2021 Design Trends: Sustainable Design, Advanced Technologies and More

January 14, 2021

With the start of a brand new year, many of us anticipate the latest trends that will be making an appearance in the following months. Whether it be the latest updates and releases in smartphone technology and 5G or the next era of fashion, every industry looks forward to welcoming another year with fresh ideas, greater motivation, and a sense of renewed inspiration. 

2020 was a whirlwind of a year where much of what we were looking forward to was replaced with indefinite times of remote work, replanning of priorities, and making the immediate and dramatic shift into a novel business climate. Especially in the industry of commercial design, space planners, architects, interior designers have all had to make the overnight change and rethink how to approach designing education spaces, offices and even HVAC systems. 

So much has changed in the realm of design in just a matter of months, and it’s inevitable that the global pandemic will continue being the dependent variable until we are able to protect ourselves from the virus. However, in 2021, we can all step into the brand new year with greater confidence and opportunities to push the bounds of creativity and design after spending the time building our foundations in social distancing and other guidelines that will reduce transmission risk. 

So let’s explore some 2021 design trends and other points of inspiration we can expect this year. 


Fresh Ideas: Ethical Design

Prior to our COVID-19 era, sustainable living and choosing green became a primary focus for both businesses and individuals. Consumer tastes, preferences, and habits experienced a great shift as more knowledge and information about the effects of single-use plastics and the astronomical amount of waste families and businesses could produce in just a single day. However, come Spring of 2020, many of these efforts spearheaded by environment enthusiasts had quickly come to a scathing halt when the pandemic was at its full force. 

While the pandemic has certainly driven a wedge in many people’s efforts to live a more sustainable lifestyle, industry experts say that we’ll be seeing a resurgence in going green in the new year. Whether it be dedicating more time and resources to recycling or including “healthier” materials, one definite design trend that will be re-emerging is a commitment to ethical design and practices. However, one trend we’re excited to see is the continued exploration with advanced technologies. 




Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, Virtual Reality and other immersive technologies have become a crucial tool in a designer’s toolbox. Not only are most platforms remote and accessible from most common devices, but the experience gives clients as well as team members the chance to step into a space, currently existing or yet to be built, anywhere at any time. Plus, with the flexibility that VR offers, users can create an infinite number of mockups and samples without consuming materials and other resources. And with projects that would be way too expensive to create a physical sample or replica, VR is a fantastic and lower cost option to showcase your project that could be otherwise an ill-advised use of resources. 


Greater Motivation: Prepping for Returning to Offices 

Whether you’re already back in the office or have yet to return since last year, we all should be preparing to return to the office later in 2021. Countries have already started to vaccinate their populations, and by the latter end of this year, we all may be able to return to the office without fear of further spreading the virus. With that in mind, the office we left when we started our time working remotely will and must look different from the one we will return to this year. 

For starters, spaces will need to observe and abide by the widely accepted regulations such as social distancing 6-feet apart, regular disinfecting and sanitising of surfaces, and enforcing face masks and coverings in shared spaces.  


“The global pandemic has fundamentally changed how we live, learn and work. People have new needs and expectations, requiring shifts in the way we think about buildings and the workplace. It’s time to move forward and use what we’ve learned to make work better.”



In 2021, brand new design principles will start to emerge, such as switching from fixed to flexible solutions, weaving the digital and physical office, and further support for individuals and team work. However, the period of remote work has been used as a point of inspiration for designers, creating structures for personal space and individual work, places for safe collaboration, and redesigning our social spaces to foster a sense of connection while keeping a safe distance away. And one trend we will continue to see is designers pushing the bounds of aesthetically pleasing, functional yet risk-free areas that we will continue to use this year and beyond.


Renewed Inspiration: Colour of the Year

The Colour of the Year has been an ongoing tradition among the design community where colour experts from Pantone and Benjamin Moore share their take on what shade best represents the year to come. Previous years have included Pantone’s Living Coral, predicting 2019 will be a year of encouraging lightheartedness and greater connection with others and Behr’s Back to Nature, reminding us how precious and fragile our natural world is currently. With the pandemic causing a complete 180-degree shift in people's lives, the 2021 Colour of the Year selection captures what this year will feel like. 


Benjamin Moore 2021 Aegean Teal


Benjamin Moore

Aegean Teal 2136-40 is Benjamin Moore’s pick for their 2021 Colour of the Year. This faded yet bold shade features its sunbaked hues, breathing comfort and life into any space. Along with Aegean Teal, Benjamin Moore’s primary focus in their 2021 colour palette selection is to highlight and take in all the simple pleasures in life, producing a sense of peace and serenity. 


pantone 2021



Unlike previous years, Pantone has chosen 2 shades for their Colour(s) of the Year - Ultimate Gray and Illuminating. Their selection this year is pretty spot on with describing how many of us view 2020 and the hope that the new year brings. Pantone notes that these two shades were specifically chosen for their warmth and dependability, showcasing how differing elements come together to “express a message of positivity supported by fortitude”. 


Behr 2021 colour of the year



Behr’s 2021 colour selections feature multiple shades ranging from shades of ocean blue to muted earth tones. The main themes from Behr this year gather around hues that produce calm, comfort, and a slowed down casual approach to life. Much of their focus surrounds the main theme of our best hopes and wishes for a brand new year after so much trial and difficulty. 


Get Ready for 2021

We hope that these 2021 design trends have been able to inspire and give you a few ideas for the coming new year. Especially as we look forward to returning to our desks, catching up (from a distance of course) with colleagues, and getting back into a sense of normalcy, 2021 will be the year where we have learned and built our foundation and now we are all freely to go and create. 

Are you ready for 2021?

To learn more about Virtual Reality and how it can transform your design processes, sign up for our free 5-day email course today! If you have any further questions or would like to speak with someone from our team, feel free to reach out to us - we would love to chat with you.

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Rachel Chan

Rachel Chan

Rachel is a writer for Yulio, covering all things VR. With a keen interest in creativity and innovation, Rachel enjoys seeing how businesses use VR in their workflow, and how they have been transformed by it.