10 social medi design trends 2021

5+ Social Media Design Trends of 2021

Ready to get ahead of all the graphic design trends for 2021?

Each year, we dive into the hottest visual themes shaping the Instagram landscape — from trending fonts to creative collages.

1. Gritty Gradients

There’s no mistaking it: color gradients are one of the biggest Instagram design trends right now. A gradient is a smooth color transition, usually used to fill a background or space.

This trend has been super popular for memes and quotes, with many brands opting for a summery color palette that’s reminiscent of pastel skies.

For 2021 however, we can expect to see the gradient trend getting a much grittier application. This can easily be achieved by layering a smooth color gradient with different filters in photo editing apps like Adobe Photoshop.

In addition to grainy layers, we can expect to see color gradients being paired with elements of distortion and noise.

Try the Trend

Color gradients can be created from scratch using professional software such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop.

However, if you’re short on time, you can easily find a free-to-use color gradient in Unsplash’s stock photography library or Over’s Graphic library.

Once you’ve found the perfect gradient, you can use an editing app like Over or VSCO to ramp up the grain, Afterlight to add dust and light leak filters, and Filmm to apply vintage camcorder effects to videos.

2. Real-World References

In 2021, the line between Instagram and reality is about to get even more blurred.

From street signs to printed newspaper advertisements, this trend is all about bringing everyday communication channels into the digital realm.

And it doesn’t end with print media mockups.

Mobile phones, computer screens, billboards, truck adverts, and even carrier bags are getting a digital makeover. The application of this trend is often deliberately nostalgic, with strong references to decades gone by, and can be evocative as a result.

Try the Trend

This trend is all about giving real-world communications a digital twist.

One of the easiest ways to try this out is by manipulating a real-life photo. You can use the Facetune2 app to seamlessly blend out parts of an image, and use the Over app to add in new layers of text. You can also use apps like Storyluxe (iOS) and Unfold (iOS and Android) to apply realistic paper textures to your content, from rips and tears to folds and creases.

3. In-feed Color Blocking

If you’re looking to attract new followers in 2021, this design trend is one to get creative with.

In-feed color blocking can make your Instagram grid look more professional and cohesive, which is a great way to encourage people to hit the follow button on your profile.

Color blocking can be achieved by using harmonious tones alongside one another, or by having a strict color scheme that ties all your posts together.

For example, The Mayfair Group sticks to a strict color scheme in blocks of 18-24 posts.

You can even go a step further with this trend and find visual ways to connect your grid posts together vertically — as the same posts will always sit above and below one another once published.

Try the Trend

One of the easiest ways to recreate this trend is by using a free visual planning tool to experiment with different feed compositions before you hit publish.

Later’s Visual Instagram Planner shows you exactly what your Instagram feed will look like with your future posts in it, so you can achieve the perfect grid.

You can easily rearrange or swap out photos from your media library until you’ve found the best composition for your feed.

Plus, you can now use Later’s Visual Planner straight from your mobile! All you need is to open the Later app, select Preview, and Add Media.

4. Moodboard Collages

Thanks to creative design apps, collage designs have had a recent resurgence on Instagram. Why the shift? Because this design trend can work with almost any picture, font, or texture, making it super versatile and fun to experiment with.

In 2021 we’ll see this playful trend go even further, mirroring homemade cut and paste scrapbooks with a mix of pictures, fonts, and textures.

Hand-drawn lines, annotations, and repetitive lines of text will also be popular.

Expect to see this trend combined with analog textures (like heavily grained filters or paper folds) in a bid to amplify the authentic homemade look.

Try the Trend

There are tons of free editing apps for creating cool collages.

Storyluxe has a dedicated Collage template category, while Unfold has Moodboard and Scrapbook categories.

For a more free-form approach, Over is great for building collages from scratch. There are hundreds of free collage-inspired graphics, such as Scotch tape and paper scraps.

5. Designed Quotes

Quotes on Instagram aren’t anything new, and they won’t be going anywhere soon. The past 12 months have been more challenging than anyone could have anticipated — and quotes (especially uplifting ones) have a unique ability to bring people together and soothe anxieties.

