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7 Animation and Motion Design Trends in 2021

Tom May, Created

With live-action filming at an all-time low in 2020, motion design and animation is having a major moment. Niche disciplines have become mainstream when it comes to branding and entertainment content. So how will motion design and animation keep evolving in 2021?

Here are seven motion design trends we predict will reach new heights now 2020’s over – thank goodness!

1. Minimalist and line art styles

In 2020, for better or worse, our lives all became significantly smaller and simpler. 

One such motion design trend reflects this, with more minimalist animation styles, often involving line art.

For examples and inspiration, check out the launch campaign for telecomms company Guuk by Summer, Mehdi Alibeygi’s series on legendary soccer players, or Ted-Ed’s animation about the hidden story of Rosa Parks.

The technique is also increasingly popular for explainer videos, such as Amazon’s guide to its AWS platform.

2. Illustrative approach

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, audiences everywhere are much more used to animation replacing live-action, particularly in adverts. But the standard ‘vector animation’ look is starting to all look a bit samey and repetitive. In 2021, we’re likely to see a trend toward more illustrative and expressive styles of animation popping up on our screens.

Recent examples include Nomint’s spot for yoghurt brand Mama Lama, inspired by the style of illustrated children’s books; Darcy Prendergast’s film Tomorrow’s On Fire, about the Australian bush fires; and MailChimp’s exquisitely odd explainer video.

3. Hybrid techniques

One animation trend we’re likely to see is a revival of hybrid approaches: combining two or more different styles. For instance, many are trying to stand out by blending animation and live video together. Top examples include Nucco Brain’s energetic work for Tottenham Hotspur and Golden Wolf’s surreal and psychedelic spot for Crown Apple.

Others have instead created a point of difference by mixing 2D and 3D animation styles, such as AlterEgo’s passion project Not My Job: How Trump Failed Us and VMLY&R’s much-praised commercial for Viagra Connect. We’ll see this animation trend in 2021 and beyond, trust us.

4. Vertical animations

For decades now, the standard aspect ratio for animation and video has been the pleasingly cinematic 16:9. But with more and more of us consuming mobile-shot, vertical content on Instagram Live, Facebook Live and TikTok, that’s starting to change.

Young animators like Maddi Winter, Lulu aka TootyMcNooty, Alex Rabbit and Abnormal Chaos are now purposely producing vertical work as a way of making a name on TikTok. Now the recent threat to ban TikTok in the US has gone, we’re expecting brands to enthusiastically jump on board with the trend in 2021.

5. Better gender balance

Animation has long been a male-dominated industry and profession. One survey in 2018 showed women made up just 18 per cent of employees in the story department and 16 per cent of animators. But with the Me Too movement and a general push for equal rights around the world, things seem to be (slowly) changing. Here’s hoping initiatives like the Women in Animation World Virtual Summit and the community can carry on thriving in 2021 and beyond.

P.S the co-founder of, Bee Grandinetti, hosted one of our Created Lates events and was also a mentor.

6. Increased demand for motion design

There’s bound to be an increased demand for motion design in 2021, for two reasons.

One, because live action production around the globe is still restricted and brands and studios are wary of investing in projects they might have to abandon during new lockdowns.

Two, society has shifted from physical retail to digital commerce, so brands and platforms want extra wow-factor to keep customers in a super-competitive environment.

Generally, motion design is getting more important across the media landscape. Video game title sequences, for example, are an increasingly big deal, as seen in the hype around the cinematic credits for Far Cry 6 back in July.

7. Technological advances

Another reason motion design and animation will be ever more important in 2021 is tech advances. High Dynamic Range imaging, for example, will bring a whole new dimension to how we see colour on our TVs and smart devices.

The evolution from 4K to 8K will speed up the need for new, high-quality content to entertain and engage audiences. Especially as all the back-catalogue shows and films locked-down audiences have been bingeing, are rapidly running out…

Whatever happens in the wider world, motion design is going to be an increasingly important and lucrative skill for any creative to have in 2021.

To get on board, check out Created’s Motion Design Foundation and Motion Design Professional courses. Get the training you need to succeed.

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