Shutterstock Forecasts Creatives Will Use Calm Colors in 2021 After 2020’s Vivid Hues

The company uses pixel-level data to create yearly projections

The 'maximalism' that defined visuals in 2020 will lose its popularity.
Headshot of Emmy Liederman

In 2021, the visual world will reject this year’s shift toward saturated hues and embrace a calmer, more natural aesthetic, according to Shutterstock. 

The company just released its annual Color Trends Report, which predicts that the next year will be defined by three colors: Set Sail Champagne, Fortuna Gold and Tidewater Green. 

This projection is based on an analysis of pixel-level data from 2020’s most popular downloads. These trends reflect a meaningful shift in marketing priorities after a year of chaos, according to creative director Flo Lau. 

“For years, brands and agencies have used bold colors to stand out in a crowded content landscape; however, 2020 has forced creatives to be more purposeful in their strategies,” she said in a statement. “We see them turning to optimistic colors that inspire a sense of hope—a sense that positive change is coming.”

2021’s leading colors reflect what people wanted in 2020: a break. The champagne color represents an escape to “a sailboat on open water,” the gold is inspired by the Roman goddess of good fortune and the green is a tribute to the calmness of ocean tides.

According to Lau, the popularity of these colors speaks to a common desire to leave behind “the bright, saturated hues that defined 2020” and start fresh with “a natural palette that speaks to new opportunities, and more simply, a desire to get outside and get away.”

Every year, Shutterstock uses data from its nearly 2 million customers to analyze both widespread and regional trends. In addition to the aforementioned hues that will take center stage globally, the report predicted Dark Violet will be a popular color in the U.S. in the coming year.

The 2021 Color Trends Report reflects the work of designers, marketers and creatives—an area Shutterstock recently invested in. In October, the company expanded its service with the launch of Shutterstock Studios, an end-to-end platform that offers data-driven content strategies to creatives for everything from brand storytelling to script-writing and influencer management.

The company appointed Aiden Darné, the former president of production at Vice Media Group, as the head of global production of Shutterstock Studios.


Emmy is a senior journalism major at The College of New Jersey with minors in Spanish and broadcast journalism. She has previously worked as editor-in-chief of her college newspaper, The Signal, as well as an intern at Tribune Publishing Company. Emmy is looking forward to contributing to Adweek as an intern working with its breaking news and audience engagement teams.
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