Designers started the new decade full of optimism and energy, looking to push creative boundaries. It’s safe to say no one saw what was coming.
The challenges facing brands, creatives and the world at large in 2020 have been innumerable; but they’ve also been shared. Collective social experiences have created moments of global connection, and we’re starting to see the physical and social constraints of the year reflected in visual branding.
When it comes to trends shaping 2021’s aesthetic, designers are working within the limitations and constraints of the here and now with subtle ingenuity. They are reflective and restrained, but far from boring. From fractured imagery to pristine symmetry, here are a few of the logo trends designers predict will shape the year ahead:
There is power in the simplicity of geometric shapes normally confined to the sketching stage, and two of the more controversial rebrands of the year—Medium and the newly infamous icons of Google Workspace—have tapped into this trend.
Instead of using triangles, circles and squares for simply laying the visual groundwork, designers are tapping into a minimalism that creates an air of calculated restraint, allowing for creative flair elsewhere.
With Medium, the simple shapes of the reimagined three-dot ellipsis 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 sharing and discussing ideas. With Google Workspace, however, that creative edge can be found in the bright, saturated colors and layering that creates an illusion of structure and depth (with the downside that no one can find his or her inbox anymore).
Logo design has always had roots in classic symbolism: Powerful lions, all-seeing eyes and celestial imagery have acted as pictograms for centuries. And off the back of a year that accentuated society’s shared experiences around the world, it’s not surprising this kind of universality will resonate with designers in 2021. The ability to communicate by transcending language is powerful, and symbols speak to intuitive and deeply understood messages within intended audiences.
Although it’s not a logo, the most prominent manifestation of this trend has been the rainbow as a motif of optimism that has spread around the world during the pandemic. Amazon captured the sentiment beautifully in its Look for the Rainbows ad. A colorful, instantly recognizable image drawn by children on sidewalks and in windows has been a powerful message of hope for millions—and demonstrates the power of symbolic language in logo design moving into 2021.
Authentic portraiture and representation
Another significant trend as we move into 2021 is a shift toward authentic portraiture and representation within logo and brand design. It’s human nature to seek out faces, and following a year when the world was forced to stay apart, it makes sense that brands want to create an emotional connection.
From simple, flat character portraits to detailed illustrations that highlight every wrinkle, homogeny is out and real people are in; the more authentic and recognizable those faces are, the deeper the connection will be. Airbnb is an early leader in this space, embracing an authenticity in its illustration style that demands reference photos for every person drawn.
Equally, building on the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement and the slew of brands including Uncle Ben’s and Aunt Jemima committing to move away from imagery reflecting racist stereotypes, this trend seeks to capture and celebrate inclusiveness at a watershed moment of global protest.