2021 Surface Design Trends and a Few Freebies

Trends are incredibly important in the world of surface pattern design. We’re typically selling our designs to retailers who want to successfully sell an end product. The more popular the product the better it will sell, and surface designs are a huge contributor to the bottom line. 

That being said, I don’t believe trends should be the end-all-be-all of your design decisions. It’s equally important to be true to your own style. If you don’t like a trend, or don’t feel like it fits with your aesthetic, don’t worry about it. But, if there’s a trend that fits with your style, incorporating it into your work, in your own unique way, may help you gain more traction in licensing or sales.

So, let’s take a look at what’s trending for 2021… 

Pantone’s Colors of the Year 

Pantone’s big announcement of colors (plural) of the year came in December. This year they’ve selected two colors, a vibrant yellow and a versatile gray, i.e. “the light at the end of the tunnel” to represent 2021, and I think it brilliantly captures the essence of 2021. But, it does take time for Pantone’s color(s) of the year to filter down into the market, so we may not see a lot of these colors until 2022. (We’re still seeing a lot of Pantone’s color of the year from 2019, Living Coral.) 

Lively Botanicals 

Florals and fronds have been motifs in design patterns for literally hundreds of years, taking on different iterations through the decades. The botanical trend is going strong into 2021, and it will be decidedly lively and exuberant. As we all hunkered down during 2020, the natural world became a safe way to escape our homes. The pull towards nature has been brought into surface pattern design. 

Apartment Therapy named a beautiful, free-flowing botanical pattern their annual pattern of the year. The pattern, titled Wander, is designed by the super talented artist Jess Franks.

Classic Symmetry 

On the other hand, we’re seeing a resurgence of classical architecture and references to antiquity. Think pedestals, columns, arches, and decorative busts. When our world is chaotic, it makes sense that we seek comfort in order, symmetry, and simplicity. 

In terms of pattern design, that means geometric motifs like tiles, stripes, and arches. Arches have been a huge trend for a few years. You may have noticed rainbows are everywhere. The rainbow trend will continue, but I think we’ll see more classic, symmetrical arches, as well. 

Social Justice  

At first, it may seem like a stretch to tie important societal movements to pretty designs on products. And, my intention is certainly not to trivialize these movements, which are hugely important. But, as the age old saying goes, art imitates life, and social movements such as Black Lives Matter and Me Too definitely have a place in the design world. 

We will continue to see diversity and strong female images throughout the design world -- and that’s a good thing.


The hand-drawn doodle trend was big in 2020 and will continue into 2021. This trend is defined by hand-drawn, abstract motifs and Picasso style drawings. A personal favorite, this trend fits perfectly with my own style.

In fact, I've just launched a pack of hand-drawn doodle patterns, Inked Whimsy. I'm giving away a few free patterns from my new pack. Grab these patterns for a head start on the doodle trend. Sign-up for my newsletter to get the password to the freebies area (and access to all future freebies!).

Here are the patterns you'll get: 

And, if you're loving the doodle trend, the full pack is available for $12
(30% off) for a limited time.

All the best to you and your families this year. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2021!