There’s no doubt that 2020 was a chaotic year involving many unexpected twists and turns. As we look forward to 2021, we can anticipate certain trends that will impact graphic design and vector artwork. In many cases, these trends have been impacted or influenced in some way by the events of the past year.

As designers, we must be aware of current trends. Whether we’re designing for a client or creating stock resources for Vecteezy customers, trends impact the approach, style, and elements that communicate effectively to our intended audience.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some trends that we expect for graphic designers, vector artists, and illustrators in 2021 (along with examples that are available from Vecteezy).

1. Optimism

2020 was a long, difficult year for many people. It was a year filled with challenges that we never anticipated and a lot of negative news and headlines on top of health and financial worries. We look forward to 2021 with optimism, hoping that things will improve and it will be a much better year. This year we saw a significant increase for searches including terms like “happy” and “excited.”

Optimism is a welcomed change and we anticipate that a growing number of businesses and designers will attempt to incorporate optimism into their message in any way possible. That means that as designers, we’ll need to use color schemes and design styles that promote optimism and positive messages.

2. Social Action vs. Inaction

In contrast to the pre-2020 reputation for apathy and inaction among the younger generations, we foresee more young people getting out of their seats and taking action for the causes that are important to them.

With the humbling experience of absorbing everyday news and being locked down for months, a likely reaction will be people becoming more socially active — speaking out, communicating with politicians, designing louder, and engaging in challenging conversations with close friends and family.

This shift presents an opportunity for designers as more graphics and visuals will be needed to depict and support this action. Searches on Vecteezy for terms like “activism”, “cause”, and “social justice” increased exponentially in the past 12 months — we can see that people are seeking content that speaks to the changing times.

3. Diversity & Inclusion

Visual communications need to be more inclusive, and as designers, it’s our responsibility to promote diversity and inclusion. The progress of humanity demands that all backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives are harnessed and differences are embraced and reflected in the visual narratives of the present day.

This trend is about remaining open to various interpretations, as there are different definitions of diversity and inclusivity. Inclusion, diversity, and representation are not just words or boxes that need to be checked. Brands and companies will look to strong visuals to make their voices heard and it’s more important than ever that their visuals are a true representation of consumers and culture today.

In 2020, searches by Vecteezy users for terms around diversity increased by as much as 300% compared to the previous year. With that likely to continue in 2021, we expect to see real people from all walks of life and various backgrounds featured in advertising. Brands will seek an authentic representation of diversity within their marketing and promotion, so they don’t miss the mark with visuals.

4. Retro

The use of retro and vintage elements is a design trend that’s likely to stick around. There is something special about the nostalgia that can be created with retro-inspired designs. “Retro” and “vintage” are consistently among the top keywords searched on our site, and 2020 only saw an increase in relevancy for these terms.

As a designer, there are many ways to incorporate this within your work. You can use retro patterns, fonts, elements, and images that remind viewers of something from the past. Of course, this is a style that won’t be the right fit for every project, but it can be extremely effective when it’s used in the right situation.

Retro

5. Nature

The urge to unplug and immerse yourself in nature has never been greater than it is right now. Throughout 2020, most of us spent more time at home and indoors than we’d like. Travel decreased significantly, and as a result, many people are longing to see and experience nature again.

Actions related to exploring nature and getting outdoors jumped much higher in volume in our search rankings, showing that people were seeking content reflecting the need to get outside.

The changing of the seasons, autumn foliage, jungle motifs, floral patterns – all of this is hard to experience when you’re dialed in to Zoom calls, social media, and your multiple devices. As a designer, you can incorporate nature into your work to provide viewers with that sense of nature that they crave.

6. Natural Textures

Organic, natural textures fit perfectly with muted color tones. Backgrounds featuring leaves, flowers, wood, stone, and other natural textures will be used a lot in 2021 to connect consumers with brands that provide an escape from the digital world. This year, our data showed that words related to natural textures like these were noticeably higher in popularity. 

7. Food and Hobbies

During 2020, hobbies like music, reading, relaxing, and especially food/cooking were much more prevalent in our search data than we’ve seen in years past – perhaps due to how much time people were spending at home instead of going out. The events of the past year led many people to reconnect with their hobbies, due to spending more time at home and having fewer options for entertainment. Cooking is a popular hobby that got a lot more attention throughout the past year as more meals were prepared and eaten at home. We expect to see a demand for images of food, cooking, and other hobbies as designers and brands incorporate this into their messaging.

Conclusion

As a designer, being aware of current and upcoming trends will help you to be more effective with your craft. Keep these trends in mind and remember the context of the audience that will be viewing what you’re designing. By embracing the trends, you’ll be well on your way to success in 2021.