Designers started the new decade full of optimism and energy to push creative boundaries. It's safe to say that no one saw what was coming.
The list of challenges brands, creatives and the world face in 2020 has been countless. But they were also shared. Collective social experiences have created moments of global connection, and we are beginning to see the physical and social pressures of the year in visual branding.
When it comes to trends that will shape the aesthetics of 2021, designers work with subtle ingenuity within the limits and constraints of the here and now. They are reflective and reserved, but anything but boring. From broken images to flawless symmetry, here are some of the logo trends that designers predict will shape the coming year:
Power resides in the simplicity of geometric shapes usually limited to sketching, and two of the most controversial brands of the year – Medium and Google Workspace's newly infamous icons – picked up on that trend.
Instead of using triangles, circles and squares to simply create the visual basis, designers resort to a minimalism that creates an atmosphere of calculated restraint and enables creative flair elsewhere.
At Medium, the simple shapes of the newly invented three-point ellipse are flanked by a typographic illustration style that uses words and letters as “building blocks” of a design language that reflects the brand as a platform for the exchange and discussion of ideas. With Google Workspace, however, this creative advantage lies in the bright, saturated colors and layers that create an illusion of structure and depth – even when nobody can find their inbox anymore.
The logo design has always had its roots in classic symbolism: Mighty lions, all-seeing eyes and images of the sky have served as pictograms for centuries. And after a year of highlighting the shared experiences of society around the world, it is not surprising that this kind of universality is gaining popularity among designers in 2021. The ability to communicate and transcend language is powerful, and symbols speak for intuitive and deeply understood messages within the intended audience.
While not a logo, the rainbow, as a motif of optimism that has spread around the world during the pandemic, has been the most famous manifestation of this trend. Amazon captured the feeling beautifully in its "Look for the Rainbows" ad. A colorful, instantly recognizable image drawn by children on sidewalks and in windows was a powerful message of hope for millions – and shows the power of symbolic language in logo design through 2020.
Authentic portrait and representation
Another important trend on the way into 2021 is the shift towards authentic portraits and representations within the logo and brand design. It is human nature to look for faces. After a year of forcing the world to stay separate, it makes sense that brands want to create an emotional connection.
From simple, flat character portraits to detailed illustrations that highlight every crease, the homogeneity is off and real people are in; The more authentic and recognizable these faces are, the deeper the connection will be. Airbnb is a leader in this field and has an authenticity in its illustration style that requires reference photos for every person drawn.
Building on the dynamism of the Black Lives Matter movement and the multitude of brands like Uncle Bens and Aunt Jemima pledging to move away from images that reflect racist stereotypes, this trend seeks inclusivity at a turning point in global protest capture and celebrate.