The most disruptive calendar year in modern history will leave an indelible mark on many aspects of society. Digital and graphic design are no exception.

For the seventh year in a row, our annual investigation of emerging digital and graphic design trends has revealed eight aesthetic themes to look out for in the coming year.

The design trends of 2021 are chaotic and imposing, throwing concepts like harmony and legibility to the wind. At a time when crisis has confined our movements and asked us to minimize risk-taking behavior, these 8 daring design trends are helping digital spaces expand the bounds of our imagination.

Here are the 2021 graphic design trends that offer an exciting vision of the New Normal:

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Breaking Down the Design Trends of 2021

 

 

 

1. Responsive Clutter

 

Responsive Clutter Design 2021

digital design trend 2021 responsive clutter

Click image to view interactive elements. Source: Waka Waka


Ever feel like your mind has too many tabs open?

This interactive design trend asks users to scroll and hover their way through flattened stacks of text and images. While the slightly cluttered and chaotic nature of this trend may not be ideal for easy legibility, the responsive element gives the power to the user to determine how to move through the site.

In order to avoid traumatic flashbacks of assaults from virus-laden pop-up windows, Responsive Clutter pairs best web designs that are otherwise clean and minimal.

 

More examples: Click images to view interaction.

 

 

 

 

3. Maximalism

 

Maximalism design 2021

Click image to view interactive elements. Source: Moooi

Maximalism draws inspiration from… well, everywhere.

From classical artforms to brutalist architecture to pop-culture – in maximalism, the more influences stacked on top of one another, the better. The result is a visual smorgasbord of eras and aesthetics. The clashing of retro styles with futuristic elements gives maximalist design schemes a tremendous potential for story-telling.

 

More examples: Click images to enlarge

 

 

4. Outsized Typography

 

outsized typography design 2021

gigantic photography

Source: Badass

 

The past few years of digital design trends have featured bold typography, but 2021 is taking this fundament of design to a new level. With font sizes that are so large they are almost illegible, this 2021 design trend demands the focus of a user, requiring them to read slowly and scroll through to take it all in.

Outsized typography takes many forms: as gigantic page titles that require the user to scroll to read it all, as decorative background elements, as an attention-grabbing way to divide the contents of page or website. But despite the oversized nature, the clean, recognizable lines of letters, words, and numbers help keep this trend sleek and elegant.

 

More examples: Click images to enlarge.

 

 

5. Earth x Metal

 

earth metal design 2021

Earth and metal design trends

Click to enlarge. Source: Roman Bratschi

 

The design trends of 2020 saw a return of realistic textures to digital and graphic design. 2021 sees a further evolution of this development: juxtaposing sleek metals with the depth and irregularity of earthen textures.

Natural patterns and design elements offer the perfect backdrop for or complement to the sleek and refined qualities of metallic shapes and products. The effect is at once luxurious and rugged with especially tremendous potential for products with higher ticket prices.

 

More examples: Click images to enlarge




6. In-Text Photography

 

Intext Photography design 2021

in-text photography web design

Click image to enlarge. Source: Kati Forner.

The cultural significance of emojis as a communication tool have catapulted them into mainstream design for both digital and print mediums. But the flat dimensions and bright colors of emojis don’t fit in with every brand. With in-text photography, brands with a more particular visual identity can still capitalize on the emotive, communicative potential of emojis without compromising the consistency of their corporate aesthetic. 

In-text photography has a emerged as a more sophisticated alternative to emojis. By punctuating text with custom photographs and graphic designs, are able to transform microcopy into an expressive story.

More examples: Click images to enlarge

 




7. Technodystopia

 

Technodystopia Design 2021

the chicks gaslighter apocalypse design trends

Philippa Price for the Chicks

2020 was a rough year on Planet Earth. Given the universal rise in existential angst, it should come as no surprise that one emerging design trend in 2021 deals with themes of apocalypse.

Gas masks, red skies, smog, surveillance technologies, misaligned AI: in 2021, be on the lookout for end-of-the-world tropes making their ways into digital and graphic design. While dystopian and apocalyptic narratives have fascinated societies for generations, these themes strike a special chord in today’s world. 

More examples: Click images to enlarge

Gradients and duotone have been heavily used in graphic and digital design for the past few years. But 2021 may finally see them beginning to slow. Instead of ethereal gradients that blend into one another seamlessly, an emerging design trend of 2021 is the use of disharmonious color palettes.

This trend pairs pastels with neons and dusty mattes with brilliant primaries. But far from being an eye-sore, the clashing and contrasts in these color palettes feel especially modern and bold. While less adventurous brands may stick with simple color psychology tricks, bolder brands can select a one-of-a-kind color palette that expresses their unique personality.

 

More examples: Click images to enlarge


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