Graphic Design Styles: An Ultimate Guide to the 15 Most Popular Design Styles
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Graphic design is an increasingly changing field. It has transformed so much from the old ways of combining different elements to creating visually appealing designs that just make you and your brand look good to be an active driver of change in contemporary business, marketing, and advertising fields.
The integration of technology into graphic design has enabled the brand store to gain more online visibility, boost the professional image of their brand and ultimately help them engage with their clients and customers to boost business growth.
Since graphic design has become indispensable to brand growth and success, graphic designers have to put in extra work to ensure the design does not just look visually appealing and attractive but also fits into the brand style and best represents it.
One of the best ways a designer can achieve this is by conducting thorough research on the brand, its needs, target markets, and the appropriate graphic design style to use. A designer needs to know what style to choose and the style that best fits the company/ most appropriate for it.
In this guide, we have provided a list of 15 different graphic design styles that you should get familiar with as a graphic designer passionate about creating attractive and functional designs that help your clients grow.
Why Do You Need a Graphic design style for your business?
Graphic design is critical to every business’s growth and success. At a time when many organizations are using striking visuals to attract their customers, you might need to think again if you believe your business can survive without visual communication.
Creative graphic designs stimulate business growth and help you gain the attention of your target audience. Whether you are looking to redesign your brand visuals or create a new one from the scratch, understanding the trending graphic design styles will help you decide on the best one to choose to effectively represent your brand.
For example, if you want to give your brand a clean, modern look, then you can consider using the minimalist design style to best showcase your brand values and offers. Alternatively, if you want to give your brand a more heroic and romantic appeal, then you can consider working with the Heroic Realism styles to help you achieve your brand goals.
Irrespective of the design style you eventually opt for, the key is to choose a style that best fits your brand values, proposition, and business offers. You have to go with a graphic design style that will best resonate with your target audience and enable them to have a better customer experience.
On the last note, keep in mind that your choice of design style should look beyond beauty and visual aesthetics but more focus should be on how best the design style can portray your brand in a way that supports your business growth and success.
15 Most Popular Graphic Design Styles
Below are the 15 most popular graphic design styles
1. Art Nouveau Graphic Design Style
Art Nouveau is an architecture, decorative art, and graphic design style that rose to prominence in Western Europe and the USA during the late nineteenth century – essentially from about 1890 to the 1920s. It is represented by intricate linear designs and flowing curves based on natural forms and an earth-like color palette.
Its other key characteristics include well-defined flat, outlined illustrations and hand-drawn typefaces, which makes it a lot of people confuse it for the Art deco style, even though there is a clear distinction between them. Art Nouveau possesses bold hand-drawn and natural lines and shapes which makes it look whimsical, romantic, and highly technical.
- Intricate hand-drawn style
- Illustrative and colored.
- Bold, heavy weighted outlines
- Use of natural color and tonal palette.
- Regularly features female personas.
- Use of natural forms
2. Art Deco Style
Art Deco is a visual art, architecture, and graphic design style predominantly used during World War I as a symbol of luxury, wealth, and sophistication. The name “Art deco” was derived from the 1925 Parisian exhibition titled ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes’ which happened to be the first to feature works of this style.
It has strong vertical lines with bold curves and capitalized type. It also uses aerodynamic shapes, Egyptian zigzags, rich contrasting colors, motion lines, and the geometric treatment of patterns and surfaces. Art Deco styles exercise the use of illustrations and graphic representations of everyday objects and can be found in old car show posters, period comic books, movie posters, and book covers.
- Bold geometric shapes
- High contrast in colors
- Uses vertical and motion lines.
- Uses sunbursts
- Capitalized typeface
- Flat (in terms of depth)
3. Victorian style
Britain’s Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria’s reign which ran from 1837 to 1901 and was believed to be a time of strong morals and religious beliefs. The Victorian people were known to love complex and ornate objects, which greatly influenced their application to fashion, architecture, furniture, interiors, typography, and commercial art.
The Victorian style was influenced by their nostalgia for objects from the past and has a great amount of symmetry in its layout and design. This design style mostly used outer decorative borders, dramatic imagery, and elaborate typography. Essentially, the Victorian age was very popular for imitation and reproduction with many styles in a single piece of work including gothic and rococo.
