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The Top 10 Instagram Design Trends for 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.

Plus, we’re sharing our top tips on how to apply these trends to your social strategy so you can elevate your Instagram aesthetic this year.

10 Instagram Design Trends for 2021:

  1. Gritty Gradients
  2. Real World References
  3. In-feed Color Blocking
  4. Moodboard Collages
  5. Designed Quotes
  6. Retro Cool
  7. Elegant Serif Fonts
  8. Digital Stickers
  9. Animated Elements
  10. Warped & Wavy Text

Trend #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 (like Golde, below) opting for a summery color palette that’s reminiscent of pastel skies :

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Times are weird af! Be kind to yourself! Much love, team Golde ????

A post shared by GOLDE (@golde) on

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.

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

For LaterCon, Later’s design team paired smooth gradients with rough textures and vintage camera-style glitches.

The result? A juxtaposition of textures that is eye-catching, fresh, and memorable.

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.

 

Trend #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.

 

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We all begin as strangers. CHALLENGE: start a conversation with someone you don’t know in the comments below.

A post shared by The Mayfair Group (@themayfairgroup) on

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.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Say it louder for the people at the back ???? #missguided #inspo (????:animaanimus)

A post shared by COMMITTED TO EMPOWERING ALL ⚡️ (@missguided) on

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.

 

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A breath of fresh air ☀️ #storyluxe

A post shared by Storyluxe (@storyluxe) on

Trend #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.

graphic design trends in 2021

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.

graphic design trends in 2021

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.

Ready to create the perfect Instagram aesthetic for your brand? Design, curate, and plan your feed with Later!

 

Trend #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:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Too cool ????️ Loving this extra long braided pony by @sabrina.porsche on @desiperkins for @dezi

A post shared by Mane Addicts (@maneaddicts) on

Expect to see this trend combined with analogue textures (like heavily grained filters or paper folds) in a bid to amp up 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.

Trend #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.

 

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comfort zone ↔️ growth zone

A post shared by Over by GoDaddy (@over) on

Popular sub-trends include super-sized fonts that fill the entire screen, and repetitive lines of text being used for a bolder, more expressive application.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Good morning, everyone! Feeling in despair? That’s fine! The fact that this shit is even close is embarrassing. And white Americans, we are the weakest link of this democracy. I hope you remember this feeling when it’s Thanksgiving time. Now is the right time to say something out loud and bring politics to the party. . But other than that! @staceyabrams had some words for us this morning on Twitter. They’re helpful so I’m posting here. “Here’s where we are: 1️⃣ Local elections officials are taking the time necessary to make sure every eligible vote is counted. 2️⃣ Trump is losing and trying to crown himself the winner. 3️⃣ Voters choose the future. We fought for fairer elections and it’s working. 4️⃣ We expected all of this. 5️⃣ Now comes the hard part: Wait and don’t panic. 6️⃣ We can see the path to victory running from north to south. . The gains Dems made in key states are impressive, no matter what! And those absentee ballots are believed to be overwhelmingly blue. That means PA and MI are still very much in play, and results may not be officially declared until later today or tomorrow. Stay patient and stay hopeful. Don’t give into your fear or despondency — that’s how they win. . Image via @themeteor!

A post shared by Phillip Picardi (@pfpicardi) on

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.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Whatever self care means to you, it’s never a waste of time.

A post shared by We Are Missoma (@missomalondon) on

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.

Trend #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.

Expect classic all-American iconography such as coffee cup characters, spiked price stickers, and smiley faced fruits — with visuals reminiscent of American diner menus and cookbooks from the 60s.

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.

Trend #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.

Later’s Creative Design Lead Chin Tan explains how fonts can be pivotal for a brand’s identity:

“By investing in a good unique font, you can easily create assets that are identifiable as part of your brand,” Chin explains.

“It’s an easy way for brands to make their mark, quite literally, on Instagram.”

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.

Trend #8: Digital Stickers

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

 

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???? Help your head ????

A post shared by @ broccoli__boy on

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.

Trend #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.

For example, Alfred’s looping GIF below is simple to create, but eye-catching and modern:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

It’s what’s on the inside that counts ????

A post shared by Alfred (@alfred) on

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.

Ready to get started? Discover 11 Apps for Creating Animated Instagram Posts here.

Trend #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.

“Trends are great for inspiration, but you should always think about adding details to tie them back to your brand.” advises Later’s Graphic Designer Martina Freyer.

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

Ready to make your creative mark on Instagram? Start planning, previewing and scheduling your Instagram posts with Later today!

 

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Written By

Jillian Warren

Jillian is a content marketer at Later based in the UK. She is an aficionado of London brunch spots and an avid listener of true crime podcasts. You can connect with her on Instagram @jillwrren.

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