The top graphic design trends to get to know in 2021

2020 was a year full of worry, despair and fear.

Political changes, millions of job losses and, of course, the coronavirus pandemic, caused a shift in the world, which impacted everyone in all aspects of life.

And as we move to 2021, we’re ready for change.

The zeitgeist, or ‘mood’ of the time, will be one of positivity. We want to feel peace and tranquillity, and we’ll look for nostalgia anywhere we can to feel that familiar sense of ‘warmth’ that we miss so much.

And this feeling will, of course, influence the trends; with talented graphic design teams utilising this global response in their creative outputs.

So, what is the mood of the moment, and what are the trends looking like for 2021 so far?

Read on to discover the top graphic design trends for 2021 you need to know for the year ahead.


After the events of the past year, the mood of the moment means sharp, striking graphics and bold colours will have to take a back seat.

With the world used to doom and gloom from constant online updates and pessimistic news bulletins, we’ll expect to see a steer towards calm, tranquil accents in all areas of design.

People are looking to the sector to find calm amongst all the chaos, with minimal layouts, soft, pastel shades and nature-inspired graphics the essentials across all disciplines.

But of course, the trend for minimalism isn’t new.

The steady shift towards simplistic, monochromatic aesthetics has been seen across all graphics design areas, with the tech giant, Apple leading the way with its minimalist approach to design.

We’ve also seen in the past few years, brands, particularly in fashion, decide to remove their distinctive, stylish scripts, to make way for a more modern, simplistic logo design.

Often a nod to their heritage, these unique logos and brand identities have been scrapped for ‘plain’ fonts and graphics, as a way to “better protect their intellectual property”, according to the experts.

With this in mind, brands have focused their attention on how identifiable their brand name is instead of their logo ‘stylisation’, allowing for the fluidity of their persona across all media platforms.

And that’s another reason why the minimalist trend is so prevalent.

Graphic designers have the opportunity to easily replicate a brand image and design credentials across all discipline areas, including advertising, webpages, social posts and merchandise.

And along with emphasising a brand’s identity, this clean, simple approach to design makes the consumer subconsciously feel calmer, peaceful and tranquil.

With a significant focus on self-care and wellness in 2021, a minimalist approach to design will help to bring us all back down to earth and ground us in the moment.

Bold, brash colours add excitement and drama to our graphics, but we’ve had enough of that for one year, haven’t we?

So, expect to see earthy tones, natural textures and clean, simple lines as the mood of the moment for 2021.


As there’s no shying away from minimalism in 2021, creatives will be utilising the soft, subtle, earth tones of the colour wheel to appeal to the masses.

A particular trend we can expect to see come to fruition through colour is the mixing of white or black bases with these muted hues.

The harshness of a white or black base will be softened when paired with earthy, pastel shades,  and give off a feeling of calm to the consumer.

And at a time when brands still consider using bold, bright colours to attract the attention of their desired consumer, these soft tones will undoubtedly have the power to stand out from the crowd.

And whilst the internet generation looks to find small pockets of calm and tranquillity as they continue to stay immersed online, it’s a chance these muted tones will be a reliable option for creatives.

If you need some colour inspiration from the forecasters, take a look at Trend Bible’s Colour Direction for 2021

Dusty Orchid, Frosty Green and Easter Egg are key colour palettes to work with and encapsulate this trend effortlessly.

Bringing the outside in

In the technology-immersed world we live in, embracing nature isn’t always at the forefront of a creative’s mind when it comes to graphic design.

But, in the past year, we’ve all become accustomed to spending our free time in the great outdoors, as we look to escape our homes.

So, it’s no surprise that this trend has manifested itself into graphic design, as designers across the board draw inspiration from the natural world.

Again, the general outlook for the year is one of calm and serenity, which is certainly something the natural world offers in abundance.

We can expect to see creatives move towards more nature-inspired graphics, soft, organic textures and the stripping back of bold, ‘in your face’ illustrations.

Paired with an earthy colour palette, as mentioned earlier in this blog post, the trend allows graphic designers to adopt the style across all media platforms and disciplines.

Of course, with this clear move towards embracing nature, this combines effortlessly with businesses looking to improve their sustainability pledge.

As travel was virtually suspended globally in 2020, the environment has benefited substantially, allowing us to understand how the actions of humans are impacting our planet.

With the idea of sustainability and the desire to mimic more natural design elements, the two purposes can work together for the greater good.

And, along with businesses looking to breathe new life into their commercial identity, we’re convinced that we’ll continue to see nature appear across design outlets throughout 2021 and beyond.

‘Polished retro’

As with all trends, we always expect to see them return in some form or another. 

They could be updated through a new colourway or more modern-day feature, or simply as it was the first time around, but they generally come back full circle.

And nowadays, some brands are even ‘down-dating’ their logo to look like those from the past.

Case in point, the latest logo reveal from Burger King. 

Reminiscent of past fast-food chains such as Wimpy, Burger King recently rebranded its iconic blue, red and yellow logo to feature more soft, subtle tones for 2021. 

The new logo easily mimics design and colour inspirations from the 70s era, using a deep brown as its base tone. 

Said to be a decision made by the Burger King team to bring the focus back on to the quality of the chain’s food, Raphael Abreu, head of design at Burger King said about the redesign:

Design is one of the most essential tools we have for communicating who we are and what we value, and it plays a vital role in creating desire for our food and maximising guests’ experience”.

So, why are other brands following suit with their retro-inspired graphic design?

Well, it’s simple. We all want to go back to the ‘old days’.

Reminiscing on our past gives us that incredible feeling of nostalgia, a familiar sense of ‘warmth’ that, when utilised by brands, can certainly pique a consumer’s interest.

But, it won’t simply be brands ‘copying’ or re-using their old graphics or logos; it’s about taking inspiration from vintage elements and mixing this in with contemporary design.

And, just like we will see with Burger King, nostalgia isn’t just for the older generations.

The younger generation can too feel nostalgia for a time they never even lived through, from stories told by their parents and old movies they’ve seen on TV. It’s certainly not a trend that is ‘Gen Z’ proof.

So, to include this trend in your design work, you need to think smart.

There are ways to create a vintage feel, even if your brand wasn’t around in that era, but it shouldn’t just be for a short-term campaign.

Just like our example, Burger King plans to keep this rebrand as a part of its long-standing identity. 

So, it’s essential to ensure that this nostalgic feel mimics your values, not just as a trend devised by your design team.

Retro-inspired colours, graphics and fonts will be an easy way to encapsulate the nostalgia of the past, and we can expect other brands to follow in Burger King’s footsteps throughout 2021.

So, with earthy, minimal tones, natural elements and feelings of nostalgia leading the tone for the year, how will you be embracing the trends in your graphic design work for 2021?

If you’re looking for advice or support on making your branding or advertising 2021-ready, the team at Plan B is here to help.

Why not get in touch with us today to discover how we can help you achieve creative success for your brand.