8 visual and design trends to keep an eye on in 2021

The year 2020 was a challenging time for everybody, changing both personal and work habits. A few major themes also emerged throughout the year, from connection and comfort to well-being. Drawing on these foundational themes, Adobe has predicted visual and design trends for the year ahead. According to the company, the 2021 trends reflect a range of reactions to the hardships of the past year, and "hopeful, regenerative spirit with which creatives face" in 2021.

Visual trends

1. Compassionate collective

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This trend expresses the carving to associate with brands that share and demonstrate one's values, as well as the desire to connect with strength and empathy. Consumers today want to know how they can come together to support one another, physically and mentally, through entrepreneurship and cooperation. As such, agencies and brands are responding with campaigns that take a democratised approach to imagery, centering a diverse array of individual expressions. TikTok's #ItStartsOnTikTok and Girls Who Code digital #MarchForSisterhood are examples of this trend.

2. Mood boosting colour

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While the power of colour is not new, it is certainly much needed right now. According to Adobe, bright, more saturated colours offers consumers the happy psychological effect of making them feel more awake and alive. It added that spirited spectrums add a dose of optimism, while primary palettes feel approachable and friendly.

This trend also expresses a feeling of joy and power that is strong and defiant, while maintaining a sense of playfulness. While rainbows are strongly associated with LGBTQ+ pride, diversity and self-expression, Adobe said the associations around rainbow are expanding to comprise joy as resistance and personal power.

3. Comfort zone

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The home has become a hub for family life, work, hobbies, learning, and the centre of our social lives. The year 2020 saw a huge uptick in home being one's hub due to the pandemic and Adobe predicts that this trend will be seen more often throughout campaigns and creative visuals in 2021.

It believes that with remote work and learning becoming the norm, 360-degree home life is here to stay. While this removes the need to commute to work, it also brings about screen fatigue. As such, consumers are engaging in home-based crafts such as cooking, baking, and gardening more often as a creative outlet and respite from technology.

4. Breath of fresh air

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Consumers spent most of their time cooped up at home last year as a result of lockdowns, leading to wanderlust and the dream of an idyllic freedom found outdoors. Most people shifted their plans to stay close to home and explore local parks. In general, they cultivated a closer relationship with nature and with the need to immerse in nature becoming a high priority, Adobe predict this to become a trend in 2021.

Visuals will soon carry every shade of green, fresh nature-inspired palettes, and imagery of individuals from all walks of life interacting with one anther outdoors. Another aspect of this trend, according to Adobe, is the renewed respect for indoor plant care and outdoor gardening. Consumers are turning plants into home decor accessories, showcasing the desire to connect with nature and feel the satisfaction of watching something we have worked on grow.

Design trends

1. Austere romanticism

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According to Adobe, this design is in part a response to the pandemic, much like the breath of fresh air visual trend. The designs under this trend have a Victorian-tinged take on the beauty of nature with a minimal, modern edge.

2. Vintage vapourwave

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This trend combines pop art and outlined sticker graphics, bright pastels matched with neutral tones, and lo-fi design elements. Adding some movement into these designs are checkers and grids, random tiling of pattern elements, as well as cheeky cartoons.

3. Back to Bauhaus

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The Bauhaus design contains balanced layouts and graphics that create a powerful, direct messaging. This trend also returns to the fundamentals of design, featuring clean, geometric shapes, vibrant primary colours as well as strong yet harmonious elements.

4. Psych out

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The psych out design trend is rooted in the psychedelic 1970s and the Art Nouveau movement, and is described as funky, escapist, and bold. It features expansive shapes, curvaceous forms and typefaces, and dreamy illustrations combined with earthy colour palettes and iridescent gradients.