Look out for this trend paired with several other trends in this list, such as gritty gradients, retro cool, warped and wavy text, and digital stickers.

Try the Trend

This trend is all about capturing the sentiment of your audience through design.

The good news is, you don’t have to be a professional designer to be successful — simply use your brand colors and fonts as a guide.

For a more advanced application, Over has the option to add custom fonts to any color code background or image. You can experiment with resizing fonts, duplicating text, opacity, and composition all within the Over app.

6. Retro Cool

Call us wild, but things are about to get rather groovy on the ‘gram. This trend is a nod to the free-spirited expressionism of the 60s, with groovy fonts and bold colors taking center stage.

This trend is especially popular paired with cultural or political commentary, with an application that feels almost reminiscent of war-time propaganda.

Try the Trend

This trend is a little trickier to recreate, but Over has some great graphics to use as a starting point. Simply search “retro” in the app’s Graphic library.

7. Elegant Serif Fonts

Fonts can have a huge impact on a brand’s aesthetic, so keeping up with the latest typography trends is always a good idea.

And elegant serif fonts are about to go mainstream.

This trend is all about balancing delicacy and strength to provide a sophisticated first impression — while still being easy to read.

Try the Trend

For a truly unique application, you could work with a professional font designer to create a custom delicate serif font.

However, this can be expensive — and might not always be necessary.

Another option is to test and download a font from a font website, such as DaFont, FontSpace, or FontM.  If you have access to Adobe Creative Suite, you can also access Adobe Fonts for free.

For further inspiration, check out sites like Typewolf and Future Fonts. They’re full of great references and recommendations.

TIP: Fonts are often free to download, but may require payment for commercial use. Always take note of the license agreement.

8. Digital Stickers

Digital stickers are one of the hottest design trends right now — and one that’s popping up all over Instagram.

This trend is a fun way to add extra visual information to your designs, such as pricing or sales offers, without compromising on aesthetic.

Expect to see this trend everywhere and in many forms — from bold bumper-style stickers to cute icons inspired by fruit labels.

Try the Trend

This trend is super versatile and easy to achieve, no matter how limited your design skills. For a quick design win, head to Over’s Graphic library and search for their “Retail Grunge Stickers” collection. Canva also has several great sticker designs that you can easily customize for your brand.

9. Animated Elements

If you want to keep up with the trends in 2021, it’s time to think beyond static imagery. Even the simplest touch of animation can elevate your brand’s design values.

Plus, video performs better with the Instagram algorithm, so adding an animated element to static posts is a double-win for brands looking to increase their engagement.

Try the Trend

Advanced animation requires the skills of a motion graphic designer, but there are several apps you can use to get the look for less.

Adobe Spark makes it easy for anyone to create animated graphics on-the-go, while ImgPlay is the easiest way to create GIFs using photos and videos right from your camera roll.

10. Warped & Wavy Text

As we’ve already covered, quotes in every form are set to be a major design trend. But more specifically, we can expect to see them shifting to an irregular format in 2021.

From distorted lettering to snaking type paths, text on images will be unpredictable and playful. Think melted plastic distortion, childlike handwriting, and dripping candle wax. This trend is well-suited to brands looking to make their brand feel more youthful and edgy, as these twisted fonts have a certain psychedelic quality.

Try the Trend

The quickest way to create wavy text on-the-go is with the PicMonkey app’s curved text tool. Canva also allows you to easily rotate and reposition text elements to create a fun, waved text path.

For a more advanced application, professional design software such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop is the place to go for this trend. The sky’s the limit with this trend, so whenever you feel you’ve gone too far — it’s probably the time to go a little further.

Keeping up with the latest trends is a great way to keep your brand feeling fresh on Instagram, as long as they are aligned with your brand values and aesthetic.

And for the best results, always plan and preview your social media post designs in advance using a tool like Later.

Final Words


Images are important in social media marketing. They serve as the first attraction point before viewers would go to read your caption. That said, you should focus on improving your design skills this 2021. Use apps like Adobe Photoshop to make more creative images that are truly eye-catching. Apply one or two of our tips above and watch your posts gain more reactions this year!

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