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Adobe Releases 2021 Visual & Creative Trends Report

by Rudy Sanchez on 01/12/2021 | 6 Minute Read

The last few years have been dizzyingly fast-paced, with the firehose of current events seemingly set to maximum pressure and the nozzle aimed squarely at our collective face. That makes identifying trends and themes in design all the more difficult, as weeks feel like years, and ostensibly significant moments quickly fall off our timeline, replaced by the next big thing.

Adobe is undeterred by the accelerated nature of the world, and today they just released their 2021 Visual & Creative Trends Report. The look into the very near future highlights the key themes that the firm predicts will drive this year’s design throughout the world of all things visual, motion, and even audio.

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“Design always evolves as a response to the cultural climate and what people are experiencing, so as COVID-19 continues to impact aspects of human interaction, we’ll see its long-term ripple effects on the technology, themes, and aesthetics of design,” says Brenda Milis, principle of creative and consumer insights at Adobe. “The acceleration of virtual communication and connections during this time is not only leading to a social media-first mentality but also wider adoption of innovative design mediums and tools.”

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Besides COVID-19, demonstrations against racially-motivated systemic injustice dominated the headlines. In America and abroad, the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other BIPOC folks by police became a watershed moment in the conversation surrounding race and policing, a reckoning that’s also inspired the world of design and given it broader purpose. 

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“As social movements like Black Lives Matter have shed light on underlying societal issues, it’s more important now than ever to be able to communicate strong, urgent messaging that resonates with depth,” Milis said. “Our recent State of Creativity Survey found that 91% of creatives feel the events of 2020 inspired them to incorporate real-world issues into their creative work. It’s not enough to just have eye-catching visuals – people are making the distinction between performative and authentic content, demanding more diverse and inclusive voices across all industries and sectors, including design.”

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Adobe sees design in 2021 taking a decidedly long look back at the past, like in Austere Romanticism, where designers are reframing nature and the present through a Victorian prism. Similarly, you can see the look of the 90s and the computer-generated graphics of the decade in the Vintage Vaporwave design trend.

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Back to Bauhaus reinterprets the classic design movement’s emphasis on clean, minimal elements matched with primary colors for 2021. Psych Out draws from the trip-tastic 1970s and Art Nouveau, providing an escape through curvaceous forms, high gradients, and expansive shapes.

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“People often turn to nostalgia during times of uncertainty when we long for the perceived stability of the past. But we see an evolution of these retro influences through a new lens of modern escapism and introspection,” Brenda explains. “Our aspirations are less tied to the idea of a tropical paradise getaway. Today, self-care and self-expression are the ultimate goals. Because we aren’t going out, we’re looking inward. We see this in how people are skewing towards the soothing comforts of home and nature, and also embracing the imaginatively weird and quirky.”

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Visually, Adobe sees the same romanticism of nature, comfort, empathy, the importance of values, and lots of bright colors they saw in their design trends. Compassionate Collective takes the momentum of social movements to visually express unity and strength, while Mood-Boosting Color is a trend that cranks up the saturation and amount of colors to amplify mental wellness and create positive energy.

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As the home is the primary place we do everything now, Comfort Zone finds inspiration in the cozy and warm confines of our dwellings, as well as our family. After being sent home last spring due to COVID, the outdoors — even if it’s just the backyard — became one of few places we can escape. Now that we've stuffed our entire world into our homes, just being outside is an escape, and the push behind the Breath of Fresh Air visual trend.

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Though creatives had to confront and address some seriously heavy issues-events that couldn’t be ignored that threw the world into uncertainty, pain, and fear-Milis see another critical trend in 2021.

Positivity.

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“At first, it was surprising to see that these trends were strongly tied to historical roots, but the past year has been so much about reflection,” Brenda says. “Instead of negativity, these reimagined trends are often embracing a level of playfulness that shows a lot of self-awareness and liveliness. It has also been astonishing and exciting to see how creatives’ inspiration prevailed, despite the turmoil caused by the past year’s events, illuminating themes of resilience reflected in this year’s Creative Trends."

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"Creatives have found ways to merge the unexpected events of 2020 with their creative vision, creating content reflecting the empowerment of all voices and identities," she adds.

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