Sairah Ashman, CEO at global brand design agency, Wolff Olins, outlines the biggest shifts in branding and design that emerged in 2021 and makes predictions for the top trends to watch out for in 2022.
Like anything else, design is greatly impacted by changes and shifts in culture, society and the wider world. The disruption, uncertainty and chaos brought about by the pandemic has seen a veritable explosion of new trends emerge in 2021 that will no doubt shape and inform how brands communicate and interact with consumers, now and in the years to come.
The social commerce boom, alongside the increased number of brands experimenting in the metaverse, from Coca Cola to Balenciaga, is sparking a shift from deep and meaningful brand relationships to brands being seen as more of a connective platform in our lives, in the mould of YouTube or Spotify. In light of this, brands will be increasingly focusing on creating more impactful social and virtual interactions with consumers; a clear outcome of the pandemic.
One of the biggest emerging brand design trends we at Wolff Olins have spotted emerging throughout 2021 is how the metaverse proposes a future VR for the mainstream. Despite the hype, virtual reality remained on the margins pre-pandemic, but as the world has moved further into the metaverse, VR is edging into the mainstream. This push is driven by a combination of factors, including major gaming releases, such as Lone Echo 2 and Half-Life Alyx; the increased demand for VR solutions in areas such as healthcare and the arts; and the rise of hybrid events in every sphere from business conferences to music festivals.
Health and wellbeing dominates the latest design trends, with demand for health and wellness products soaring. Wearable tech that monitors and tracks everything from sleep to heart rate has risen in popularity as people have turned their attention to lifestyle, diet and overall wellness. Also, as high-net-worth individuals spent so much on their health during the pandemic (20% more than pre-pandemic, according to Bupa), travel operators and hotel brands are focusing on integrating wellness into their customer experience.
Tone of voice will also change over the coming year and the smart brands will be able to emulate or join pop culture movements. Fintech brands will credibly and authentically find ways to reveal their fun side, drawing and illustration in the style and freedom of kids’ work will emerge and crypto will finally make that hop from nerdy to mainstream by using the right cultural touchstones.
Finally, typography. The days of Helvetica obsession are long gone and character in type is making brands stand out. Look for custom designed fonts and typefaces, psychedelic lettering and mixed or clashing typefaces to challenge expectations.
From fashion to core values, the emergent themes of 2021 are going to explode through the new year and through real life into the virtual world. Although there will always be uncertainty around the pandemic and how it may change business practice, what we can be sure of is the creative response and experimentation around these predictions that will keep brand activity fresh and entertaining, whether we are in the office or still working from home.