Blog: Top 16 Animation Trends In 2021 | LAI Video

Top 16 Animation Trends In 2021

2021 Animation Trends

Renowned graphic designer and filmmaker Saul Bass once explained, “design is thinking made visual.” As companies search for new ways to highlight innovative products and ideas, animators are developing novel approaches to their craft. While new techniques emerge each year, not all are so groundbreaking, effective, or memorable that they raise the industry’s standard of excellence. From minimalistic approaches to highly textured worlds, here are our top animation trends of the year.


  1. Seamlessly Simple
  2. Camera-Tracking Compositing
  3. Mixed-Media
  4. Illustrations
  5. 2D/3D with Scene Transitions
  6. Gradients and Character "Moments"
  7. Floating Shapes and Character "Moments"
  8. Full World-Building
  9. Thin Lines
  10. Virtual Reality
  11. Digital Surrealism
  12. Funny, Discomforting Metaphors
  13. Quickly Digestible Scene Loops for Social Media
  14. Unexpected, Loud Colors
  15. Retro Comfort Food
  16. Lo-Fi Approach

Keep reading for explanations and examples of these techniques.


Using this approach, brands apply motion to the “building blocks” of visual design in order to stir emotion and convey new ideas. These videos build off of established design conventions (like lines and colors) to create something that feels fresh, elegant, and profound.

In its “IBM Design Language—Philosophy” explainer, IBM stunningly uses clean, minimal text overtop moving lines and dots. This approach very simply reinforces IBM’s message that good design is at the heart of all of the relationships the company serves.


A motion tracking effect can expose viewers to new, interesting, or unexpected ideas within a live-action world.

In "Bhavini Sheds Light on Spot Beams," Gogo uses a spokesperson to describe spot beams with the help of simple, camera-tracked overlays.

LAI Video’s “In the Blink of an Eye,” produced for the National Maintenance Agreements, uses motion-tracked graphics to show how safety is the perspective through which construction professionals see the world.


Purposefully complementary or clashing, the mixed-media approach uses a decidedly eclectic mix of imagery, footage, and photographs. The digital collages enhance real life elements with motion graphics to quickly explain a story.

In its “How to Start Saving for College in 3 Easy Steps,” Northwestern Mutual uses black-and-white, mixed-media items with bold vector icons and text. Like a student’s decorated planner or bulletin board, the video is informative, but brimming with personality; instructional, but also lively and fun.

For our Inspire conference “bumpers,” we recorded footage of specific props in our studio that embody each keynote speaker—boots, globes, phones, even tube TVs! From polar exploration to millennial media consumption, we immersed these live-action visuals with “cut out” graphics to build a multi-media world that comfortably brings personal brands into the overarching brand of the show.


Animated illustration fuels a willing suspension of disbelief, brands can explore highly fanciful ideas and perspectives.

Our “The Changing Face of Signs,” produced for the International Sign Association, incorporates bold and expressive illustrations that bring to life the role that signs have played throughout their history—which is like 4,000 years!


Our “Know Your Enemy” spot for CropLife America features more cartoonish illustrations, positioning crop-eating pests as nefarious as any comic-book villain.


Transitioning viewers through 2D frames that feature 3D objects, these videos can convey a variety of new ideas within one seamless viewing experience.

In its “IBM + Watson Video Services” explainer, IBM takes viewers through fully realized character scenes with zooming 2D / 3D transitions. It’s futuristic look-and-feel reinforces how IBM Watson helps companies to continuously improve and evolve their video services.


Using deliberately patterned color gradients, companies can evoke viewers’ emotions and resonate in powerful ways.

In its “We Make Things Move” identity video, Never Sit Still uses a clean, cubist perspective and a love of gradients to show off its ability to make things move with big and small motions.


Animated characters do not need to be realistic—they can be stylistically deconstructed and rebuilt to emphasize mood and personality. Using nothing but bold shapes, these figures can communicate a lot to the viewer before any movement, script or sound design is introduced.

Animator Nal Alhusain, in her video "Procrastinators.," visualizes the types of procrastinators by reimagining the human form into a collection of limbless, ever-changes shapes.


Using full-frame and layered designs, this immersive approach transports viewers to vivid renderings of a particular story or anecdote. Requiring ingenuity and an attention to detail, this approach provides the flexibility—and the responsibility—to reimagine a new world that most effectively portrays the story at hand.

Western Union, in “Bicycle Coin,”  uses a fast-moving camera to follow the journey of a gold coin moving through immersive, stylized terrains that mix solid shapes with scratchy textures.

LAI Video’s promo, produced for the Federation of State Medical Boards, reflects the complexities of selecting a doctor in today’s fast-paced, digital world.


Utilizing thin lines in an animation can make the creation look like it is hand drawn and gives it a simplistic, yet clean and modern look. Thin lines function as direction-givers, shape-definers, and mood-setters.

Briza, in their “Explainer VIdeo,”  uses thin lines to set the tone to share with their audience how simple and easy it is to connect individuals in the insurance world.


As we move to a more futuristic sense of the world, more and more people have become hooked onto the idea of VR and the ability to interact with and experience a 3D world, very different from their everyday lives. We can see virtual reality become one of the top video animation trends in 2021.

Virtual reality has thus far been dominated by the gaming industry, as Oculus Quest shares in "Oculus Quest | Reality Meets Virtual Reality." The company has led the way in VR headsets and equipment, allowing users to turn their gaming experience into one that feels real.


