Where is the Instagram Aesthetic Headed in 2021?

By Jillian Warren

Published November 26, 2020

10 minute read

Instagram aesthetic trends are constantly evolving — but what does 2021 hold for your feed?


Stay on top of the biggest social media marketing trends!

Instagram aesthetic trends are constantly evolving — but what does 2021 hold for your feed?

From the rise of Instagram Reels to perfectly-timed memes, your Instagram feed is about to be more creative and engaging than ever before.

Discover all the aesthetic trends to watch out for on Instagram in 2021, as well as how to use them to grow your business or brand:

What Does the Future Hold for the Instagram Aesthetic in 2021:

The Instagram world moves fast, and when it comes to creative trends, things can change almost overnight.

You need to have your finger on the pulse if you want to convert visitors into followers, and followers into customers.

And with a complex Instagram algorithm to compete with, you need to make sure your posts are standing out from the crowd and delivering for your business.

Ready to get ahead of the curve? Here are the top Instagram aesthetic trends for 2021:

  1. The rise of Reels

  2. Visual brand storytelling

  3. Inclusivity and accessibility

  4. The no-edit edit

  5. Text-heavy carousel posts for cause advocacy

  6. Community-led content

  7. Animated elements

  8. Hand-drawn layers

  9. Contextual shoppable posts

  10. Old-school interfaces

  11. Grit and grain

  12. Memes

Instagram Aesthetic Trends #1: The Rise of Reels

Instagram Reels are one of the hottest trends on Instagram right now, and they’re everywhere. There’s even a new shortcut to discover Reels on the main Instagram navigation menu.

But what does this mean for the Instagram aesthetic?

In short, things are about to get a whole lot more creative — with fast, fun, and engaging video clips taking center stage.

Thanks to Instagram Reels’ advanced editing tools, it’s now easier than ever to create professional-looking videos with perfectly-timed text overlays and special effects.

In terms of visual aesthetic, Reels can be filmed with any filter from Instagram’s huge library — from grainy film effects to soft fall hues.

And for those concerned about disrupting a perfectly curated grid aesthetic, you can add a custom cover image before you hit publish.

However, having a perfect aesthetic is less important when it comes to Instagram Reels.

The focus should be on creating engaging content that captures your audience’s attention and delivers *reel* value.

Ready to jump into the world of Instagram Reels? Learn everything you need to know in this step-by-step video:

Instagram Aesthetic Trends #2: Visual Brand Storytelling

In 2021, your brand’s Instagram profile is as important (if not more so) as your website.

More than ever before, potential customers are using the Instagram app to search for brands and businesses rather than Google.

And first impressions count.

This is why we’re seeing so many brands invest in their branding and visual storytelling on Instagram — it’s one of the best ways to build a large and engaged following.

To tap into this trend, take a look at your profile image, Instagram Stories Highlights covers, and the top 9-12 Instagram posts.

Are they all working together to tell a clear and consistent story about your brand?

If not, you could be missing an opportunity to convert visitors into followers, and followers into customers!

TIP: With Later’s free Instagram Visual Planner, you can visually plan your Instagram feed in advance — so you can make sure your visuals are always on point.

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.

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

Instagram Aesthetic Trends #3: Inclusivity and Accessibility

Inclusivity should never be a “trend,” but there is a positive shift happening on Instagram right now — and one that shouldn’t just be status quo in 2021, but forever.  

Brands are stepping up and actively representing their communities through their content, whether it’s by diversifying the imagery they share or making posts more accessible with subtitles and alt text.

Being inclusive is also one of the best ways to strengthen the sense of community around your brand.

Sharing content that reflects your audience can help members of your community to feel represented, which can also be a powerful way to show you’re here for all of your followers regardless of shape, age, gender, race, orientation, ability, and beyond.

Instagram Aesthetic Trends #4: The No-Edit Edit

Long gone are the days of harsh edits and pumped up saturation — the “no-edit edit” is the trend everyone is lusting over in 2021.

We’re talking tiny tweaks, a hint of color change, and saying goodbye to unrealistic edits. Check out how influencer @jlbabe has adopted this minimal style in her feed:

This minimal edit trend goes hand-in-hand with the rise of authentic content on Instagram.

We’re seeing tons of brands and businesses getting on board and showing a more honest and vulnerable side to their brand.

When you can showcase the good with the bad, the struggles along with the wins, your brand will be more relatable to your audience.

Instagram Aesthetic Trends #5: Text-heavy Carousel Posts for Cause Advocacy

More than ever before, people expect the brands they support to have a clear stance on social causes on Instagram.

Over the last 12 months, brands have taken to Instagram to inform their communities on issues ranging from politics to social justice, often using text-heavy carousel posts.

When done right, brands can make a real difference to a movement they care about — while also building their brand identity and values.

However, supporting a social cause on social media should be approached with sensitivity and careful consideration.

Brands that succumb to tokenism can face a negative backlash, especially if their corporate actions don’t align with their stance on social media.

