Through daily consumption, it’s easy to miss how the aesthetics of social media posts change over time. However, I can guarantee if you look at an Insta post from 10 years ago it will give you the ick. It will be the same for your personal profiles, your favourite brands, and your most liked influencer. That’s because graphic design trends are in constant motion and they reflect cultural moments, politics, technology, and more generally, what’s going on in the world around us.
We know how hard it is to keep on top of the trends, in fact, 90% of creatives agree that design trends are evolving faster than ever before. So, we’re going to share the hottest social media design trends of 2021 to enable you to incorporate them into your social media strategy. By the time you’ve finished reading you’ll know exactly how to elevate your social aesthetic with designs that resonate.
Let’s kick off with 2021s freshest font type. After almost 18 months away from nightclubs, festivals, and social events, people are looking to get wavy in more ways than one this summer. Maybe that’s the reason why wavy typefaces are in this year.
Photo by Alex Burch from Dribble
Whatever the reason, this trend works well for young and edgy brands that want to stand out from the crowd. Using a wavy font creates relaxed, loose, and almost psychedelic designs. If that’s your vibe, you might want to consider incorporating wavy font types into your social posts. They also work great on text-based posts as a way to inject some playful energy onto the screen. More on that a little later.
Messaging Through Objects
This social media design trend is all about taking old-school forms of communications and real-life objects and using them to tell a message in the digital world.
It’s nostalgic, disruptive, and potentially very powerful when done right.
Think newspaper fonts, billboards, TV screens, posters, shop signs, camcorders, and bedsheets. Even love heart balloons are being used to send a message to the digital world.
And, it’s not just meme pages that are putting this trend to use, big brands are at it as well.
In this example, Apple has understood the power of sharing a message with contextual information from the real world. It makes the viewer feel like Apple has a more authentic and genuine understanding of the message they are posting about.
This trend is all about blurring the lines of the digital and the real world to create more powerful messages.
Woke designs that bring awareness to social causes
The example from Apple takes us nicely into the next trend. This is a trend that can be seen across social media, web design, animation, and graphic design. It’s a product of our world becoming increasingly online. We are at the point where we almost exclusively find out about social issues and causes from online sources.
The Black Lives Matter movement, climate change, and mental health awareness are some of the biggest and most recent social causes that were communicated to the global population via the internet. They were internet-first movements that were later followed by mainstream media outlets.
It’s events like these that have changed the way people want to interact with brands. It’s no longer just about the aesthetics of a brand or influencer, it’s also about what they stand for. So, it’s no surprise that designs that bring awareness to social causes are on our list of the top social media trends in 2021.
Blur & Grain
Let’s move from conceptual to more tangible design trends. It’s safe to say colourful gradients have dominated social media designs over the past couple of years. However, designers are starting to look past this trend at what’s next. It looks like intense blurs and grain filters are becoming popular this year.
Blurs and grainy textures can add character and moodiness to your designs. It’s a natural development from the happiness of cheery gradients that have been so popular recently. These types of designs can also allow elements like bold typography and images to pop off the page against obscure and shadowy backgrounds.
It’s a great tool for brands and individuals with a moody personality to show their darker and gloomy side.
Since the rise of TikTok in 2020, it’s obvious that video content is a huge trend. It’s something you should factor into your social media plan because social video content can produce up to 1200% more shares than text and image content combined. However, there is also space for text-based social posts this year.
This trend has been born out of social media wanting to engage with more than just a pretty picture. People are looking for expert tips & advice, uplifting quotes, and how-to posts that teach the reader something.
Social media content producers are using elements like the tweet format, designed quote posts, the Google-search graphic, and more to create eye-catching text-based posts.
If you adopt this trend, it’s a chance to connect with your audience on a deeper level by offering them words that will either cheer them up or teach them something.
Augmented reality filters
300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, 500 million Instagram stories are made daily, and 55% of the 1.1billion TikTok users have uploaded a video in the last month. That’s a heck of a lot of video content!
One thing brands and influencers of all levels have been using to make their video content stand out is augmented reality (AR) filters. It’s an interactive layer that is placed over video content to add additional visual elements and designs to make it stand out.
this trend is cool but im kinda late to it♬ Jxmez999 – Mackenzie Smith 🖤
It’s not only a great way to create more visually interesting content but it’s a great tool for increasing brand visibility. So, brands are using AR filters to create more engaging content and some are even designing their own filters to upload to TikTok and Instagram. Once uploaded to the platform, billions of social media users have access to them and they can upload content with the brand’s name on it!
