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2020 Color + Design Trend Updates in the Time of COVID-19: Playtime

Design Trends

Launched in June 2020, our color + design trends report, Optimistic Endeavors: Tales of Tomorrow, highlighted five stories of optimism for a new decade through color and design. Little did we know what was on the horizon. Therefore, while stay-at-home orders are the new “normal,” we conducted further research to confirm and update our color + design trend message. In doing so, we uncovered several key consumer viewpoints that are helping us evolve, as well as validate, many of the trends launched last year.


Current Consumer Sentiments
How are people currently feeling? What are the significant sentiments that will carry us into the next chapter of trends? Here are six insights we gleaned:

  • The need for escapism and wonder —The inspiration of magic, simple joys, whimsy, sweetness and play are all around us. These opportunities allow us to be curious, creative, imaginative and hopeful. Many of us are seeking wisdom beyond traditional practices — exploring the beauty of global cultures, spirituality, astrology, minerology and other mystical elements.


  • Uncertainty regarding the future — With this major upheaval, most of us are uneasy about what’s next, finding ourselves outside of our comfort zones and realizing that we lack basic preparations. In response, it’s not surprising that research on survival skills and supplies is on the rise. To balance this discomfort, many are creating a comfortable work-at-home space — allowing them to feel some sense of control. Some are also finding contentment, as well as a creative outlet, in discovering sustainable choices for products that are unavailable.


  • Comfort and physical and emotional connection — We long for the familiar, the comfortable, and value optimism during the chaos — and feel-good visuals are key. Watching videos of animals in their element is on the rise, and the popularity of the legacy of Mr. Rogers through a movie and documentary on his life highlight the need for goodness and kindness.
  • Craving authenticity and wholesome content — Viewing cooking and baking videos is becoming a huge hobby for those who want to learn a skill while passing the time. Museums and art galleries are hosting virtual tours and providing free webinar sessions on a variety of topics related to the art field.


  • Taking pleasure in the present moment — Now is time to reconnect with nature, disconnect from technology and find satisfaction in small things. Also, realizing that we need less of everything, cleaning out the clutter has become an obsession. Marie Kondo’s recent book launch, “Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life,” highlights her continued popularity and influence on the world of organization and de-cluttering.
  • Honoring nature — Many are understanding that this is a time for humanity to wake up and realize Mother Nature is reaching out. Nature is resting, resetting and recharging. Biophilia, creating out of nature’s design, has been in design circles for years and will see an uptick in creative design uses. Bringing the outdoors to interior design will become even more relevant.



With the global research platforms in overdrive, we are confirming and evolving our first trend story, Playtime, a story of optimism. During this time, there is a need for positivity — and multiple outlets report highlights of creative and artistic outlets. These creative ideas display the following patterns:

  • Digital experimentation: virtual experiences that promote play and provide uplifting, positive and idealistic messages. Apps like Tik Tok and Quibi and artists like Zach Lieberman create spaces for pure enjoyment targeted to the Gen Z market. Avatars and digital fantasies promote play and escapism. Drest and FormaTech, digital fashion apps and games, allow you to see yourself in a variety of outfits, essentially virtual shopping. Look to our article, “Art in the Time of COVID-19,” to see how other artists are visualizing their experiences of stay-at-home.
  • Ways to engage the senses with vivid color, scent, taste and touch. DIY kits for cooking and baking and digital virtual clothing collections pave the way for new ideas on hitting the five senses. A return of pleasure and elements of the unexpected is vital.


  • Storytelling is vital to gaining consumer trust with authentic, honest brand communications. Products are crafted with kindness and transparency. One of the biggest feel-good sites recently launched is John Krasinski’s (of “The Office” fame) YouTube show called “Some Good News” (SGN). Highlighting a range of upbeat stories with humor and delightful surprise celebrity moments, the series makes you feel that everything will be all right.
  • Textures are very tactile, creating playful experiences through materials. Color is lively, vivid and optimistic. As runway shows highlighted, prior to stay-at-home orders, loud displays of self-expression and fun, voluminous and dramatic art will continue to gain momentum. People will have a need to dress-up after months of staying home in loungewear — and masks are being made into extravagant works of art.


Ashley Williams - Runway - LFW February 2020. A model walks the runway during the Ashley Williams Ready to Wear Fall/Winter 2020-2021 fashion show as part of the London Fashion Week on February 14, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)


Collina Strada - Runway - February 2020 - New York Fashion Week. A model walks the runway at the Collina Strada Ready to Wear Fall/Winter 2020-2021 fashion show during New York Fashion Week on February 09, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

With the need for escapism, magic and fantasy, wonder and creativity, we are confirming Playtime’s inspirations as we look to materials, textures and color with renewed senses. Expect highlights of joy and shameless outlets of optimism through color, material, texture and patterns. Multi-sensory experiences push Playtime to emotional maximums with bold drama in voluminous designs; prints; and bold, tactile fabrics. There’s pleasure in the play and, in reaction to the turbulence, a joy in submerging in new worlds. Seeking the inner child through quirkiness, originality and humor, indulgence in color and design abound.



Materials and textures are filled with glow and shine, nature’s magic, the supernatural and surreal, and mystical. Elegant, glamorous details and touches of the Avant Garde. Tactility is key and expect to see more fringe that has push from Western to glamorous, as well as plenty of feathers.

Extreme proportions and voluminous material in design highlight the range of extreme designs while added opulence to maximalist designs showcases our need to be on display again after months of hiding.




Expect loud expressions of color that liberate the imagination. Hyper-pigmented hues with charged energy
grounded by earthy-toned base colors. Synthetic colors such as digital aqua and bubblegum pink — paired with energetic earthen hues of golden yellow and cobalt — emanate joy while nightglow shades and luminous dark colors — purple, coral, red — provide high contrast.




KENTO RESTAURANT. photo credit: Luis Beltran

Patterns highlight the vibrant self-expressions of the iconic rainbow, as well as gummy bears, balloon animals, cotton candy, and snow cones. Geometric shapes abound.


Playtime invites us back into the world, one joyful expression at a time.