After 2020 felt like it lasted for years, 2021 is finally here! New beginnings, new trends, opportunity for a reset… who else is excited?!

Like every year there is a new Pantone colour to represent the year, to inspire, and this year is… drumroll please… well, it looks like two colours have been chosen, and they are Ultimate Gray and Illuminating Yellow! So, what does this mean? Well Ultimate ‘Pandemic’ Gray, the gray of cloudy skies, sidewalk cement, comfortable bed linens, gravity blankets—the colour evokes our collective experiences from the past year, 2020. Gray is the colour of contemplation; it makes us notice things we might not have paid attention to before, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that is the Illuminating Yellow. The sun rising over a dark landscape, the dawning of hope that comes with the possibility of a vaccine.

“These two independent colors that come together to create an aspirational color pairing, conjoining deeper feelings of thoughtfulness with the optimistic promise of a sunshine filled day.” – Pantone

Now that we have the colour down, let us get started on the type of trends, we as artists, should consider using this year based on stats from 2020. I feel all design/art is all about transforming the plain into something special. I chose the 7 that Green House Media feels will best impact design in 2021.

The 7 top design trends that Green House Media feels will affect 2021 are:

  1. Abstract psychedelic imagery. Creative experimentation inspired by social disruption: in short, the opening of one’s mind.
  2. Symbol revival. Creating aspirational icons of resilience, growth, and empowerment.
  3. Retro futurism. Retro futurism as a visual style that has prevailed due to its bold imagination with a surprisingly optimistic outlook.
  4. Seamless surrealism: ‘Surrealism’ is one of those artistic terms people tend to associate with the incomprehensible imagery that is nonsensical by design. But what people often forget is that it contains the word ‘realism.’ The real is intertwined with the surreal, and in no year was that more deeply felt than in 2020.
  5. Authentic representation. The Black Lives Matter movement represents an unprecedented turning point moment of global protest. We remain hopeful that it is only the beginning of a re-examination of injustice and that its impact will continue to ripple through every industry in 2021, including graphic design.
  6. Elements of nature. There is no avoiding it: many people spent much of 2020 cooped up inside. That would go double for designers who might have experienced their work-from-home freelance lifestyle begin to resemble solitary confinement. It may be no surprise then that the outside world will be making its way inside 2021’s graphic designs.
  7. Socially conscious design. It seems fitting that 2020 was the year the world understood how much it needed to change. From healthcare to environmentalism to Black Lives Matter to pandemic preparations. The good news is that this conflict might just be a turning point, provided everyone does their part.

2020 may have proved to be a disappointment. But graphic designers of 2021 are determined to turn it around in their own way. Out of tragedy, they are giving us cheeky characters. Out of self-isolation, they are giving us nature. And out of confusion, they are giving us our symbols of speech. Each year graphic design trends will always bring change, and it is the designers who will determine whether that is for better or worse.
Together, we are stronger!


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