- Decorative outer borders
- Elaborate typography
- Few straight lines or edges
- Highly ornate and ‘busy’ imagery
4. Arts and Crafts
The Arts and Crafts style emanated from the international movement in decorative and fine arts that started in Britain and then diversified in Europe and North America between 1880 and 1910, before entering Japan in the 1920s. Arts and Crafts were essential anti-industrial and mainly advocated economic and social reform.
Before it was replaced by Art Nouveau and Art Deco, it had a strong influence on arts in major parts of Europe. It represented traditional craftsmanship using simple forms and often featured romantic, medieval, or folk decoration styles with the heavy use of textures and illustrated initials.
- Illustrated typography/font styles
- Extended use of textures
- Simple forms
- Reused traditional/older style features
5. Early Modern Design Style
Early modernism was the early days of modernism when artists and designers broke from traditional styles of design to create a new style that would influence all artists and designers around the world. The early modern artists and designers were regarded as new or experimental for changing the way other people saw and appreciate art and design.
The early modernists using some of the ideals of the Italian Futurists the Bauhaus create a new design philosophy that put designs’ function before their form and rebelled against tradition by giving more preference to new and different things.
- Clean type
- Minimalist style and approach
- Geometrically based
- More photos, fewer illustrations
Futurism was an art and social movement developed in the early 20th century in Italy. This movement was largely against not just classical antiques but everything that was generally not new. Though it majorly started in Italy and was a concept developed by Italians, there were also parallel movements of futurism in England, Russia, and other parts of the world.
The futuristic design style mainly emphasized technology, speed, youth, and violence as well as objects such as cars, aircraft, and the industrial city. Artists and designers of the futuristic style used the divisionism process to break light and color down into geometric forms. Futurism influenced many modern art movements of the 20th century which also saw the development of the contemporary design style.
- Absence of traditional features
- Features new technology
- Universal style
- Offset text
- Some cubist influences
7. Punk Design Style
The punk design style came from the punk music movement prominent in the late 1970s. A strong ethos of DIY and an anti-establishment attitude permeates all aspects of punk design. Punk design at the time was posters of punk brand groups. The iconic elements of the punk design style included the DIY handwritten or cut-and-paste typographic elements as well as using found and incongruous type elements to collage text.
Punk designers used bold serif and sans serif typefaces to achieve the classic punk design style. Interestingly, punk design style still exists in contemporary zine culture, album cover designs, and DIY poster designs. The cheap and readily available production mediums of screen printing and photocopying enable punk creatives to operate from having low to no budget.
- High contrast, bold colors
- Found and incongruous type elements
- Collage texts
- Overall rough, textured aesthetic
- Low-quality, photocopier-printed images
- Majorly photographic imagery
- Grainy and matt screen printing effects
8. American Kitsch
The Art deco style that lasted long after the 1930s inspired the development of new graphic design styles, one of which is the American Kitsch. American Kitsch was prominent in the 1940s to the 1960s in the US with an idealized, cartoon-like illustrative style. This style was particularly known for its distinct font style and futuristic stylization with dramatized or caricatured imagery.
This design style is highly known for informal shapes, highly contrasting color use, hand-drawn and colored illustrations, dramatic curves, and space-age forms. The best examples of the American Kitsch design style are found in film posters, especially in science fiction or fantasy film genres.
- Bold, vibrant colors
- Aerodynamic shapes
- Contrasting imagery and fonts
- Cartoon-like illustrative images
- People in dramatic poses
The Swiss Design style originated in Switzerland in the 1940s has been referred to as the International Typographic Style or the International Style. The swiss design style is highly influential and significantly influenced the development of many design movements throughout the 20th century.
The swiss style majorly featured objectivity, simplicity, and legibility and was initiated and led by the designers of the Zurich School of Arts and Krafts and the Basel School of Design. It particularly used grids and asymmetrical layouts, alongside sans-serif typography in its styles. The key characteristics of swiss styles combine typography and a general preference for photographic images as well as colorful and geometric block illustrations.
