Every year has its “next big thing.” And when the “next big thing” proves it’s here to stay, it evolves from trend to an opportunity for long lasting success. If you don’t want to miss out on the fun, you need to spot these trends as soon as they emerge.
At 99designs by Vistaprint, we’re in the unique position to see which industries are on the rise through the tens of thousands of creative projects launched on the platform by entrepreneurs and small businesses starting something new. Each year, we publish a forecast for what we predict will be some of the year’s breakout industries based on our data. And when you read more about them, you’ll quickly see why these industries are gaining traction right now.
Reviewing the latest trends in the design briefs we received, these are the cutting-edge industries that stand out from all the rest:
When we look at this year’s top emerging industries, we’re discussing trends that are already happening. Mushroom products, alternative alcohol, digital health and branded merchandise are thriving and the data shows these industries are only going to keep growing through 2021. Expect to see more and more of these products everywhere: on ecommerce sites, on store shelves, in ads, in subscription boxes and in your friends’ and loved ones’ homes.
Maitake. Shiitake. Cordyceps. Lion’s Mane. These are just a few of the mushroom varieties that are rocking the health and wellness industry this year.
From 2019 to 2020, the demand for mushroom product branding and design rose 100%. And in the past three years, this demand has risen a whopping 525%. Simply put, people are gushing for mushrooms right now. They want mushroom extracts, mushroom supplements, mushrooms blended into coffee and even mushroom jerky.
Emerging trends rarely exist in a vacuum. When you look back at our top emerging industries for 2019 and 2020, you’ll see a big emphasis on health and wellness. CBD products, biohacking, plant-based foods and AI healthcare were a few of the big players, and with these in perspective, it’s easy to see why buyers and entrepreneurs are embracing mushrooms in 2021.
Though your mind might immediately jump to the push to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in many parts of the US, this is actually just a small component of the emerging mushroom industry. Rather, much like the CBD explosion, mushrooms are seeing a mainstream rediscovery of their therapeutic and medicinal effects, like improved focus and a strengthened immune system. And with a recent global study of 4,000 consumers revealing that 62% of people are open to trying mushroom-based products for their health benefits, it’s a trend that looks like it’s here to stay. (Research from 99designs via Corus, February 2021)
Design trends for mushroom products
When you look at the packaging and other design work for mushroom brands, you’ll see a few overlaps with CBD product design: illustration-style imagery, modern geometric patterns and an overall “modern, edgy health product” look and feel. Only the difference here is, green isn’t the main color like it often is with CBD products. Instead, you’ll see a lot of warm and uplifting tones, with gentle pinks and soothing browns taking center stage.
Another component of the health and wellness trend is that an increasing number of people (largely millennials and Gen Z) are eschewing alcohol. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to enjoy tasty drinks—they just want to enjoy tasty zero-proof drinks like non-alcoholic beer and gin.
Requests for alternative alcohol designs rose 257% in the past three years, shooting up 215% between 2019 and 2020. By alternative alcohol, we don’t mean soft drinks. These products are all about creating non-alcoholic versions of typically alcoholic products like vodka and cocktails.
In a way, this emerging industry stems from the same desire that fuelled the alternative meat industry: many people who cut one category out of their diet want ways to replicate the same sensations without the guilt, like the texture of a beef burger or the ritual of mixing a cocktail after work. Alternative meat and alternative alcohol give consumers the opportunity to have the same pleasurable experience without compromising their commitment to a healthier lifestyle.
The science is clear: alcohol isn’t great for your health. And as part of the growing consciousness around health and wellness, 60% of people globally are planning to change their drinking habits this year—with 1 in 4 wanting to cut out alcohol completely. (99designs via Corus)
But they’re less interested in giving up the thing most commonly paired with alcohol: socializing. So to step in and fill that gap, new brands are cropping up and providing non-alcoholic versions of the spirits and beers people love, offering up a healthier way to party. And for the folks who still want to enjoy a buzz now and then, there are promising new products in research and development designed to elicit alcohol’s desirable effects like a boosted mood and reduced inhibition without its negative effects like hangovers.
Design trends for alternative alcohol products
These alternative alcohols look almost identical to their full-proof counterparts, using high-end designs that are either extremely modern with bold shapes and colors or classically gorgeous with intricate gold accents.
In most cases, you have to read the label to see that a product is booze-free. Their entire purpose is to replicate everything positive about alcohol while eliminating its negative aspects, and one of those positives is beautiful, eye-catching bottle, label and can design.
