Visual Trends 2021 by Freepik Company
It’s 2021, and there’s no way back. We can finally say that we left 2020 far behind and that we’re excited to see what this new year will bring.
At Freepik Company, we’re committed to go along the trends and change with them. That’s why we’ve elaborated this exhaustive guide featuring 2021 major visual trends for vectors, photos, mockups, and icons.
What to expect in 2021 when it comes to visual trends? Topics like remote work, social distancing, masks, and the time we spend at home will be a big part of the trends. But also, 2021’s most popular visuals will be highly influenced by the past, the new technological advances, and humans’ consciousness towards nature.
1. Vector Trends
2021 vector trends combine the excellence of new techniques with elements of the past, proving that old is the new gold. We’ll see how technological developments meet the retro aesthetics to create bold and unforgettable designs.
3D designs started to gain popularity a few years ago, and this year they’ve become a major trend. Technological advances have encouraged the emergence of innovative techniques that make it possible to create high-quality 3D spaces with great dynamism.
Most 3D compositions feature colorful and abstract designs that challenge designers’ creativity to create impossible scenarios where styles from the past join the newest trends.
On Freepik, we’ll be seeing abstract 3D compositions mainly aimed at social networks and ads.
Cartoon designs add a playful look to 2021. Cartoons are multifunctional and provide designers with a vast scope for creativity. This trend is reminiscent of the cartoon style of the ‘20s, which means that retro-vintage cartoons seem to be all the rage these days.
It opposes somehow the minimalistic and clean compositions of technology-driven techniques, like graphic design. The cartoon style is playful and entertaining, letting the user have fun.
Since they are fun and original compositions, they work very well in packaging, brand identity, or app design.
Black & white designs arrive to give a classic look to 2021. Last year, neutrals made their way into the vast ocean of colors, and this year, preferences lean towards colorless compositions.
The absence of color doesn’t imply a design is boring or uninteresting. In fact, black and white is a great way to stand out from the proliferation of colors and the excess of visual stimuli we’re exposed to every day. Plus, it’s a winning combination in terms of elegance and sophistication.
Within Freepik, we’ll see colorless designs applied to UI design, landing pages, and apps, and in many cases combined with large fonts.
Geometric designs use simple, flat shapes full of color to create complex abstract compositions. This trend invites us to come back to the most basic shapes to create meaningful designs.
In an era of excess, we seem to forget that less is sometimes more. It’s precisely this search for simplicity that has made geometric designs increasingly popular in recent years. Moreover, they combine perfectly with other trends, such as 3D designs or retro style, like Memphis.
Abstract and simple geometric compositions full of color will also be part of our 2021.
Optical illusion designs are inspired by the op-art of the ‘60s when chaotic compositions and visual effects began to gain importance in design. At the beginning of this decade, optical illusions gained popularity with styles such as moiré.
The year 2021 rescues this artistic style and turns it into a trend with a more advanced aesthetic and technique. These designs combine lines and shapes to create optical effects that alter our perception and sense of reality.
Although black and white are typically associated with optical illusion compositions, some designers also experiment with colors. Within Freepik, optical illusion designs are mostly applied to backgrounds and templates.
What happens when you bring together past aesthetics with future ones and apply them to the present? Well, it seems that in 2021 we will take a trip to the past and recover that retro look of trends from the last century.
One of them is retrofuturism, an artistic movement that depicts the future as envisioned in a past time.
This new year brings back the futurism of the ’80s and its elements: neon colors and geometric shapes that transport us to a futuristic past through backgrounds and banners.
2. Photography Trends
The latest events have generated a new interest in real photography that explores innovative perspectives and carries subtle reminiscences of the past.
2021 already has a motto: less is more. As opposed to the excess of visual elements, minimalism in photography seeks clean and simple compositions where there is only room for the essential.
Ironically, in a world full of information and visual stimuli, there’s an increasing tendency for simple compositions that let the image breathe and show the essential with no-frills.
2020 already introduced us to aerial views, thanks to the increasing popularity of drone photography. In 2021, aerial views have become a key trend that allows us to get perspectives almost unexplored before.
We’ll be seeing bird-eye shots of landscapes, snowy forests, cities, roads,… that let us experience the world from above. In fact, if the pandemic has given us something, it’s a more global vision of the world.
Besides, due to lockdowns, we had the chance to see aerial pictures of empty cities, and places previously crowded.
Images that seem to be straight out of a movie are a new trend for this year. In terms of the narrative, this film-like photography will be reflected in the actions and the movement effects.
In terms of aesthetics, these photos will be characterized by intimate lightening, softer and more blurry effects, and a dull color palette, giving importance to the atmosphere and surroundings.
Together with the film effects comes the Roaring Twenties aesthetics. Imagery that reminds us of the Art Deco, black and gold, and other vintage elements borrowed from the cultural dynamism of the ’20s in Western societies.
It seems that 2021 will be more about the spiritual side rather than the physical. People want to see the real, identify with the visual industry, and run away from unrealistic beauty standards.
The slow-life movement is also emerging in photography as a response to fast-paced lifestyle trends. What was previously socially penalized now is shown as a trend.
Thus, the way to stand out from a globalized world is to show the authentic and genuine self. And photography is the best ally for that.
We’ll see photos that show different beauties, natural bodies, and all human conditions and seek to connect more with the viewer through sincere, authentic, and day-to-day images.