Surrealism is nothing new to us - it has been around for approximately 100 years and embraces ideas of chaos and unconscious desires. Digital surrealism adds fascinating and sometimes uncomfortable visuals in unexpected ways that feel oddly familiar. 

German artist, Oliver Latta, also known as Extraweg, has mastered the art of digital surrealism with his many different projects. He strives to create content that is different, eye-opening, and forces people to think about the meaning behind his work.


As we continue to consume media, we are not as easily surprised by content, often seeing new renditions of old content. However, discomforting yet funny metaphors have a way of striking a chord with consumers, making them stop and look for a second longer.

Funny, Discomforting Metaphors

In this metaphor by DeeKay, we witness a plea for people to stay home and stay safe during quarantine.


We crave quickly digestible content when scrolling through social media. If an image or video doesn't catch our attention within the first couple seconds of seeing it, we move onto the next item on our social media feed.

Quickly Digestible Scene Loops for Social Media

In another piece of work by DeeKay, this scene loop tells a story about social media, where one person just posted something and the other people surrounding them are liking, following, and commenting on the post. The loop is simple to understand and just enough to capture someone's attention while scrolling through their social feed.


One way to stand out from other content is by using bold, unexpected, loud colors. Painting a person green or a house bright yellow draws people's attention to the unexpected.

LAI Video's Give a Crop Network "Rinse Me Off," produced for CropLife America, utilizes loud colors on a subtle background for each of the fruits and vegetables mentioned in the video.


By utilizing fine gradients, impressionistic takes on shadows, and lens flares, animators can create a retro-style video that is comforting at a same time. These types of animations remind us of a simpler time, some even bringing up memories of our childhood. 

In the "Nights" music-video directed by Jesper Ryom, a small child is seen running through different phases of his life, an example of retro comfort food for our enjoyment.


A lo-fi approach utilizes design that is not traditionally, quote-on-quote, considered "good." "Good" design is thrown out the window to create something more uncomfortable yet impactful.

In this collaboration between Jam3 and Spotify, an interactive experience was created with an AI version of The Weeknd. The video strays from the typical hi-fi production method and depicts The Weeknd as blurry and coming in and out of focus.


While our production crews bounce from coast-to-coast capturing phenomenal stories on camera, LAI Video’s animation team has been hard at work and continuing to produce award-winning motion graphic videos and we have been recognized with THREE Telly awards.

Translating complex data or abstract concepts into colorful, digestible nuggets can be a daunting task. At LAI Video, our writers, project managers and animators become temporary authorities on your subject matter. The following three pieces are some of our favorites — using video to explain the principles behind electronic transactions, the ease of paper recycling, and the economic impact of the metals industry.

These videos not only deliver a specific message, but playfully extend the brand of each organization, reinforcing video as a valued part of any communications strategy.


Metals Service Center Institute

LAI Video Animator + Producer Tiffany Lewis created a vibrant world of color and triangles for this infographic video. Her art directions and angles beautifully build into memorable statistics to help tell MSCI’s story of data.


The Electronic Transactions Association

LAI Video Animator Sean Kimber brings to life 2-dimensional design with 3D movement, as he graceful spins smart phones, dissects credit cards and builds a planet of pastels. This video ultimately educates viewers on the power of electronic payments and reiterates ETA’s role as a representative of new payment technology.


American Forest & Paper Association

In this consumer-facing video, LAI Video Animator + Producer Rob Kramer outlines the dos-and-don’ts of paper recycling in a straightforward, kid-friendly manner. His animation approach compliments the child narration, making this message appropriate for all ages.



With rising healthcare costs, increasing demands on health care providers, and shifting demographics, there’s never been more pressure on the industry to improve patient communication and education.

Preventative behavior, pharmaceutical interactions, new procedure options—how do you tackle the important topics that can be challenging to explain while engaging your audience long enough to achieve understanding?

The versatility of animation means that it can be as playful or as practical as you’d like and deliver your message without the production constraints of real life. (Need to see inside the blood stream? No problem.)

Animation can be used just as effectively to raise awareness on general issues or introduce specific processes or changes in behavior for patient groups.

If you are involved with education, research, fundraising or insurance, use video animation to clearly and concisely explain concepts that otherwise feel abstract or hidden from view, with great results.

Check out these examples:


To explain the details and causes of hypertension, we paired the candid conversations of an ensemble of medical experts with highly illustrative animation that emphasizes specific facts and figures. We directed participants to be as metaphorical as possible, setting up our animators with fanciful renderings of fire hydrants and saber-toothed tigers—to be both medically accurate and memorable.


This animated video speaks directly to customers and about a new database for vetting any doctor’s specialty, credentials and sanctions. With colorful characters, shapes and textures, we explore the user interface, demonstrating the website’s ease of use for anyone who ever wanted to know more about their doctor.

Animation is an amazing marketing tool for getting your message across in a way that’s engaging and compelling. Plus, it can show off the funny, light-hearted side of your brand. For instance, Truth (the anti-tobacco campaign) released this oddball animated PSA to prove a point about… butts.


At LAI Video, we're always discovering new and innovative ways to bring our client’s creative visions to life through animation. Let us help identify your industry’s hidden stories, curate cohesive messaging, and deliver engaging videos to create deeper connections with your audience. We’ll help identify the right approach to build greater brand awareness, broaden your campaign’s reach and do right by your brand.

Do you have a story that needs explaining? Do you have a message just waiting to be shared?

If you're looking to create compelling videos to showcase your industry story and bring your organization to life using any of these 2021 video animation trends, please contact our team to get started today!


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