Art deco will be the visual language of 2021

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Who am I to say this? You’re right. I can’t tell for certain what will or won’t make a comeback, but I have a feeling Art Deco will. At least our own interpretation of it.

And I’m here for it if it happens.

Over the past few decades, we’ve gone from limited and costly technology to having mainframe computer performance on our wrists. We built so fast, we focused on the bare essentials. We celebrated function over form. We did the minimalist aesthetic to death, our phones becoming standardized aluminum rectangles, our living rooms resembling a doctor’s office. The ultimate high? A white desk with a single, potted succulent on top.

Visit any restaurant or coffee shop today and it will look familiar. Walk through an airport in Singapore or Amsterdam and you could be in a New York shopping district. Our products and interfaces echo Apple’s. Our outfits are Everlane-issued uniforms. The best thing happening to the automobile industry has been Tesla, which still looks exactly how you’d expect it to – a car. Minimalism has made everything the same.

Do you prefer white or matte black? Gold or rose gold? Now that we’ve operated within this world for a while, I have to wonder: What’s next?

Every trend is an answer to the movement preceding it, and minimalism has just about had its run. We are emotional and sentimental beings; we survive on self-expression. We will forever return to what has colored society since humans first walked the earth: art.

The welcome return of Art Deco

Art Deco emerged right before World War I and found its footing in the early 1920s, as did the artists responsible for it. The style borrowed from many sources and art forms, some of them contradicting. It was bright and vivid. Ornate, geometric, luxurious. It was an ode to craftsmanship. It signaled the future.

The style appeared in architecture, furniture, jewelry, graphic design, fashion, automobiles, ocean liners – even products like vacuums. Art Deco was lavish, made with expensive materials and great effort. It wasn’t too concerned with cost or function. It was a celebration of beauty and creativity.

Then new industrial methods came along. So did the Great Depression. Art Deco was soon deemed indulgent and evolved into a more subdued version of itself (Streamline Moderne), which was eventually followed by modernism (Bauhaus and the likes). We continued stripping it back and stripping it back some more, bringing us to now.

We have arrived at a somewhat cold and lonely aesthetic, devoid of any sense of our identifying quality as humans: the ability to dream.

As we rebuild the world in 2021, I believe we will be searching for the soul so starkly missing from the minimalist world of the last two decades. Perhaps we will find our own adaptation of Art Deco – something that’s streamlined and technological, maybe a bit more economical, yet at the same time celebratory. Something that recognizes the role of beauty in function.

We’re at an interesting point in time. We spent the past couple of decades developing and iterating new technologies. We are currently experiencing, for the first time, what it means to be globally connected. Perhaps the coming years will remind us how to be more human. More ourselves again.

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