This year was certainly a doozy. Our simple lives were shattered into a million little pieces, and we were forced to reexamine every shard as we sheltered in place for the better portion of a year. Our home, décor, products and work were viewed through an unexpected lens – a test of time amplified to an unprecedented (this is the only time this godforsaken word will be mentioned in this article) degree due to facing them for hours on end, day in and day out.
Out of this, two existential questions were born: 1) How will this year of isolation and bleakness shape the visual language of the year to come? 2) What is oat milk? Are the nut-milking farmers threatened by the oat milkers? With whom does the dairy farmer’s allegiance stand? Are we on the cusp of the Great Milk Wars?
It’s amazing that as I was grappling with these notions, other human beings were developing a vaccine to end the pandemic. We all react differently during times of stress.
Anyway, this seemed like an apt time to start a wager on which design trends will not be following us into 2021. So, without further ramblings, I present to you THE GHOSTS OF DESIGN TRENDS PAST!
Don’t get me wrong, the comforting glow of neon will always be dear to my heart, but the trend of seeing neon signage-style illustrations and logos should stay put in 2020. Let’s be honest, it was already pretty oversaturated by early 2019, but we all let it slide. If I see this again in 2021, I hope to be basking under the soft hum of an actual neon sign while sitting at my favorite dive bar.
R.I.P. minimalist design
Nothing screams “well designed” like the stark cleanliness of minimalism. Our brains were wired to associate it with the latest tech branding and the ideal interior space. But after being trapped indoors with our Mid-Century-inspired Ikea tables, desks, lamps and white walls (more on all that later), it’s time to leave that boring world behind. We have already begun to see start-ups migrate toward Humanist serif typefaces, bolder color palettes and less rigid brand standards. In 2021 we will continue to chase the white rabbit into a creative world led by vibrant illustrations, colors and type inspired by the 60s and 70s, and dynamic custom lettering. Can you dig it?
The grunge texture effect
Admit it. You did it on your computer, not sweating over woodblock type. Those aren’t ink flakes – they are tiny vector shapes. The distressed headlines are from a Photoshop brush, not from the beautiful inconsistencies of a fresh screen print. Now don’t get me wrong, print making, wood block type, letter press, etc., will always be intriguing for their tangible nature and texture. But at this point, seeing it digitally just seems a little tired and expected. And in 2021, we are going to enter a new world where the unexpected is both positive and welcomed.
So long, mid-century design
Mad Men left the air six years ago, but its influences really set root in the design world. The colors, vintage graphics and, more recently, oversaturated photography stylings can still be found among current design trends. My prediction is that as the world becomes a brighter, more hopeful place, we will shift our influence to that of art nouveu, art deco, surrealism and psychedelia. We will crave beauty and raw emotion and will weave that into our branding and design.
“Bad design” sells out
Ah, yes. The Mumble Rap of the design world. For the last couple of years, it appeared that many designers preferred using Microsoft Office 96 as their design tool. The work was certainly provocative, and there was an adorable genuineness to it. However, I think the safer elements (stretched typefaces, use of gradients, weird photography, emojis and an element of absurdism) will fold into the predicted trends above. What a poser.
As heavy as 2020 was, I think it will launch us into an exciting visual direction in 2021. The world of art and design will reflect the joyous prospect of reconnecting with friends and family, a more positive news cycle and a hope not to just return to normal, but to create something better. See you out there.