Five Global Graphic Design Trends On The Rise In 2021

by Shayne Tilley, Head of Marketing at 99designs

As we round the corner on what’s been one of the most challenging years in history, many business owners and entrepreneurs are already planning for a brighter future in 2021 with brand makeovers or even new product launches on the horizon. 

Whether you’re looking for creative inspiration for a new brand or thinking of ways to freshen and modernize an existing business, being aware of emerging trends is a good place to start. While you may not always need to be on the cutting edge of design, an outdated look and feel can send the wrong message to prospective customers and in some cases even cost you a sale. 

Here are five of the most creative and inspiring design trends set to shape 2021, as predicted by the global community of freelance graphic designers working on 99designs: 

1. Retro Futurism.

Unlike the darker Sci-Fi visions of today’s movies and TV shows like “Black Mirror,” retro futurism harks back to a time when science promised flying cars and x-ray glasses. Perhaps as an antidote to pandemic-induced doom and gloom, this style expresses optimism by emphasizing bright colors, computer-inspired typography, and curves—from fishbowl space helmets to arches and domes. This website design for a smart assistant product from designer Serhii Polyvanyi is a great example of this concept applied to modern technology, as is this packaging for Atomic Hot Snacks. 

2. Abstract Psychedelia.

Stressful times in history have been proven to spark waves of nostalgia within pop culture and advertising, and this trend (similar to retro futurism) embraces themes of the past. In this case, it’s the music and art scenes of the 1960s that inspired psychedelia. Similar to that era’s social upheaval and period of experimentation, current abstract psychedelic imagery conveys the sense that designers are moving beyond traditional constraints. In 2021, graphic designers will be reviving psychedelia through excessive color and intensely intricate abstractions. 

What’s new here is an emphasis on symmetry among the distorted shapes and jumbled imagery, which lends a stability within the chaos. Early adoption of this trend can be found in The Welder’s Dog Session Ale label by design firm Trickstore or this album cover for High Tide Sound System by Raisa Álava.

3. Symbol Revival.

The power of classic symbols lies in their ability to transcend language. Designers are leveraging this power in 2021 to create aspirational icons of resilience, growth and empowerment. In particular, we find an increasing number of symbols depicting power, such as goddesses, birds, the stars and stoic lions (such as these logos developed for a Solar Company by Allan Peters). We also see  the modernization of classic visual motifs, such as svart ink’s celestial design for Deep River charcoal soap or the black and white animal logos from George Bokhua. Through classic symbols, designers are shaping the talismans we’ll need to ward away despair in the coming year.

4. Authentic Representation.

The Black Lives Matter movement that erupted this past May is unquestionably an unprecedented watershed moment of global protest — one that we hope is just the start of a critical reexamination of systemic prejudice and racism throughout all sectors, including design. On the 99designs platform, we have already seen designers make efforts to ditch models in favor of authentic and diverse people in illustration and stock photography. We imagine that this will go even further in 2021, beyond mere inclusivity to celebration of various cultures, skin tones, ages and identities. 

5. Elements of Nature.

With most of us cooped up inside since spring, unable to see friends or socialize, nature and the outdoors have come to hold a higher appeal as an avenue of escape, freedom and entertainment. And for those confined to apartments in urban environments, images of outdoor vistas and green spaces evoke serenity, renewal and growth. The trend manifests itself in a number of forms — from leafy patterns (like with these vegan chocolate bars) and earth-tone color schemes (such as the milk carton packaging for soap brand Bosq)  to panoramic shots of iconic landscapes. What’s significant as we move into 2021 is that this trends is no longer confined to environmentally-conscious products, but can be found across a wider array of brands and products. 

In graphic design, as in business, the good news is that each new year brings the opportunity for a reset. Given the challenges of 2020, the coming months present a chance to breathe new life into your brand by leveraging one or several of the energizing, optimistic, nature-oriented and creative design trends emerging. 


Shayne Tilley is Head of Marketing at 99designs, the global creative platform that makes it easy for designers and clients to work together to create designs they love. Wrangler of collaboration, diversity, and creativity to help bring more opportunities to people all around the world.


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