Looking for inspiration on how to support a cause on social? Check out these 9 Brands Driving Meaningful Change on Instagram.

Instagram Aesthetic Trends #6: Community-led Content

User-generated content isn’t the newest trend, but it’s one that’s growing massively on Instagram.

Brands like Lush Cosmetics rely almost entirely on community-led content for their Instagram feed (below), and the benefits are twofold.

Not only does it allow you to diversify your posts and better represent your community, but it’s also the best way to crowd-source beautiful, scroll-stopping content for your feed.

Plus, by featuring the voices of your community you’re also showing that you’re actively listening to your audience, which is the best way to encourage participation and drive momentum for your social campaigns.

TIP: Later’s UGC tools automatically pull in all the posts you’ve been mentioned or tagged in into an easy-to-use dashboard.

Later will maintain the high-quality resolution of the original post (no screenshots needed here) and will automatically add the handle of the user who originally posted it.

Improve your UGC workflow with Later’s user-generated content tools — source, schedule and repost UGC to your feed in minutes! Upgrade to get access now!

Instagram Aesthetic Trends #7: Animated Elements

If you want to keep up with the trends, you’ll need to think beyond static imagery.

Video is officially where it’s at in 2021, and it’s easier to get creative than you might think.

We’re talking about small and simple animation, like a twinkling star, flashing text, or a moving element in the background.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a motion designer to try this trend. There are several apps you can use to get the look for less.

Adobe Spark and Pixaloop make 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.

Instagram Aesthetic Trends #8: Hand-drawn Layers

Collages have been trending on Instagram for years, but the most recent sub-trend includes hand-drawn, scrapbook-inspired elements.

This fresh take is all about adding extra layers of detail to imagery and can be a fun way to ramp up the visual intrigue for your posts.

You can use this trend to add quick annotations about your products or services, or simply just to add an extra dimension to your imagery.

And this trend is super easy to recreate. The Over app has tons of customizable graphics that can be added to your images, while PicsArt has an automated Sketch effect.

You can also download Later’s free Instagram Overlay Stickers pack, which can be used to add a bright pop of color, set a fun and playful tone, and bring extra personality to your posts.

Instagram Aesthetic Trends #9: Contextual Shoppable Posts

In case you missed it, e-commerce is now a big deal on Instagram.

With a new Shop menu shortcut, curated shoppable feeds, and the rollout of Instagram Checkout, Instagram is on a mission to turn the app into a streamlined shopping experience.

As a result, we’re seeing more brands sharing shoppable posts on Instagram.

This trend is only set to grow in 2021, as Instagram continues to add new contextualized shopping features.

For example, the Instagram Guides feature allows creators to curate a selection of shoppable products, while Shopping from Creators allows approved influencers to tag products directly in their posts and stories.

Learn how to take your shoppable posts to the next level with our Ultimate Guide to Instagram Shopping.

Instagram Aesthetic Trends #10: Old-school Interfaces

This Instagram aesthetic trend is all about the interfaces of yesteryear.

From retro Windows applications to nostalgic mobile phone screens, 90s tech is seriously trending right now.

Fortunately, this is one trend that’s really easy to emulate. Later teamed up with design app Storyluxe to create Instagram Stories templates that are perfect for this trend:

Download the Storyluxe app (iOS) to get your free Instagram Stories templates!

Instagram Aesthetic Trends #11: Grit and Grain

Alongside the no-edit edit, we’re also seeing a new wave of gritty, vintage camera-inspired edits.

From noise-enhancing dust effects to grainy black and white snaps, low-fi is officially à la mode.

To recreate this trend, you can use an editing app like Over or VSCO to ramp up the grain, Afterlight to add dust and light leak filters, or Filmm to apply vintage camcorder effects to videos.

TIP: Level-up this aesthetic trend by adding retro-inspired yellow subtitles to a black and white image or video using the Tezza app.

Instagram Aesthetic Trends #12: Memes

Memes are taking Instagram by storm, and this is a trend that is only set to grow in 2021.

From comical to cultural, memes are a great way to resonate with your audience base.

A post shared by MORE THAN FASHION (@asos)

Plus, memes are highly shareable, which makes them a smart growth hack for any brand looking to reach new audiences.

Whichever aesthetic trends you choose to try out in 2021, you can preview your Instagram grid before you post with Later’s Visual Planner:

Once you’ve uploaded your photos, you can drag and drop your content to create a perfectly on-trend feed. Or, if a photo edit just doesn’t work in your lineup, you can remove it completely.

Jumping on board a new Instagram aesthetic trend? It’s never been easier! Plan, preview, and schedule your Instagram posts with Later — for free!

Like This Post? Pin It! ????

Stay on top of the biggest social media marketing trends!


12 min read

The 12 Best Photo Editing Apps for Instagram

By Jillian Warren

7 min read

How to Visually Plan Your Instagram Feed

By Jillian Warren

10 min read

The Top 10 Instagram Design Trends for 2021

By Jillian Warren