This article has been contributed by Ronita Mohan.
Many of the brand design trends of 2021 will be a consequence of the events of this year. Some will also be a continuation of what has been successful in 2020.
We explore the various trends taking over the branding sphere in the coming years and how marketing designers can make the most of them.
Many of the graphic design trends of 2021 will have an impact on brand aesthetics. Here are the top brand design trends we can expect to see next year:
We break down each of these brand design trends in further detail below.
A few years ago, neon colors were all the rage. But there has been a distinct shift away from such bold colors since last year.
Brand design trends now favor muted colors. These are softer hues that are mixed with either a black or white base. This takes the edge off the color so it doesn’t look as bright.
This visual explains how the muted color palette looks in comparison to bolder colors.
As you can see, the variety of colors doesn’t change, only the sharpness. You can incorporate as many colors as you want in your brand designs, but you need to tone down the brightness.
Why has there been a shift away from bold colors? Because the trend caught on a bit too well. Bold colors were suddenly everywhere, saturating the online world.
Muted colors were the appropriate response to the overwhelming landscape of neons.
But they’re also more natural, safe and soothing — exactly what customers want to see after the chaos that has been 2020.
For some inspiration, take a look at how Buffer is using a muted color palette across its Instagram posts.
Image source: @buffer
Minimalism has been taking over as one of the top brand design trends of the past few years.
There has been a steady shift towards more minimalistic aesthetics every year, and that is going to continue into 2021.
We are seeing minimalism across landing pages, social posts, newsletters, logos, and even offline, on advertising hoardings and branded merchandise.
The Dell website is an excellent example of minimalism right now.
You can see how sparse and organized it is. There’s plenty of white space to ensure customers can see clearly. The visual and textual elements are also grouped for easy viewing.
Minimalism isn’t going anywhere, especially with the rise of mobile marketing.
As more customers view brand sites and content on smaller screens, the more important minimalism is going to become.
Grids are making their way out of brand design trends — instead, we’re going to see more asymmetry in web design and brand logos.
It’s a distinct move away from the design trends of the past — but asymmetrical designs are distinctive and memorable.
This style also allows designers to adopt minimalist design aesthetics — if you aren’t held to the grid format, you have more freedom to move elements around and create more white space.
And that is precisely what we are going to be seeing in 2021, as you can see from these eCommerce site designs.
4. Data Visualization
Data has become part and parcel of the marketing landscape. But it isn’t just internally that data needs to be shared — prospects can be encouraged to become customers through data.
But sharing raw data holds little value to the viewer. You need to give it context so it’s easy to understand.
You also need to make it visually appealing. Nobody wants to look at a bunch of numbers.
This is why data visualizations have become so intrinsic to visual marketing strategies. And for 2021, it will be simple visualizations that draw people in.
Why? Because people don’t want to work at understanding data graphics. You can create intricate visualizations, but they need to be easy to absorb or people will scroll past.
Look at this simple data graphic about marketing spend. Not only does it use muted colors but the pie chart is easy to decipher without much context.
5. Flat Icons and Illustrations
The interesting thing about brand design trends is that something old often becomes new again. And this is exactly what we’re seeing with regards to icons and illustrations.
Flat icons and illustrations were all the rage a few years ago before 3D aesthetics took the world by storm. Now, we’re seeing a return to the flat look for 2021.
Take a look at Adjust’s blog and how they’re using flat icons to create a cohesive brand feel.
Icons have been a powerful visual tool for brands in the past and they will continue to be so in 2021.
6. Simple and Classic Fonts
Classic serif fonts have been making a comeback and they’re going to be a brand design trend to follow in 2021.
These fonts evoke nostalgia, elegance, and trustworthiness — which is why they’re becoming popular again. The world can use some of those qualities right now.
Mailchimp is already employing serif fonts across their landing pages, as you can see from these examples.
Classic fonts are not as easy on the eyes as sans serif fonts, so it’s best not to use this font for large paragraphs. Headers and subheadings will be enough.
You might want to update your branding guidelines to include serif fonts for the near future.
7. Motion Logos
Brand content is aimed at getting users to remain on the same page or post for a long time. The longer they look at a post, the more likely they are to engage with a brand.
The same principle applies to other branding elements — such as logos.
We know that a brand logo is an integral part of a company’s identity — but it’s also one that people gloss over amidst the rest of the available content.
How do you jazz up your brand logo for 2021? By adding motion to it.
We are going to see more motion logos in the coming year, like the Google logo below.
Image source: uxdesign.cc
Motion logos are a great way to hold the user’s attention, which is always a priority in a content-heavy world.
If this is a trend you want to follow, you may want to look into logo redesigning costs and methods — depending on your logo, the process may not be as expensive as you might think.