Knowing that consumers often like to display their bottles on shelves and bar carts, designers in this space generally design with the goal of creating something display-worthy, whether on its own or alongside its alcoholic counterparts.
In 2020, we had to adapt to doing everything online, even the things we weren’t used to doing like happy hours and commencement ceremonies. Going to the doctor and staying healthy was no different. As the pandemic forced people to stay home, the use of digital health services surged—driving us to see a 103% increase in projects from 2019 to 2020.
Though digital healthcare was spurred on by the pandemic, it’s not a flash-in-the-pan trend. Over the past three years, we’ve seen the demand for design work in this space rise 176%.
As we mentioned above, industries don’t emerge out of nowhere. With so many people around the world still under stay-at-home orders, having access to at-home healthcare and wellness services delivered via screen is essential. In 2020, we quickly realized that some things can totally be done virtually, including things we might not have thought about doing digitally before.
This is one trend that’s here to stay: 93% of people who have used digital and online health services in the past year are planning to continue using them in 2021 and beyond. (99designs via Corus)
Alongside fitness classes and medical appointments, another specific area where digital has become a great go-to is the field of mental health. As people struggled with the difficulties that accompany a global pandemic, the demand for therapy grew. And because face-to-face interaction was significantly limited, the demand for virtual therapy and support exploded. According to Medical News Today, many therapy patients actually prefer online therapy to face-to-face. Because the screen can help therapy sessions feel more confidential than those conducted in an office, the rise of digital can also help break the stigma that still surrounds mental healthcare for many.
Design trends for digital health products
One of the first things you’ll notice about the digital health designs this year is the use of the color green. Shades of green (and other cool colors) read as calming and soothing, which puts peoples’ minds at ease when they’re receiving care (especially when they’re receiving it digitally, something that’s completely new to most patients!) Green is also the color of rejuvenation and life, which emphasizes the entire purpose of healthcare: wellness. You’ll also see a lot of warm and comforting illustration-style imagery that doesn’t feel perfect, but organic—particularly for mental health apps.
People have always loved stuff. But in 2021, people are embracing “stuff” like they’ve never embraced it before, showing brands just how valuable it is to invest in high quality merchandise.
Sure, there will always be a need for inexpensive swag like pens and branded sticky notes, but there’s a growing demand for pieces that foster brand engagement for the long haul like sweatshirts, mugs and hats.
In the past three years, we’ve seen a 134% increase in project briefs for branded merch on 99designs, and from 2019 to 2020, the category jumped 32%.
The merch trend isn’t limited to just one industry. All kinds of businesses, from hair salons to bars to bookstores, are sending their brands home with their fans through expertly designed merchandise.
In fact, it isn’t just brick-and-mortar businesses who are getting in on the merch game—we’re also seeing digital brands like influencers release their merch on the market to build communities and boost engagement.
When you’re forced to stay home every day, you start to miss the things you took for granted: your local coffee shop, the public library, restaurants you dined at frequently and even the places you had to drag yourself to, like the gym (well, some of us at least).
2020 made us appreciate those businesses more, triggering the need to show our support for the brands we love and to own a piece of them. In fact, more than half of us (52%) purchased branded merchandise of some kind this year—and a whopping 81% of those purchases were to support a small business during the pandemic. (99designs via Corus) Simply put, merch feels more meaningful when it’s the only connection you’ve got to a brand you love.
Design trends for merch
When people buy merch, they don’t want something generic with a logo slapped on it. They want a work of art. And as you look through the design trends emerging in the merch space this year, you’ll notice that as widely as they vary style-wise, the most successful and effective feel like they were designed by artists, rather than generated for pure brand exposure.
Though many items of merch do incorporate their brands’ logos and colors, there are no hard and fast rules in this space—lots of the best merchandise instead takes a more fun, less overt approach and incorporates brand elements into the design in a subtle way.
Want to get a closer look at these emerging industries?
Every year, new industries and consumer trends gain traction and manage to capture our attention and our credit card details. 2021 will be no different.
This year, we’re seeing the health and wellness industry continue going strong, but with a few new top players thrown into the mix. And right there alongside them, we’ve got the merch industry carving out a bigger, more prominent spot for itself as brands find new ways to engage with customers and fans where they are right now: at home.
Want to learn more about these four up-and-coming industries for 2021?
Industry growth data sourced from design contests and creative branding projects completed on the 99designs by Vistaprint platform between January 2018 and January 2021.
Consumer trends and behavior data sourced by 99designs via market research company Corus in February 2021. 4,178 responses were collected online from North America (1,169), Australia (1,006), DACH (1,001) and the UK (1,002).