mood boosting color

What To Look For: Creative and Design Trends for 2021

The collective sigh of relief when 2020 came to an end was palpable. On New Year’s Eve, we were all happy to bid 2020 a cheery, “Good riddance to bad rubbish!” Or for some of us, maybe it was something a little saltier than that.  Now the big question is, “What’s in store for 2021?”

For creatives, the trends will indelibly reflect reactions and adaptations to the pandemic, as well as the aspirations we have for a return to normal. The major themes that will drive trends in the upcoming year and beyond include positivity, connectedness, playfulness, authenticity, and re-imagined retro looks.


History shows that the plagues and pandemics that shatter economies and upend societies are often followed by periods of carefree exuberance. A case in point is the emergence of the Roaring 20’s after the Pandemic of 1918. While we’re not out of the woods yet, we should see an aspirational backlash to last year’s unpleasantness as the year goes on. Messages, images, and design should reflect that attitude.

Connectedness with people

Isolated in our homes for all these months, we long for human connection.  Aspirational imagery and video that conveys connectedness and scenes of togetherness will resonate in the months to come and brands will tap into that.

elbows touching


The reaction to the events of 2020 makes people seek fun in an unpretentious way. Brands will be given permission to be fun, and that will be a way to make messages break through.

Connectedness with nature

Has there ever been a time when images that speak to nature as an escape will resonate more than now? Escapism as seen through nature and natural surroundings will create a perceptual lift for brands and will engage audiences this year.


People are seeking the real stuff and the real story. It’s a reaction to the insincerity of our political discourse and the superficial messaging of many brands during the crisis. People are showing an increased intolerance for pretention and bologna and have a suspicion of authority. The smart thing for brands to do with their messaging now is to be true to themselves and genuine.

Re-imagined retro 

Another aspect of our lean towards escapism will be the emergence of updated designs, fonts, and music, combining elements of comfortable older aesthetics with a modernized feel.

Brand Messaging in 2021

At the 30,000-foot level, brands will convey their authenticity by creating messages that express their values —and then they need to deliver on them. For some time now, there have been a few brands that live their values, like Patagonia. We’re going to see more of that. Brand values are now inextricable from products and services.

We started to see some of that in 2020, and some of it was off-key, but brands are starting to feel a newfound obligation to the public. COVID and social justice messages came out as the year progressed. It’s a tricky road to travel, but many brands are thinking it’s worth the risk.

One of those brands is Budweiser. They recently announced that they were not going to run any Super Bowl commercials this year and were going to divert advertising budget to PSA’s for vaccination. That’s a shocker. No Clydesdales? It seems they think saving lives might be a better idea. Good for them.

Color and Design Trends

Now, let’s get down to specifics. What to look for in colors and design? It’s going to be big, bold, fun, and funky.

Mood-boosting Color

Expect to see lots of vibrant and saturated colors. Neutrals will take a backseat this year. Color will be meant to make people feel happier and energized.

mood boosting color

Compassionate Collective

Riding the connectedness theme, imagery seen in ads this year will support, represent, and empower diverse voices and convey compassionate imagery that conveys togetherness.

Austere romanticism

This is lean to retro thinking but with a cleaner, more modern edge. These Victorian-inspired takes on the beauty of nature will feature a more minimal and modern edge.


Vintage vaporwave

Another tributary of the 2021 trends will include designs that offer odes to the 1990s Internet. We’ll see a mix of pop art and outlined sticker graphics, bright pastels matched with neutral tones and lo-fi design elements.


Psych out

Get a little wild this year and maybe a little weird. Psychedelia is back and not just as a campy throwback theme. Inspired by the 1960s and early 1970’s, the trend includes expansive shapes, curvaceous forms, and typefaces and dreamy illustrations that are updated with luminous gradients and earthy color palettes. Even tie-dye is making a comeback.


Back to Bauhaus

Bauhaus will provide a return to fundamentals with use of primary colors, lean, geometric shapes sometimes arranged with a bit of whimsy. These designs are highlighted by balanced layouts and graphics that create powerful messaging.


Fanciful Fonts For 2021

In keeping with the freewheeling attitude ascending as the pandemic wanes and we enter the post-Covid era, the font world will reflect an “anything goes” attitude that is characterized by creativity and experimentation. Be bold, be individual, and have fun.

We’ll see more distorted fonts like Plastic Sans, retro serifs and retro-futurist fonts like Equinox in addition to elegant, timeless serifs and minimal chunky scripts.

In 2021 there is a font trend to suit every brand, creative project, and whim.



Adapting to Reality: Video trends for 2021

Handheld Video

Covid-19’s shutdown of traditional shoots forced a few realities on the video production world and created a move to handheld footage that had a user-generated feel with a more “produced” aesthetic.

Creative Creativity

Again, because big production shoots became problematic, we’ll create more professional-quality videos by inserting photos and videos into more sophisticated motion templates. There will be more colorful transitions and graphical elements as well.


Riding the trend of more uninhibited colors and motion, there will be more blending of vibrant colors to grab attention and offer a calming presence. (image and caption to come)

Audio Trends — Global rhythms

In the audio world, the expectation is that we will see more diversity and a global, modern feel to audio content. The podcast boom will create a market for more music options that will benefit everyone looking for that perfect track for their next video or audio project.

Emerging genres are focusing on the electronic spectrum for online videos and social media. There will be a rise in popularity of subgenres including future bass, electro funk, and synthwave that reflect the retro theme of the coming year.


Final Thoughts

In sum, many of the 2021 brand creative and design trends are a product of this past year’s events. Some are extensions of popular trends from recent years, and others have arisen in opposition to overdone designs. This year, however, we will see that positivity rules.

In reaction to the negativity of the last year, brands will have the power to bring hope back to their customers with design principles that convey positivity, sometimes provide a little whimsy, and are aesthetically pleasing.


Sources:  Shutterstock: An A-Z Guide to the New Normal.  Adobe Stock: 2021 Visual & Creative Trends Report.  “What Fonts Are Trending Now and Font Trends for 2021.” By Grace Russell.  Apollo’s Arrow:  The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live. By Dr. Nicholas Christakis.

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