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Style & trends

Graphic Design Ideas for 2021

By Reading Time: 5 minutes

Despite all the challenges we faced last year, time marches on. The new year brings a new opportunity to keep your designs fresh. Spending time getting inspired will help you create more, sell more, and live your dreams in 2021.

In this post, I’ll talk you through some graphic design trends you can use when you’re low on inspiration. Some of these trends will work well printed on t-shirts or mugs or embroidered on a hat. Other trends might help you come up with ideas for your website and social media posts. Feel free to mix and match these ideas to find what works best for you.

Enough chatting. Let’s get started. Here’s what’s hot in graphic design in 2021.

Illustrations

Hands down, illustrations will be the king of graphic design this year. Personally, I follow a ton of illustration accounts on Instagram and even asked for an iPad this Christmas so I can start creating my own digital drawings. Until I figure that out, I’ll keep up with the trends, so you don’t have to. Here are some different types of illustrations you can expect to see this year.

Thin lines

When it comes to illustration in 2021, it’s all about the detail. Thin, dark outlines can be used in full-color, illustrative designs. Also feel free to forget about color altogether and use simple black  lines with no color or shading. Both options will be super popular this year. There’s something for everyone.

This trend works great for digital design and printing on posters. You’ll need a high-quality image and large surface space to make sure all the details are visible.

If you want to use thin lines on apparel or embroidery, just make sure to check our file guidelines before you start designing.

You can also order samples for yourself to see how the design looks on a product before you offer it to your customers.

This poster is a great example of an illustration with thin outlines that will captivate customers in 2021.

Cartoons

Every trend eventually comes back around. The thin lines trend was popular in the 1970s and 1980s, especially in cartoons. That same cartoon style is popular again today, just with an updated color palette and landscapes.

Geometric shapes

Another one of this year’s top trends is geometric shapes. These kinds of fun, bold shapes are especially great for embroidery. You can embroider on hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and more. Geometric shapes will also work well as part of your logo. Keeping your design simple allows you plenty of space to think about color and other elements.

These adorable jammies feature a fun, geometric print. They’re also made of organic materials—we’ll talk about sustainability later in this article.

Crazy colors and tie-dye

When you’re creating designs this year, keep color in mind. Bold colors are in, so don’t be afraid to go crazy.

Choose your favorite colors to work with. Mine is purple, and I especially love the colors of this illustrated book cover, Obsessive about Octopuses.

Make sure to choose colors that coordinate well with each other and colors that will print well on products.

Use tie-dye designs with solid color combos on our all-over-printed products like leggings. 

Gold is also one of the most popular colors of the year, so consider adding some gold foil-inspired elements to your designs.

3D

There are a lot of fun, new tools that make 3D design easy. Check out Dimensions CC or Figma. 

Or, maybe you already have some 2D designs that would be easily converted to 3D for a fun, updated look.

Put them on t-shirts and mugs or use them on your website. Apple’s new OS has a lot of 3D elements, which might be boosting the popularity of this kind of design.

These products from Nucleus Portland pop off the page. With the right design elements, you can make just about anything look 3D. 

Animation

Take your illustrations to the next level by making them move. This will be fun for a logo design or a special element on your website. You can make it happen with software like JSON, which turns your illustrations into fully-transparent animation code you can use easily on your website.

This animated PSA definitely elevates the static design you see here.

Animating one of your current designs for your website or social media will add some fun to your customer’s browsing experience—and maybe even make them more likely to buy!

Sustainability

Sustainability’s been part of the conversation for years now, and green and eco-friendly items are as in-demand as ever. See if any of your designs can be printed on our range of eco-friendly and organic products.

You can reflect your sustainable attitude in your designs as well. The color green is an obvious choice. You can feature plants, trees, and other organic images in your designs, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box and take sustainability further. Dig deep and ask yourself what living sustainably means to you and how it relates to your brand and your own niche audience.

Consider implementing eco-friendly messaging on your website. Print-on-demand, rather than mass-production of items is a much more responsible choice for 2021.

Clae displays its shoes—made from organic materials—next to cacti to really drive the point home. This design screams “eco-friendly in 2021.” 

If you’re taking photos of your products, consider adding in some greenery or other items that represent sustainability for your brand.

Read also: Striking Product Photography Trends to Try in 2021

Photography

Beautiful photography is always in style. You can print photos on products like canvases and posters or branch out and put them on mugs or apparel. 
It’s easy thanks to Printful’s partnership with Getty Images. You can choose from millions of images right inside Printful’s Design Maker. Then, add the image to your product. Keep in mind that you’ll pay Printful $1 each time you sell a product that uses Getty Images. That is unless you’ve subscribed to Printful Pro. With it, you can use Getty Images at no extra cost.

Mondraker shows off its product in its natural habitat with high-quality photos.

If your brand is focused on an activity or the outdoors, take advantage of a beautiful, natural backdrop and showcase your products there.

Typography

Are you tired of the word bold yet? I hope not, because bold typography is also in. Make your letters big. Feel free to implement some of the illustration elements we talked about when it comes to your lettering like fun colors and 3D design. Typography is a great place to take risks and go a little crazy—chaotic text designs will also be popular in 2021. Channel your frustration or other big feelings into your type.

We’ve got many font choices for your designs built into our Design Maker, and there are a ton of places you can download free or cheap fonts online. I love browsing Google Fonts for typography inspiration, and there are many other free fonts available online.

This 2021 calendar from Slanted exudes 2021 design trends with both bold and chaotic typography. I love the rainbow color scheme as well. 

Get busy designing

I hope this article has given you a good idea of what kinds of graphic design elements will be popular this year and where to turn to when you run out of inspiration. 

Find some extra inspo in our video on this topic!

Our Printful designers recommend checking out notcot.org for some extra inspiration. Notcot call themselves, “a visual filtration of ideas + aesthetics + amusements,” and they’re a fun site to check out for some additional ideas.

Another way to find inspiration is to turn off your screens and go outside every once in a while. Many designers draw inspiration from their lives and every day experiences. 

In my opinion, balance is key to making this year a success.

Now that you have some amazing resources, I also hope you have some positive and beautiful experiences to draw inspiration from in 2021. 

Check out our Design Maker and start designing now!

Caroline is a former journalist turned marketer. She is a content marketing specialist at Printful and is becoming increasingly obsessed with social proof.

Comments

  1. Howard Matthews

    I liked your tie dye tutorial, but I have Linux on my computer and the design software is GIMP. Could you show me how I can do this using GIMP?

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