resources. sequel talks.

16 February 2021

Design for our times

Sequel Creative Head, Phil Steed, shares his views on how design trends are capturing the first shoots of positivity at a challenging time

As we’ve started a new year, and look back on the past 12 months, you really have to scratch your head and ask WTF? From a global pandemic that would see over two million deaths to protests and riots around the world, and a US president refusing to accept an election result, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is a work of fiction. Sadly, not.

But, with the extraordinary effort of our scientific community, vaccines are being rolled out and with it a light at the end of the tunnel. And accordingly, the design industry can play its part in setting out a stall of optimism.

Here are three design trends meeting that challenge to look out for in the coming year:

1. Reconnecting with nature

With supposedly clearer skies and cleaner air, for 2021 there’s a belief that people will want some form of physical connection with nature, and with fellow human beings, to improve mental health. It’s likely we will see design embrace a human touch and organic tones, with textures mimicking hand printing techniques, grain, brush strokes and organic shapes.

And there will be a thirst for harmony. This trend will see a shift from sharp angles to more organically-shaped colour blocks, with smooth, squishy, curvy-looking shapes working in harmony with complementary colours.


2. Optimism and playfulness

There’s some way to go, but the troubles of 2020 are slowly starting to give way to something more optimistic. The prediction is for positivity to be woven throughout the creative sector with uplifting playfulness, colour and vibrant patterns taking centre stage, employing witty illustration and kinetic typography. Examples include Pentagram’s bold and fresh redesign of ‘Virgin Money’, and Universal Favourite’s humorous illustrative rebrand of men’s online health clinic ‘Mosh’.


3. Authentic and honest

After such a disruptive year, there’s no appetite for meaningless campaigns. Honest and authentic creative will put the audience centre stage, with clear and open messaging that really speaks directly to them.

A great example last year was from Design Studio with their strikingly grounded rebrand of ‘Oberlo’, an e-commerce platform aimed at young entrepreneurs. The studio initially reviewed the internal culture at Oberlo and researched its industry more widely to understand the entrepreneurial audience. They identified a series of values that embodied the mindset of the audience: ‘Start Something’, ‘Stay Real’, ‘Be Relentless’ and ‘Raise the Bar’. These were the basis for the final solutions designed to resonate with the users.

So, as we get into the swing of 2021, the golden thread is to look forward with hope, optimism and positivity, ensuring that our communications are clear and really ‘get’, connect and engage our audiences with relatable design.




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