8. Overlapping Designs
We’re going to be seeing more overlap designs in 2021 because they ties into the minimalist design we mentioned earlier.
Overlaps allow designers to group elements while still maintaining enough white space on the image and improving readability.
There’s another reason why overlaps are taking over brand designs — they add depth to an image by layering elements on top of each other.
They also help to create associations between elements because of their proximity to each other.
A well-executed overlapping design can be arresting for viewers and improve engagement, which is why they are becoming more popular.
9. Geometric Shapes
2019 saw a distinct shift towards abstract, flowing shapes. As beautiful as that trend was, it wasn’t easy to replicate for most companies.
As a result, brand design trends for 2021 will be embracing geometric shapes. They are easier to create, and they also establish consistency across a brand’s visual content.
Take a look at how Zendesk uses geometric shapes on their Twitter content.
Not only are they incorporating muted colors, but the geometric shapes are immediately recognizable as such. This gives their brand a cohesive, minimalist feel.
10. Dark Mode
Dark mode has been taking over the online sphere this year and it’s going to impact brand design trends in 2021 and beyond.
Apps, social networks and operating systems are all offering dark mode options for their user-interface.
It’s a sleek, modern look that highlights design elements and reduces eye strain — it’s no wonder that apps like Twitter have adopted the trend.
Image source: wired.com
For brands modifying or building apps in 2021, creating a dark mode option will be a necessity.
11. Accessible Designs
Speaking of eye strain, dark mode is only one method for making brand designs more accessible.
Minimalism and dark mode have helped make elements of design clearer to decipher for many people.
But designers also need to be cognizant of font sizes and weights, how to use contrasting colors, structuring content for screen readers, and adding accessible controls to sites and apps.
Accessibility is no longer a ‘nice to have’ concept for brands — marketing materials should become AODA compliant in 2021.
Not only does this make your content more socially conscious but it also helps you reach a new audience that may previously have found your material inaccessible.
12. Social Slide Decks
One of the 2021 brand design trends that will impact content marketers is the rise of social media slide decks.
Channels such as Instagram and LinkedIn are seeing success with these slide decks, and both platforms have adapted their algorithms to boost this type of content.
Zoom has been creating slide decks on their Instagram page and getting plenty of views as a result.
It’s a great way to spread brand awareness while also circumventing the extra step of asking users to click on the link in their bio.
13. Text Videos
There is no doubt that the pandemic has impacted the way we work and create content. Remote work has become the norm and will continue to be so in 2021.
This makes creating new video content — especially with team members and management — that much harder.
But social media videos still draw four billion viewers daily so it’s not something that brands can ignore.
Fortunately, you don’t have to. One of the brand design trends that has taken over during the pandemic is text videos, like this ActiveCampaign post.
These videos are simple to make and you can pack them full of branding elements like your fonts, colors and logo.
Because you don’t need to create graphics or shoot footage for these videos, the turnaround time is fast, so you have more content to share.
You can learn about the principles of design so that your text videos are attractive to audiences and get you more views.
14. Natural Designs
There has been a progression toward natural designs in recent years. In 2020, earthy tones in stock photography were all the rage.
And we’re going to see something similar in 2021. Nature has always been an essential part of branding design — in the following year, nature will impact how designs are created.
Not only will we see more natural colors, but gradients will be used to depict natural light settings, giving visuals a more layered look.
Stock photos will need to be more natural as well — obviously posed imagery won’t appeal to audiences anymore.
The pandemic has shown up a lot of inauthentic efforts from brands, celebrities and politicians. Which is why authenticity will be a defining brand design trend of 2021.
We’ve mentioned how stock photographs need to look more natural. But so should all other materials from brands.
Put your most authentic foot forward by incorporating user-generated content in your marketing visuals.
When you share messages — visual or otherwise — back them up with your actions.
Take up a social cause and work towards making a change in your local community or the world, like Ben & Jerry’s are doing with their fight against climate change campaign.
Go behind the scenes on Instagram Live and share how your company works. Don’t be afraid to highlight your staff members and customers on live social channels.
Authenticity is at a premium right now so make it a focus for your 2021 brand strategy.
Many of the 2021 brand design trends we are seeing are a product of this year’s events.
While others are natural extensions of popular trends from recent years, others have arisen in opposition to overdone designs.
The importance of positivity, hopefulness and inclusivity cannot be understated.
This year has brought a lot of negativity into the world — brands have the power to bring hope back to their customers.
Organizations can do this by adopting design principles that spread positivity, soothe the customer, and are aesthetically pleasing.
About the author: Ronita Mohan is a content marketer at Venngage, the online infographic maker and design platform. She regularly writes about marketing, events, sales and small businesses.