- Saturated, matte color palettes
- Asymmetrical layouts
- Consistent use of negative space
- Prominent Sans serif fonts
- Clean and simple design
10. Psychedelic Design Style
Psychedelic design, art, and music were prominent in the 1960s and 1970s. This design style was influenced by the styles of dress, philosophy, literature, and culture of the time while controlling the design culture throughout the decade. This design style was prominent in band and concert posters of the 1960s and 1970s.
The psychedelic design style is an extension of Art Nouveau designs with hand-drawn type and consistent use of images depicting women or female form. This design style also uses natural elements, bright and clashing colors, illegible hand-drawn curvaceous type, abstracted curvilinear shapes, and metaphysical or surreal illustrative or photographic subject matter
- Type and image use influenced by Art Nouveau
- Abstracted curvaceous forms and design elements
- Hand-drawn type generally illegible and hard to read
- Influenced by the psychedelic drug culture
- Intense, clashing colors
11. Grunge Graphic Design Style
The Grunge design style got its name and inherent style from the 90s music and subculture movement, synonymous with Nirvana and the Seattle sound. The Grunge style has a unique design style and features distressed and layered textures and ripped and uneven edges alongside a rather chaotic approach to layouts.
It embraces the use of many critically avoided approaches in design with uneven lines, crooked elements, badly hand-written text, dirty stains, and grainy photographs. The contemporary uses of grunge design can be seen in the branding of skateboarding companies and magazines, street art culture, band websites and gig posters, alternative fashion brands, and music venues.
- Hand-written and hand-drawn elements
- Dirty stains such as coffee rings and spilled-out liquids
- Dirty textures and background images
- Torn images and paper edges
- Irregular lines and crooked elements
12. Heroic Realism
Heroic realism art and graphic design style are used as propaganda, similar to the art styles used by the fascists and communists. These design styles were used in the Soviet Union during Lenin’s time.
The style characteristics are easily recognizable from the name, realism, and depiction of figures, as ideal types, heroes, or symbols, often with an explicit rejection of modernism. Since socialist and Nazi art was ordered to be heroic and romantic and were idealistic rather than realistic in form and style.
- Features one person
- Realistic Imagery
- Has clear, bold font
- Promotes an ideal
- A strong message in the text.
13. Minimalist design style
Minimalist design styles are one of the current design styles that started gaining popularity in the 2010s. It is highly recognized for its monochromatic or limited approach to color use with its black-and-white outlook, (or single colors), bold line work, strict adherence to grids, crisp photographic images, minimal shading, simplified linear illustrations, and preference for sans serif typefaces.
It has grown so popular that you will find it virtually everywhere from branding and packaging, to editorial, infographics, and digital with clean, stylish, and easy-to-read design styles. The minimalist design approach to design offers the digital age the effective communication of information, branded style, and storytelling.
- Minimalist design space
- No depth of field
- Linear design elements
- Neutral tones and secondary colors
- Use of negative space
- Corporate style
Three-dimensional design styles are a product of technology and have become widely available in contemporary design. The quality and realism of 3D designs have advanced so much with the advent of more powerful and refined programs. This style is popular across a range of designed spaces, gaming, online and digital brands, characters, logos, online content, buttons, icons, and other interactive features.
- Often utilize one color, with tonal variation
- Shadow and depth indications
- The illusion of live-like depth and volume
- Employs various lighting effects
15. Flat design style
Flat design is a current and trendy design style similar to the minimalist style. It was influenced by the International Typographic/Swiss Style, Text User Interface, Modernism, and the styles emerging from Bauhaus. The International Typographic style is particularly known to be the starting point of flat design.
Although flat designs were mostly used in graphical user interfaces such as websites, web applications, and mobile apps. It is now commonly seen in graphic design materials such as posters, art, guide documents, and publishing products.
- Neutral tones
- Minimalist inspired style
- Lacks depth
- Uses negative space
- Straight lines
Though we have identified the 15 most popular graphic design styles, this is by no means the exhaustive list of graphic design styles out there.
The above styles can get you started on the best ways to portray your brand. However, by continuously researching more design styles, you will gain more knowledge to become a more adaptive and effective designer in the field.