Sports Design Trends of 2021

Written by Ali Rahmoun · 15 minutes read · 15 comments

sports design trends of 2021

The Sports Design Industry loves its trends. With teams and brands focusing on consistent content creation in order to engage with their fans and consumers, especially in the era of Covid-19, designers are constantly trying to find ways to push their work in the digital realm. Now that 2021 is in full swing, SportsTemplates is examining some of the trends we’ve been observing throughout #smsports.

01 Collage

Collage is a visual art form that can be traced back to the invention of paper in China around 200 B.C. It involves assembling pieces of various elements (textures, magazine clippings, photographs, etc.) in order to create a new whole. Collage was popularized in the modern era of visual art by Cubist painters Pablo Picasso and George Braque.
Below are some of our favorite ways digital designers at professional sports organizations have been adapting physical imagery and texture with digital shapes in their work, thus modernizing collage in a way that is appealing to fans in #smsports. With the recent rebrand of Twitter, this trend will likely continue.

02 Peeling Paper/Distressed Stickers

Even though paper and distressed stickers seemed to take over #smsports in 2020, we fully expect this trend to continue given its popularity around the globe. There is something about merging physical elements with digital media that sports designers tend to gravitate towards. Perhaps it’s the perceived tangibility, a tangibility that was synonymous with sports ephemera in the past that seems to be non-existent today. With quality digital assets becoming more accessible for designers, there’ll be no shortage of stickers, peeling or torn paper in the #smports world this year.

03 Textures/Grunge

It seems in the world of fashion, design, and culture, things are cyclical. Just as we are seeing torn jeans and flannel shirts return from the Grunge Era, of music in fashion, it should be no surprise we are seeing the grunge design scene return reflecting an early Web 2.0 aesthetic. Personally speaking, I am a fan of what is known in product design circles as skeuomorphism, or, the application of texture in a way that design cues are taken from the physical world. The flat design era of digital design became very stodgy and lacking in personality after a while. Applying textures and grunge can give digital design a much-needed element of depth and can make design work stand out against flat user interfaces on Twitter and Instagram timelines.

Be careful though, early on in their careers designers often apply texture as a visual crutch to give a ‘cool factor’ to design. Texture should be applied conceptually and not be overpowering unless the concept calls for it. Information should still be readable and comprehendible since our job as designers is to communicate messaging in a visual way. Here are the SportsTemplates favorites from around the world of #sports.

04 Minimal/One-Color

Sometimes messaging can be best communicated with minimalism. Famous industrial designer Dieter Rams, the man responsible for the design of many products at the German consumer product company Braun (side note: his work inspired former Apple industrial designer Jonny Ive’s design of the first iPod), once said, “Good design is unobtrusive…Good design is as little design as possible”.

As mentioned previously, textures and other elements can be constantly piled onto design making the work too busy and lack a clear idea. It takes tremendous skill to remove elements and limit one’s self to negative space, simple imagery and typography alone. Below are some teams in #smsports that we felt stood out amongst the noise in our busy Twitter timeline through their simplicity and minimal compositions.

05 Gradients

What digital designer doesn’t love a good gradient? Gradients can give variety to your work and are a good way to capitalize on interesting color palettes that already have brand equity due to years of usage on uniforms and memorabilia. A well-constructed gradient perpetuates a feeling of calmness with its soothing convergence of color. Even two colors that seemingly don’t belong together can create an unexpected and interesting visual element. Here are some folks we felt achieved this well in our #smsports feeds:

06 Large Typography

Graphic Design at its basic definition is the marriage of type and image. Typography is the No. 1 thing designers are judged on, much to the chagrin of digital artists who create beautiful composites. If one cannot organize typography with a steady hierarchy, good kerning, and well-paired fonts, the amazing photo illustrations are all for naught when it comes to graphic design.

Sometimes, large and engaging typography paired with minimal imagery is necessary in order to communicate information. In the below pieces, we felt the selected teams did a good job organizing, and sometimes framing, the typography within negative space or in the background as intended in order to create a nice compositional hierarchy in relation to the imagery used.

07 Animation / Motion Graphics

Animation is the lifeblood of social content as we move forward in 2021. Social media is a dynamic medium. Therefore, it makes sense that #smsports creatives are investing time and energy into making their design or photography pieces move to provide a more engaging experience for the viewers. Be it animated gifs, stop motion, or animated short videos, motion content spices up a sports brand’s timeline a way that perhaps the still image cannot. It is often more favorited and shared among fans. Ranging from simple stop motion to complex animation, here are some teams we feel have spanned the motion gamut well in a way that is achievable for any team.

As with anything, the aesthetics of trends are subjective. The aforementioned categories and highlighted digital content are part of the patterns SportsTemplates has recognized and enjoyed in the #smsports space thus far in 2021. There is so much great work out there across leagues, sports, and demographics in the sports world. We are constantly inspired and encourage sports creatives to keep pushing themselves and their work well into the future.


Artwork examples curated and selected by Ali Rahmoun of @SportsTemplate. Words by Adam Martin (@TAdamMartin) of @MakersofSport.

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