If 2020 proved anything, it’s that it can be nearly impossible to predict what’s going to happen over the course of a year. However, based on what we’ve seen in the graphic design and art world over the past several months, we have a good idea of the upcoming graphic design trends of 2021. 

Why should you be interested in 2021 graphic design trends? Overall, it’s important to stay up to date on what’s trending in the world of art, so you can better understand and anticipate what will resonate with audiences and clients. Ultimately, this will help you create more effective and engaging artwork.  

However, you would probably rather spend your time creating art than researching design trends on social media and design blogs. To save you time, we did the research on graphic design trends 2021 for you. Below, find a roundup of graphic design trends 2021 predictions, so you can stay ahead of the curve. 

  1. Vintage Illustrative Lettering 

Vintage and retro design has long inspired modern art. In 2021, you can expect a vintage style resurface specifically within the art form of hand lettering. While most hand lettering you see today incorporates a bouncy, modern style, the graphic design trends of 2021 may change that. Now, we expect to see a shift toward a more antiquated, complex aesthetic. This illustrative style of lettering takes more time, but invokes a sophisticated look and feel that’s quite different than most modern hand lettering. 

This example of a vintage-style letter incorporates intricate, botanical-inspired details. 
This example of a vintage-style letter incorporates intricate, botanical-inspired details. 

2. Skin-Toned Color Palettes

The past year inspired a call for diversity across nearly every aspect of life—from business to art. In 2021, artists will further embrace inclusivity by embracing skin-toned color palettes. And that doesn’t mean designing with a few shades typically known as “nude” or “tan.” These color palettes will encompass all skin tones. To highlight this beautiful range of colors, artists will likely incorporate the human form into their work, from paintings to photography. 

Skillshare instructor Melissa Lee showcases contrasting skin tones created with watercolor paints. 
Skillshare instructor Melissa Lee showcases contrasting skin tones created with watercolor paints. 

A Rainbow of Inspiration

Painting Skin Tone With Watercolors With Melissa Lee

3. Porcelain Inspiration 

It’s time to pull out the teacups and china your grandparents handed down to you—because they will likely serve as an inspiration for your art in 2021. Porcelain originated in Asia in the ninth century, then spread across Europe throughout the 16th century. However, today’s artists will build on the traditional blue-and-white pattern to create more modern versions of this historic art form. 

Similar to the art deco, mosaic-inspired prints that dominated 2020, porcelain-inspired designs center on pattern and repetition. They also tend to incorporate botanical elements, such as leaves and flowers. Overall, this trend lends itself to mediums like watercolor, as well as monochromatic color palettes. 

The porcelain-inspired painting on the left incorporates a monochromatic red color palette.
The porcelain-inspired painting on the left incorporates a monochromatic red color palette.

4. Simple Data Visualizations

Today, you can find an abundance of data about nearly anything. The issue, however, is that because there’s so much data, it’s easily ignored. Few people want to try to interpret complex statistics. 

That’s where clever graphic design comes in. Over the next year, it’s likely that you’ll see a continued interest in data visualizations. One key change, however, is the complexity of these visualizations. While infographics have been popular for years, they are often nearly as long and complex as the data they represent. For better performance on social media platforms, data visualizations will get simpler—often representing just a singular data point. These basic graphics can help people understand statistics in just seconds, as they’re scrolling their social media feeds. 

This simple data visualization, created by Skillshare student Beth Cunningham, uses bold colors and a simple graphic to quickly convey social media statistics. 

Screen Shot 2020-12-21 at 5.12.30 PM.png

5. 3D Design

3D design may not be new, but with recent advances in design software, it will likely continue to be among the top graphic design trends of 2021. Apps like Procreate give designers the ability to create impressive 3D illustrations with a few strokes of a stylus. In 2021, designers will likely continue to expand on these capabilities, including animating their 3D creations (more on that below) or combining them with other creative elements, such as 2D images or photos. 

In this example, Skillshare instructor Oscar iván Jiménez showcases a scene of 3D characters. 
In this example, Skillshare instructor Oscar iván Jiménez showcases a scene of 3D characters. 

6. Simple Animations 

Updates in design software have made it easier than ever to transform even simple illustrations into animations. Because of this, we’ve seen more designers—especially those who use Procreate—experimenting with this art form to bring their illustrations to life. This isn’t only a fun challenge for these designers, but it also provides dynamic content for their audiences to engage with. Commonly, designers like to share these animations on their social media platforms. 

Going into the new year, we expect to see more illustrators dive into animation, as well as learn how to take their skills even further, producing longer or more complex movements. 

What starts out as a simple illustration can easily be transformed into an animation, as demonstrated by this GIF created by Skillshare student Katrina Snyder.
What starts out as a simple illustration can easily be transformed into an animation, as demonstrated by this GIF created by Skillshare student Katrina Snyder.

7. Minimalist Logo Aesthetic 

Over the last year, many companies transformed their logos, removing colorful and graphic elements in lieu of a more minimalist approach. Petco, for example, took away its smiling cat and dog graphic and chose a more rigid, less curved typeface than its original logo font. 

While this type of logo redesign has sparked debate among designers, it’s a trend that will likely continue into the new year. Simple logos are easier to recognize, easier to read, and generally incur less printing costs than colorful, complex logos. 

In the class  Create a Minimalist Text Logo in Photoshop , instructor Genevieve Wilson explores how to create a minimalist, text-based logo. 
In the class Create a Minimalist Text Logo in Photoshop, instructor Genevieve Wilson explores how to create a minimalist, text-based logo. 

8. Use of Geometric Shapes 

You could say that geometric shapes are the foundation of art itself. After all, shapes are one of the first elements you learn to draw as a child. Increasingly, however, they are becoming one of the major graphic design trends of 2021. This may be linked to the use of graphic icons and badges that you can find across social media platforms and smartphone screens. Now, designers are finding a way to incorporate these simple yet bold shapes into all kinds of design, from logos to website layouts. 

This badge, created by Skillshare student Maia Then, depends heavily on geometric shapes, from the circle behind the Gameboy to the squares of the video game’s console and screen. 
This badge, created by Skillshare student Maia Then, depends heavily on geometric shapes, from the circle behind the Gameboy to the squares of the video game’s console and screen. 

9. Botanical-Inspired Designs 

People have kept potted plants and trees in their houses and apartments for decades—but houseplants have enjoyed an extra boost in popularity over the past few years. Part of that is driven by urbanization, as people move into bigger cities and smaller spaces. The coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders also drove the demand for indoor greenery, as people increasingly sought indoor tranquility during a stressful time. 

Now, designers are now capitalizing on that surge in popularity to bring nature directly into people’s homes. In 2021, you can expect to see more botanical patterns and nature-inspired designs that convey a sense of tranquility and peace. 

Skillshare student Nele Ooms used muted tones of gouache paint to create this cactus- and desert-inspired painting.
Skillshare student Nele Ooms used muted tones of gouache paint to create this cactus- and desert-inspired painting.

Of course, you shouldn’t let the graphic design trends of 2021 restrain your creativity. These should simply act as a bit of inspiration or a jumping off point for your artwork in the new year. By understanding what’s trending this year, you can experiment with and build on these trends, creating something that’s uniquely you. And maybe you’ll find that on next year’s list of trends. 

Explore the Trend of Botanical Illustration

Botanical Illustration: Paint a Colorful Garden with Watercolor and Gouache With Sara Boccaccini Meadows