Just like the brands themselves, branding trends need to reinvent themselves every so often to stay fresh. The branding trends that once looked modern and cutting-edge suddenly become stale and old-fashioned. To stay relevant in the eyes of your audience in the new year, it’s best to incorporate the top brand design trends of 2021.
Who knows better about upcoming branding trends than the designers themselves. We polled our 99design community of international designers to see what the best branding trends of 2021 are shaping up to be. Based on their responses, we narrowed it down to these 7 key trends.
Here are the 7 best branding trends of 2021:
- Put a face to the name
- Use quirky art
- Embrace expressionist brand colors
- Stand for something as a brand
- Extend your brand with geometric patterns
- Make it rough on purpose
- Create an immersive experience
1. Put a face to the name
If it’s one thing humans like to see, it’s other humans—especially in social media posts. Lately branding designers are catching on to this and we’re seeing a lot more imagery of people representing the brand, particularly faces, and particularly faces with personalities. After all, faces humanize a brand very well, and a lot of branding trends in 2021 lean towards this overall humanization.
Often with this branding trend, companies use an illustrated depiction of a real person. This not only allows for better control over the final look, but also opens up opportunities for different artistic styles, which can communicate the type of brand you are: the cartoonish logo for a beer and food company designed by NikolaN™ has a much different tone than the more artistic and lifelike artwork by bubupanda below.
2. Use quirky art
Especially if you’re targeting younger markets, you want your branding materials to display a distinguishing uniqueness—the quirky factor. Using one-of-a-kind imagery, particularly if cute, funny or whimsical, is a great path to memorability and recognition, two branding cornerstones.
More often than not, brands use hand-drawn illustrations for this style, although by the definition of quirky, all art styles are in play. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Anthropomorphized animals are a popular choice, especially when dressed up nicely to accentuate the absurdity. But setting yourself apart means not just doing what others are doing—feel free to try an offbeat style if that suits your brand personality, like the bleak beer label designed by jcontreras.
3. Embrace expressionist brand colors
Traditional branding posits that simple, consistent color schemes are best because consumers learn to associate your brand with its key colors. And while that’s true, at the same time it restricts your brand—what if you want to express your brand identity with more complex color schemes and use different colors to give meaning to each of your products? The solution: expanding your brand color palette to a variety of expressionist colors.
In 2021, meaningful and intense colors express what a brand stands for.
That’s why we’re seeing more and more brands test out unconventional, non-naturalistic color schemes with plenty of variation and intensity. These impactful shades work both separately and together and say a lot about a brand or product through color only.
4. Stand for something
We’re not going to sugar-coat it: there’s a lot of bad stuff going on in the world. People in general are finding it harder to stay neutral, and the same goes for companies. Especially for younger markets like Gen Z and Millenials, consumers expect the brands they follow to take a stance, whether societal, environmental or economical. For more and more customers, brands that don’t stand for something really stand for nothing.
That’s why one of the branding trends of 2021 is taking a stance on an important issue, ideally the same stance as your target audience (unless you really missed the mark from your initial projections). Moreover, your position hits harder when you make it part of your brand identity—entire business models can be built around brands that represent a single substantial issue.
Try to reflect your stance in your branding materials so people know what you’re about. Talking about it on social media works, as does pairing with a popular figure in your movement. Your branding design, too, should echo your stance, for example, featuring green and environmental imagery in your logo and on your website, or using photos to demonstrate your activism.
5. Extend your brand with geometric patterns
One of the more surprising 2021 branding trends is using patterns as an extension of your brand: large blocks of repeated graphics to create a hypnotizing wallpaper look. Just to be clear, patterns aren’t replacing logos or main images. But in the right spot, like an ad, t-shirt, swag, webpage background or printed menu, patterns can take your brand experience so much further.
Typically, this brand design trend uses geometric shapes, which have gone hand-and-hand with repetitive patterns for much of human history. Geometric patterns hit that perfect middle ground between stimulating and distracting, making them a good fit for branding materials that want to give the logo center stage.
To truly use this branding trend to its fullest, have your pattern mimic an element from your logo. If your logo is minimalist, you might even be able to use it as the pattern source.
6. Make it rough on purpose
For certain audiences, perfection is flawed. More than a few consumers prefer a look that’s rough around the edges: asymmetry, scribbled writing, disproportionate imagery, lines-that-almost-connect-but-don’t-quite-meet-and-you’re-just-staring-at-that-tiny-gap-between-them-like-”c’mon!”
Intentionally imperfect brand design, usually combined with illustrations and handwritten typography, resonates well with younger, more counter-cultural audiences (just like the quirky trend above). This branding trend originates as a response to the pixel-perfect brand design from the past with no hair out of place—for many people, that kind of perfection nowadays comes across as suspicious.
This style won’t match every brand identity, but for some it will fit like a glove. If your brand targets more offbeat markets, this branding trend is a great opportunity to delve into unchartered territory and really give your brand a distinct look and feel.
7. Create an immersive experience
Your branding is not just your logo or website or packaging—it’s all of that and more. In 2021, people expect to receive not only a well-designed product, they expect you to take them on a journey. If you want to go the extra mile and really wow them, give them an experience.
Due to the increasing amount of online purchases, the unboxing experience is now more crucial than ever. In 2021, brands and designers think through the entire process of opening a package and make it a unique experience by ensuring that even the smallest detail is on brand and captivates the customer as they open the box and unwrap their products.
Whether it’s the adorable illustrated journey of DIY pottery brand Crockd or the beautiful Glossier unboxing experience complete with stickers and reuseable pink pouches, these brands delight their customers every step of the way.
How will you use the branding trends of 2021?
Looking at all the brand design trends for the new year, we see a clear shift towards personalization and connection. Never before has the human side of branding been so relevant—the brand-customer relationship is less about transactions and more about friendship and emotion. People talk to their brands on social media, open emails from their brands, click on ads for their favorite brands whenever they see them. Good branding in 2021 means leaning into that.