Our Favorite 2021 Graphic Design Trends

Image of graphic design trends
liquidfish creative team

If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that growth and curiosity are two necessary traits, both personally and professionally. As many people took to technology for comfort in 2020, brands and creative agencies alike pivoted with its audience, offering new and unique design trends that spoke to the times. Visual content quickly transitioned into so much more than that-it became a safe place for people to feel, revel, and explore. A place where each corner of a wandering, perhaps worried mind, could be entertained, challenged, and comforted. Out of the box thinking met with functionality became the standard, and design comfort zones took a creative turn.

Now, with a new year just a few months ahead of us, we decided it was time to pick  the creative brains of our Associate Creative Director, Kayla Dzambo, and Senior Designer, Israel Ramirez. From vibrant retro fonts to psychedelic influences, we learn more about some of the most game-changing design trends of 2021. Be sure to take some notes along the way (or design a graphic masterpiece, should inspiration call)-we have a feeling you’ll want to stay a while.

1. Retro Fonts

What it is: Funky retro fonts transport you back in time with its bright colors and imperfect fonts, combined with high contrast and a business feel.

When to use it: Can be used in branding, print, digital content, and web projects. These fun fonts bring trend and focus to any design.

Pro Tip: Careful using these in branding, unless the font truly fits the brand and not just this current trend.

By Meg Lewis — Source

2. 3D Illustration

What it is: 3D isn't used to create realistic compositions; it's used to add volume and depth to illustrations in order to make them stand out more. 3D can be great for landing pages, or to explain complex ideas.

When to use it: Can be used in branding, digital content, and web projects. The design realm is expanding with more and more 3D designers, making our messages feel even more relatable through a perceived new dimension! This unique illustration style can help you stand out among your competition.

Pro Tip: Be mindful when adding this to branding. These illustrations take a specified designer to create. If you need additional custom illustrations, make sure you continue to have access and budget to hire that designer again.

By Peter Tarka — Source

3. Smooth Gradients

What it is: Gradients came back with a vengeance, but in a different way than they did in the 90’s. These new trending gradients (radial, linear or freeform) are used to bring interest. Smooth gradients aren't used typically intended to bring a lot of dimension, like it did in the 90's or early 2000's. Instead, modern smooth gradients are used to create interest, like a pattern, or for focus.

When to use it: Branding, print, digital content, and web products. Smooth gradients are additions to backgrounds and layouts.

Pro Tip: Careful when adding this to branding. Make sure it fits the brand well and know that it may need to be updated if/when this trend moves on. Also, make sure you still stand out from your competition when adding this to your designs.

by DStudio - Source

4. Blocky Type

What it is: Blocky types are bold geometrical fonts presented in beautiful layouts. Why say more when you can say less with bigger words? Get your message across in a quick, eye catching way.

When to use it: Blocky types are best used when a simple message is needed to be conveyed, and when your access to images is limited.

Pro Tip: Hierarchy, layout, and color is everything when going with this simplistic of a layout. Go big and then go home (I mean small).

Design by Hrvoje Grubisic — Source

5. Flat Shapes

What it is: Flat design is a style used in graphic design and web design that emphasizes functionality, minimalism, and usability. This minimalist design approach uses simple design elements such as flat icons and two-dimensional shapes.

When to use it: Flat shapes are best utilized when you want to add a fun and playful style to your design or layout.

Pro Tip: Flat shapes are best used when incorporating bright colors, simple shapes, minimal textures, and simple typography

Design by Jackie Kao - Source

6. Grain Texture

What it is: This design trend is a way to make digital things more physical, as it turns the perfect colors into more palpable colors

When to use it: Grain textures can be used to shade and create beautiful illustrations. This style recreates an analog feel in a digital space.

Pro Tip: Grain texture is best utilized when you're looking to add some depth and a retro look to a digital illustration.

Design by Gregory Darroll — Source

7. Psychedelic Influence

What it is: Psychedelic type incorporates clashing, glaring and contrasting colors and loud textures with symmetrical composition, collage elements and rubber like distortions.

When to use it: This can be applied to a variety of design elements: type, composition, illustrations, etc. You may have spotted this style a time or two on some of the most iconic album covers.

Pro Tip: When applying to type, make sure that if your message is not for accent or flourish, that your message or word is readable. What does it matter if your brand is cool, but no one can read it? Purpose and functionality is equal parts important as a creative aesthetic.

By Studio Folch — Source

8. Expressive Type

What it is: Expressive type is just as it sounds. It's a type that evokes a sense of feeling and tells a story simply through its unique style.

When to use it: Can be used in branding, print, digital content, and web projects. These fun fonts bring trend and focus to any design.

Pro Tip: Careful using these in branding, unless the font truly fits the brand and not just this current trend.

By Liz Serrano — Source