The 2021 Visual Trends: Insights from Depositphotos and Top Creative Agencies

7 min readMar 4, 2021


The world has greatly changed in the last months. The pandemic and other events of 2020 have influenced every sphere of our lives, drastically altering the way we communicate with each other, how we go about our daily activities, and even how we engage with brands.

Styles, themes, and aesthetics that manage to get attention also changed as the world shifted to online. In 2021, people will seek solace in nature-inspired designs, turn to brands that translate optimistic messages and show that they care about their clients’ wellbeing. Designers will also be on the lookout for ways to keep users more engaged and entertained in these times of rapid digitalization.

Explore the yearly Visual Trends Guide by Depositphotos, a content marketplace with 190 million files, to find out more about themes and styles that will shape visual communication in 2021.

Trends that will prevail in visual communication in 2021

Symbols of Optimism

Bold and optimistic color palettes will be one of the prominent trends in design in the months to come. Client briefs will require more positive brand messages that translate confidence in the future to cheer up their audiences. To reinforce the message, designers will opt for mood-boosting colors like orange or yellow and use rounded typefaces to create designs that look friendly and inviting.

Wellness First

Alongside bright colors and cheerful vibes, there’s also a growing tendency of favouring balanced and calming color choices. As healthcare and wellbeing are among key priorities for audiences in 2021, websites, apps, packaging design, or any products they interact with should make them feel good. In other words, with their projects, brands and content creators alike are to showcase that they care about the top-of-mind concerns of their audiences. Muted color palettes can help with soothing vibes.

Solace in Nature

Feeling emotionally and visually overwhelmed, people tend to stray away from designs that increase stress levels and are more likely to turn to ones that are atmospheric and more tranquil. To better appeal to audiences, professionals will turn to nature-inspired elements such as botanical patterns and grounded tones to create ambient design projects that look refreshing.

Virtual Empathy

It is not enough to tell engaging stories in 2021. The narratives brands share should not only be authentic and candid but provide a user with a multi-sensory experience similar to a real-life one. AR, VR, and other advanced technology can be best used to create more relatable content and generate empathy from audiences worldwide on topics that matter today. After all, what can make a more powerful impression than full immersion in the environment?

Authenticity 2.0

In the upcoming months, designers and other content creators will be encouraged to rethink what authenticity is. While a year ago photos, illustrations, and graphics created by professionals highlighted the fast-paced lifestyles that were relatable to most of us, today that’s no longer valid. Concepts such as slow living, staycations, and work from home appeal to different types of clients and become central in every field of visual communication.

Cinematic Aesthetics

Movies and TV-shows are an infinite source of inspiration for photographers and artists. The types of visuals with a cinematic aesthetic include compositions with more space around subjects which makes photos and videos even more ambient. To achieve movie-like aesthetics, artists will also turn to muted color palettes, pay extra attention to detail, and opt for minimal post-production to highlight the authenticity of a shot.

Snackable Video

As TikTok and Instagram Reels continue to gain momentum, there is high demand and appeal with a short video format that tells authentic stories and keeps everyone entertained. These ‘snackable’ clips are usually created with a smartphone or a mirrorless camera and last for up to 15 seconds. Designers can leverage the trend by adding animated design elements to videos, as well as creating engaging motion graphics when responding to events.

Audiovisual Sync

As with the example of our library, microstock clients often look to incorporate sound effects and music into thematic projects, as audio helps create more ambient experiences for both online and offline projects. Short music sequences in videos, sound effects in apps, and tracks integrated into websites are all examples of the type of user experience that generates more engagement in 2021.

Audio becomes vital to products and other online projects for brands that aim to stay competitive. Creating atmospheric experiences helps appeal to new audiences as you engage more senses and form a better first impression.

Gamified by Design

Today many struggle with adjusting to a new reality that limits us to dealing with the majority of daily activities online. Considering this shift, designers are on the lookout for ways to make the user journey with online experiences smoother and more engaging.

Integrating gaming elements into website and app designs is a great strategy to test in 2021. Personalized achievement badges, leaderboards, or more complex motion graphics can enhance user immersion but also encourage the audience to interact with a website or app longer and more often.

Get more insights on trends

Each of these trends is already gaining momentum and can be spotted not only in graphic design but in other fields of visual communication. However, you shouldn’t seek to reinvent the wheel with every new project. Christian Mezöfi, a Design Director at Dentsu ACHTUNG!, a creative agency from the Netherlands, believes that instead of chasing uniqueness, you should pursue progression in your next works. Sometimes it is enough to draw inspiration from one trend and add your personal touch to it to create a project that would stand out.

Want to find out more insights from the leading industry experts? Here’s a preview of the top insights from creative agencies from the Depositphotos Visual Trends Guide 2021.

Droga5, Your Majesty, and Publicis on visual trends 2021

Insights from Chris Chapman, Head of Design at Droga5 London

  • In 2021, simplicity will take on a new meaning. Brands that want to look honest and transparent will opt for ‘clean’ minimal graphics.
  • Brand will serve as a ‘frame’ in brand design. Creatives will get more freedom when it comes to experimenting with brand imagery with an aim to stand out in the oversaturated market.
  • Poster design will adapt to new design forms. Its basic communication principles will be complemented with the saturation and engagement of animation to fit the short lifecycle of digital media and their products.

Insights from Viet Hoang, Senior Experience Strategist and Magnus Löwing, Principal Designer at Your Majesty

2020 has been a challenging year that turned out to be an impulse for the emergence of new themes and aesthetics — Afrofuturism and Dot Matrix.

  • Although Afrofuturism appeared in the 90s as “a way of imagining possible futures through black cultural lens”, it will gain traction in 2021 again. Bold, saturated color palettes, 3D elements, as well as surrealistic narratives of alienation and feminism will help break the status quo and imagine the future.
  • Another old-school aesthetic that is seeing a comeback is the Dot Matrix. With an aim to find more pragmatic and direct ways of visualizing data, designers will bid farewell to gradients, color layers, and drop shadows. Instead, they will turn to simpler solutions such as ASCII art, limited color ranges, and low-resolution images that resemble interfaces of the 80s but in a refined way.

Insights from Marie Poumeyrol, Digital Art Director Supervisor at Publicis Italy

  • Recently, our values, priorities, and worldviews were questioned by different circumstances and now it seems that the only way brands can keep the lights on is by being human, relatable, and true.
  • The future brings us new challenges but new opportunities as well. An integrated approach of combining media and data becomes key for businesses that want to boost their creativity in 2021.
  • The insights about audiences you can tap into depends on the brand you’re working with. For some, exploring TikTok might be a new way to strengthen connection with their clients, although the platform is not a newcomer to the market. The more you study human behavior, the more likely it is that your message will resonate.

Curious to explore even more insights from other international creative agencies? The full report includes the thoughts of professionals from Locomotive, Design Bridge, Dentsu ACHTUNG, and a dozen others! Take a closer look at their tips, advice, and visual references in this part of the report.

Wrapping up

The visual trends of 2021 are the starting point of inspiration to get creatives and other professionals working in visual communication to rethink their approach to the themes, elements, and popular aesthetics. These trends and insights are a go-to source for design inspiration but are also refreshing take on how the industry is shifting to appeal to changing audience preferences and contemporary issues.




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