Playfulness and fun drive latest design trends


After a year like no other, playfulness is key as people look for comfort and lightheartedness in a world full of uncertainty

To state the obvious, it’s been a turbulent year. With vaccination programmes now underway both sides of the pond and a tentative end in sight, there is a cautious sense of optimism – although it definitely feels as though we are walking a tightrope to freedom. A year into lockdown, the future is still anything but certain.

Amidst all this uncertainty, design trends are using the semiotics of fun to transport us to better times – playful design cues provide a moment of relief.  We’ve picked out three main design elements at play here: vibrancy, childlike graphics, and unpretentious typography.

Vibrant block colours, often contrasting to add even more emphasis, immediately grab attention, boost the mood, and are visually disruptive. A lot of the time it’s the colours that are doing the work on pack – the Ingredients Matter laundry box design is clean and simple; the colours themselves draw the eye in. Bright primary colours evoke a sense of nostalgia – the Culture Pop soda cans for example are reminiscent of something found in a childhood classroom or playground.

Bold illustrative design, combined with bright colours, evokes a sense of playful creativity – you only have to look to McDonald’s recent redesign to see simple childlike graphics and imagery. With design agency Pearlfisher aiming for the new look to be “more connected and evocative of McDonald’s’ playful point-of-view”, the simplistic wholesomeness inspires trust.

Brooklyn Brewery’s pop-art inspired design for their new hazy IPA – the aptly-named  Pulp Art – is a nod to NYC’s artistic heritage. Through polka dots, cartoon-like bold lines, and bright pinks, blues and yellows, it exudes childlike fun and energy. The design was put together by Glasgow agency Thirst Craft with a brief to“democratise hazy IPAs”, and this playful visual identity certainly makes for an unpretentious brand image. It feels just as welcoming to the mainstream masses as it does to the craft beer connoisseur.

The design’s youthful joy extends beyond packaging alone. Brooklyn Brewery has visualised an entire  brand world that celebrates the artistry and creativity behind the look, bringing their effervescent visual identity off pack, from prints, to socks, to beanies.

Clean typography suggests lightheartedness – flat, simple fonts hark back to days of childhood letter printing and underpin a friendly and approachable brand image.

Olio Studio worked on the design for Steamies, a new line of steamed eggs. The clean typeface is laid-back and relaxed – particularly in its cheerful yellow tone, not far off from Pantone’s 2021 Colour of the Year. Supported by other elements on pack like fun variant descriptors – Scootin’, Blastin’, Ramblin’ – and playful graphics – a chicken on a bicycle, scooter, or rocket – the design presents a joyful and upbeat brand personality.

Sparkling water brand Sound plays into this trend with their recent rebrand, unveiled earlier this month. The sans-serif and lower-case typeface is unpretentious in its simplicity, and paired with retro graphics and 70s-inspired colourways, the overall vibe is nostalgic, easy-going and carefree.

Beyond pack design, Sound have built this carefree feel into their brand identity. They explain that their new brand motif, inspired by the ’S’ in Sound, is a “visual representation of a state of flow—a sense of fluidity between body and spirit… It conveys movement and balance, fluidity and fun.”

Highlighting issues around food waste and teaming up with plant-based companies for Instagram giveaways, Sound’s contemporary values work in harmony with their nostalgic design. A retro rebrand with decidedly modern appeal, Sound’s new look perfectly illustrates the current design landscape.


It’s easy to see the appeal of these playful design elements. Reminiscent of a simpler time, they provide a sense of escapism, taking us back to a life before masks and when Corona was still just a beer.


After a year that has turned life itself on its head, design has a real part to play in providing us all a source of comfort and relief – easing the strains of lockdown life until the world gets back on its feet again.