... you can never go wrong by seeing something or learning something new.
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WHAT TRENDS WILL THE DESIGNERS FACE IN 2021?

 

Designers will face many trends in 2021. It would be hard to pick and name just a few of them because trends are popping out every day. With so many trends, the real problem is to filter them into two categories – the ones that will improve other people’s lives and the ones that will not.

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WHAT IS CURRENTLY AFFECTING THE FORMATION OF TRENDS?

 

I believe, new design trends are being formed when designers innovate on an existing aesthetic or trend.

 

For example, right now we can see that neumorphism is becoming a thing, and neumorphism is an upgrade to skeuomorphism, which was a UI trend 10 years ago.

 

As I see it, trends tend to just build upon each other, make each other grow, and become (hopefully) better than the previous ones. Their formation is also determined by the medium, and the medium is constantly changing. What’s important is that we do not sacrifice functionality for making something look trendy.

WHAT ELSE IS UNKNOWN TO THE DESIGNERS ABOUT TRENDS, BUT THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN?

 

Graphic designers need to start thinking about virtual reality.

 

A lot of things will and should move to VR. This is not solely a designers’ problem: this one affects everyone and we’ll see a huge shift in just a few years – more and more people will try to implement products of their work or the work itself in some kind of virtual reality. Graphic designers will play a big role in this one since we’ll have to rethink how we communicate and deliver value. 

 

Our next expert, who will share with us his angle on digital design trends is Alexander Shatov, a product designer

Hi! I am Alexander Shatov, marketing & product designer, based in Ukraine

For more than 4 years, I've been working at companies & startups to build b2b & b2c products & acquire customers through design.

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WHAT THERE WILL BE THE MOST POPULAR DIGITAL GRAPHIC DESIGN TRENDS IN 2021 IN YOUR OPINION?

 

3D Illustrations, realism, clarity, and the new way of skeuomorphism will be the top trends in digital design of 2021.

 

The market is full of 2D illustrations. One of the key aims for the companies right now and in the future is to differentiate themselves, be unique in style and presentation.

 

However, companies and people love to be inspired by successful companies and leaders. That is why mostly all websites right now have similar styles and ways of communication.

Alexander Shatov predicts digital graphic design trends in 2021:

— 3D Illustrations
— realism, clarity
— the new way of skeuomorphism

The authors of the shorts (from left to right) omaraqil, Microsoft Design, howmanukyan, Anoukia Perrey.
 

Now we see the trend of 3D illustrations and photo-realistic renders (like Microsoft, Pitch, Robinhood). These examples will be an inspiration for thousands of companies for 2021. It is possible because the internet and devices become faster. It opens new ways of visual presentation and animation, which was impossible before.

 

Another trend is clarity. A clear way of communication. Again, less is more. More straightforward content. Fewer words, easier meanings. Decreasing the time to value and faster hooking of user attention.

 

A copy will never be dead. That is why the trend for an easier and shorter copy will be also actual for 2021. Users do not read, they scan. To hook them with your value proposition, you need to make the copy as clear and short as possible. So users can see from first sight – what your product does and why they need you.

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WHICH TRENDS ARE FRUITLESS, AND WHICH ONES MAKE SENSE?

 

I can not say what can be fruitless. All of the trends can have long-term advantages and disadvantages.

 

The trend goes to automation, clarity, and better audience engagement. Consumers are no longer just consumers of brands, they take an active part in how companies position themselves and what development vectors they set for themselves. A combination of data, creative thinking, and focus can help companies to get ahead of their competition and define trends.

By focus, I mean exploring the culture of users and finding an audience you don't know about in the market yet. And trying to hook them with clarity in visuals + content. User attention becomes more and more valuable: TikTok, Stories, ads. Users spend milliseconds to watch your ads. That is why Illustrations will be less abstract and more straightforward to be easier to understand in collaboration with content.

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WHAT TRENDS ARE COMING UP THAT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT YET?

 

Browsers become smarter and the Internet becomes faster. It opens new ways of design that were impossible before. That is why 3D design opens new ways of communication. New ways that were impossible to manage in 2D. As browsers become better, you can focus on things, that were impossible before.

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HOW DO YOU TRACK TRENDS?

 

Read designers’ interviews from product companies and agencies.

 

Use Pinterest and instead of cat memes, try to make your Instagram feed to show more design works. Try to subscribe to the product and visual designers on Twitter. You will see more and more correlations of new designs and can understand – what is popular now and why it is successful.

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Use Pinterest and instead of cat memes, try to make your Instagram feed to show more design works
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WHAT TRENDS THE DESIGNERS WILL FACE IN 2021? WHAT ELSE IS UNKNOWN TO THE DESIGNERS ABOUT TRENDS, BUT THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN?

 

Flexibility and automation. Now we see more companies creating design systems, adaptive fonts, and Illustrations. They do this not only to differentiate themselves from others but also to make faster decisions, get deep insights, and receive better results.

 

To do this, big players run hundreds of experiments. No one in these cases wants to recreate new visual elements from scratch for hundreds of experiments. That is why we see more and more automation in our processes. Flexible visual elements help us quickly change what we need. Help us avoid mistakes, when your design is not shown correctly on some screen sizes or doesn’t match the brand guidelines of your company.

Summing Up

To understand the trends of the future we need to know where they come from, how they are formed, and what influences them. Artists use design to highlight the connections between social events and their influence on us. These highlighted connections are unique and some of them might lead to the creation of the trend.

 

What Luka said in our interview: “it’s all about gut feeling” whether something is going to be trendy or not. The role of designers here is to use these trends to deliver value and message to the people for which this message was intended. In 2021 this message should be clear and self-sufficient to touch the hearts and minds of the users.

Written by Hanna Karasevich