*sigh* ordering now (filter via louis tb/slimshader) #chipotle #funny #comedy #trending #viral #fyp♬ original sound – Chipotle
This is a trend that took root within the graphic design community and has naturally manifested itself on social media as well. Psychedelic art was first seen en masse in the ’60s which was when most of the hallucinogens first became known to science and hippies. This year graphic designers will bring psychedelia back to the forefront with intricate designs that need more than one glance to figure out.
But what are the benefits of psychedelic designs? Well, vivid colors and trippy visuals often produce thumb-stopping social media posts. Social media users are more likely to stop and pay attention if they see a shocking visual effect that’s eye-catching and different from everything else in the feed.
Muted colour palettes
This next trend tries to do exactly the opposite of what psychedelic artwork attempts to do. Instead of trying to shock viewers, muted colour palettes help the viewer to feel safe and secure. This helps to build trust between brands and potential customers.
Muter colours are all colours that have low saturation. They have been subdued, dulled, or greyed to create something more natural and easy-on-the-eye.
Therefore, the types of brands that are taking advantage of this trend are health and wellness companies as well as any brand that wants to align themselves as being someway natural.
The following example from Winc Wines combines a text-based post with a muted colour pattern. The content could be provocative, but the neutral colours make it feel friendly, safe, and heartwarming.
Classic serif fonts
Fonts can do just as much talking about a brand as the words contained within them. Serif fonts are nothing new, they’ve been around since the 15th century. However, they are on trend again this year with lots of designers using them to create a classical, elegant, and trustworthy look and feel for the brands they’re working for.
The benefit of using classic serif fonts over the wavy typefaces we mentioned early is that they’re easy to read. So, if you want to get a message across to your audience clearly, Serif fonts are a safe bet.
Some classic examples of serif fonts that you could use include Garamond, Georgia, Helvetica, and Futura. Not to mention the most famous font of all time… Times New Roman!
In the example below, Chobani has used serif fonts and a muted colour palette to create a post that oozes with trustworthiness. Their products must work if they look like that, right?
Moodboard collages have been around for a little while but they remain as one of the hottest trends within social media design in 2021. This is largely due to apps like Unfold, Storyluxe, and SCL. These apps have given brands, influencers, and regular social media users the tools they need to produce increasingly creative and attractive collages.
Collages can help you to produce content that stops the scroll and to create a unique style in your feed. It also allows you to show more images within one post which is why collages are popular with fashion brands and eCommerce businesses with a huge catalog of products. They work well as regular posts, stories, and even short videos. Check out this example of an animated collage template from Unfold…
Our last social media trend of 2021 is digital stickers. They are primarily used in story and video content but have been popping up in static posts as well. They’ve been big on Instagram for some time now and they are becoming a bigger trend on TikTok this year due to there being more options after a recent update.
There are lots of different types of digital stickers available to use. There are location stickers, mention stickers, hashtag stickers, GIF stickers, poll & emoji sliders, questions stickers, shopping stickers, and chat stickers.
Just like with AR filters, the reason digital stickers are trending is that they’re a great way to boost engagement. Some analytical research into video performance on Instagram shows that videos with stickers perform better 83% of the time.
Brands and influencers can use poll sliders, question stickers, and chat stickers to get direct feedback from their audience and to build a stronger connection with them. It allows audiences to be involved with and influence the content in a more immersive way than just hitting the like button.
Final thoughts on 2021 social media design trends
While these trends are hot right now, they are also not going anywhere anytime soon. Some of the trends we’ve listed have been around for a few years already. They have become more popular as new technology and social media app updates encourage brands, influencers, and regular users to adopt them.
So, you certainly haven’t missed your opportunity to capitalize on them. In fact, there’s never been a better time because you now know which trends to pay attention to. Not every trend will be right for your audience. However, the best way to find out which are the right trends to adopt for your social media account is to try a few out and let the engagement do the talking.
Adopting trends is all about looking for new ways to speak to your audience with exciting content.
“Content Doesn’t Win. Optimized Content Wins” – Liana Evans (@storyspinner)
Optimize your content with some of the trends in this article to level up your social posts throughout 2021 and beyond.
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