We knew that social media were huge, but now we can confirm their influence. There’s a high demand for ready-to-use social media resources like Instagram or TikTok, where content is displayed in a vertical format.
This is what has made that verticality becomes a trend in photography. More people using social media translates into more content creators looking for resources that can be shared rapidly.
3. Mockup Trends
Taking designs into a real-life scenario while keeping both the essence of the product and the workspace is what makes mockups so special.
Skincare and makeup products are all the rage these days, especially those with natural ingredients. That’s why cosmetics mockups are a highly demanded trend this year.
When it comes to natural products, there’s a preference for minimalist compositions that highlight only the essential (the product) and leave aside unnecessary elements (toxic ingredients).
Skincare or makeup products are displayed in clean and minimalistic backgrounds where soft pastel color palettes play a huge role.
Mockups are life-savers; we can’t deny it. They are great to showcase any work without extra costs or efforts, and that’s why businesses love them.
One of the most popular mockup trends that we’ll see in 2021 is outdoor ads. They borrow the clean and minimalist aesthetics found in interiors or stationery.
There’s a tendency towards simple yet sophisticated designs with straight typography that catches our attention.
Of course, technology also arrives in the mockups’ world. We’ve seen how mockups showcasing technological devices are becoming more and more popular for some years now. From smartphones to tablets to laptops, they are very useful to present any design.
Showcasing the design on a screen is not new, but doing it with a floating effect will be seen a lot this year. In 2021, technology and suspension meet to add an extra dimension to the design, achieving a futuristic look.
Environmental friendly and recycled elements are a huge part of mockups these days, not only in eco products but also for any product. Remember: reuse, reduce and recycle even in mockup design.
Giving packaging a second life is trendy and sustainable, and using eco friendly makes it even better. Definitely, when it comes to the design, less is more.
The focus on activism is an evident example that trends go hand in hand with social and cultural changes. 2020 was a crazy year in terms of injustice, also. Fighting for equity, women’s rights, or racial discrimination.
People want to raise their voice and fight for justice and equality, which means there’s a higher demand for visuals representing their causes. That’s the reason why mockups related to activism will be all the rage in 2021. Plus, it’s time to give the dude with a sign a break.
The shadow overlay effect isn’t a new thing in the mockup world. This year, though, shadows of leaves and plants will for sure steal the show.
We’ve seen this trend in Instagram and other social media platforms where flat-lay composition and minimalist shadows are used for advertising products.
4. Icon Trends
Icons will add the fun touch to 2021 designs. These new icon trends experiment with different styles where colors play a leading role.
Gradient icons won’t fade away in 2021. This year, though, there’s a preference for vibrant colors achieving bold and powerful designs, normally monochromatic color ranges. We’ll be seeing gradient icons with smooth transitions that create texture and add volume to the icon.
This trend moves away from the realistic or skeuomorphic style of previous gradient trends in icons. The use of fluid transitions and the overlapping of elements gives these icons a sophisticated aspect.
Geometric icons are formed by using mainly geometric shapes that overlap to create volume and depth. Going back to the basics, simple and flat shapes have become the new trend in icons.
Although simple, by overlapping simple forms, this style grows into apparently complex designs proving that basic is also cool.
There’s nothing new about this trend. A decade ago, realistic or skeuomorphic icons appeared as a trendy design opposing simple and flat icons. Now, fast forward to 2021, 3D icons are a longstanding trend.
These icons recreate volumes, surfaces and focus on perspectives in order to get a sense of reality. 3D icons are great for standing out and give a realistic and original look to any project.
We have a soft spot for cute icons, and it’s great that they are still trendy in 2021. The truth is that they are so adorable that they put a smile on our faces.
This icon style borrows some aspects from kawaii icons, which have become very popular in recent years. Kawaii style is about adding cute faces on any design, whether it’s a character or an object, and creating heads with exaggerated proportions.
In terms of colors, pastel tones are a perfect matching for cuteness. However, in a cute-retro style, they use more fluorescent and bright colors.
5. Color Trends
As much as any other trend, colors are a reflection of the changes and advances in the world. They convey a powerful message and create visual interest.
We already know two of the colors that will make it in 2021: Illuminating and Ultimate Gray, the Color of the Year 2021 according to Pantone. So, apart from tons of yellow and gray, these are some of the color palettes that we’ll be seeing a lot.
This color palette is formed by a range of saturated colors such as orange, pink, or magenta with yellow accents.
It’s definitely a boost of energy to begin the new year with joy, optimism, and strength. Exactly the fresh start we need!
With the need to send a caring message and be aware of the importance of the environment and nature, earth tones and warm colors are a key trend.
Different shades of brown and nudes combine to let us focus on the essential, like a breath of fresh air.
In current times where everything and everyone is running fast, color palettes with different blue shades are perfect for instilling tranquility and serenity.
Blue is always a good choice for any composition, whether it reminds you of the sky, makes you have trust, or just feel relaxed and calmed.
The color palette we suggest here for 2021 is formed by different blue shades combined with a subtle pink that spice it up a little bit and add a warmer touch.
At Freepik Company, we happily embrace the latest visual trends to fill 2021 with creativity. If you’ve come this far but need more, we invite you to discover them for yourself at Freepik and Flaticon.