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My Two Cents on these 2021 Design Trends


I know many of you are headfirst into planning mode at the moment, so I figure now is the best time to share my graphic design trend predictions for the year ahead.

Today I’m looking back on some of the emerging trends that we started to see in 2020 (along with a few that just haven’t gone away over the years). I’ll also be sharing my two cents on what these might mean for your business and how you can potentially apply them to your own branding.


In my eyes, the best brands are those that are willing to go their own way and do something unique - this is the best way to stand out afterall! But, it’s always good to take a look at what’s out there in the market to get some inspiration, and make sure we’re staying aligned to what our audience is attracted to right now.


Do you love (or hate) any of these design trends? I’d love to hear your thoughts over on Instagram.


Sustainable Materials

As more brands embrace sustainability, we’ll definitely see more changes in the materials used for packaging and print collateral. This will translate to shifts in colours and design style as these visuals can translate so differently across materials.


If this is a move that you’re making in your business (great work), then you’ll definitely want to revisit your usual packaging or print designs to ensure they continue to look amazing on your new mediums. If you’re working with a graphic designer on these pieces, then they’ll be able to help you navigate this.



Minimal Logos

You might have noticed that many famous logos have been transforming over the years. Logos that used to be more detailed - and unique - now all look suspiciously similar…


So what’s my take? While it’s important to keep your brand feeling fresh, I have to admit I kind of miss the individuality some of these famous brands used to have.


I’d encourage everyone to remember that you can have a logo that’s interesting, unique and timeless all at the same time. If you can nail this, you might never have to change it again!


Despite the trend of many modern logos all blurring into one, there are still so many successful brands that have never changed their logo - even over hundreds of years. Fun fact: Twinings is known for having the oldest unaltered logo, which has been used since 1887! Stella Artois, Shell and Levis have also been using almost unaltered logos throughout their history. No wonder they are all so recognisable to this day.



Digital Illustrations and Branding Illustration Systems

Digital illustrations have been a huge part of my work for years now, so I’m definitely a fan of this trend. Shocking, I know.


So what is so good about them? Custom illustrations can help you develop a unique image, make your business more memorable, and inject more personality into your brand. Take this example from The Remote Expert - as a law firm firm, it’s so important to build trust with potential clients, but at the same time it can also be challenging to communicate these services through imagery. This is why we see so many lawyers relying on stock photos of hammers and scales across their website and social media channels. Not only do hammers and scales lack personality, but they don’t show people what’s special or different about your own firm, and they certainly don’t help people remember you! This is where some digital illustrations - or even a full Branding Illustration System - can fill those gaps, and actually help cut-through and connect with potential clients.


Psst… Wondering what the heck a Branding Illustration System is? I’ve broken down what these are and what they can do for your business here.



Hand-drawn Elements

While we’re on the topic of illustrations, I’ve also been seeing a lot of brands embrace hand-drawn elements and script-like fonts.


Personally, I think these look beautiful, but there are two things to keep in mind here. For one, trendy script fonts can date quickly, and they also don’t suit every brand. It’s important to ensure that a design style fits your brand personality and appeals to your ideal customer before going all in with any trend. Repeat after me: just because you like something, doesn’t mean your customers have the same taste.


This style could work for you if your brand has a very warm, personal, down to earth or feminine vibe. On the other hand, if you want your brand to convey more experience, professionalism, or directness, then a more minimal style of branding might work best.



Playful Visuals

This is another trend I am personally loving, but you probably guessed that, didn’t you? One of my specialties as a graphic designer is adding a playful (but tasteful) touch to brand visuals.


Now I really want to note here that “playful” does not equate to “childlike” when it comes to branding - there’s a subtle (but significant) difference between the two!


You don’t need to be a childcare centre or a lolly company to embrace playful colours, fonts or visuals. This can work for any brand that wants their brand to feel approachable, fun or entertaining. ...Coffee brand Little Wolf does this brilliantly!


So how do you strike the balance? This definitely takes some skill and finesse. Even those of us who are skilled in design need to put a lot of care into this to get it right. As a general rule of thumb though? I would aim to strike that balance by having one or two elements of your brand fit the playful vibe, and keep the rest simple to avoid overdoing it.su


For example, you might choose a playful colour palette and shapes to use throughout your branding, but then opt for a simple font and photography style to pare it back.



Authentic Brands

I know, I know, this is the biggest buzz word ever! But seriously, year on year, we see more power falling into the hands of consumers as there is more choice, education and information available (thanks, internet). This means it’s more important than ever for your visual branding to instil an instant sense of trust.


Depending on your industry and the kind of relationship you’re trying to build with customers or clients, creating a brand that feels real, down-to-earth and human can be a huge advantage. Of course, this won’t be so relevant for a luxury fashion house (that wants to feel purposefully inaccessible), or a medical practice (that needs to be trusted and taken seriously), but if you’re a small-to-medium service-based business that wants a hands-on and approachable relationship with your clients, or a product-based brand selling direct to consumers (especially young people) then this could be very important to your success!


Now that all sounds great, but what do I mean by “authentic branding”? This really just refers to any visual cues that help your brand to come across as more “real” and “human”. Think; swapping picture-perfect studio photoshoots for real customer photos.


Thinking it might be time for a brand refresh in 2021? Every business will go through some change and development over time. Grab your free copy of my DIY Brand Visuals Audit Workbook to see if your visuals are still a good match for where your business is going and whether it might be time to make some tweaks.


I hope this is helpful, and here’s to an incredible year ahead!

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