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Graphic Design Trends Taking Over in 2024: Nostalgia, Maximalism, and More

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Graphic design trends come and go — and any styles that seem dominant now will almost certainly give way to different aesthetics within a few short years. Graphic designers should not feel stymied by the fast flow of the trend cycle; rather, they should be inspired by the range of new and updated concepts that are always around the corner. A thorough understanding of emerging trends can also be helpful from a business perspective; this will ensure that designs and layouts appeal to the target audience in a way that drives measurable results.

For 2024, this natural cycle includes a few technological updates plus many bold and bright graphics that encourage designers to show off their most creative and unusual ideas. Read on to discover which design trends will dominate in 2024 — and how these concepts will unleash a whirlwind of potential for creatives and consumers alike. 

Nostalgia: ’90s Inspiration

It’s common knowledge (and practically cliché) that the fashion cycle repeats every twenty years. This also holds true in graphic design, where most fads will inevitably be revived at some point. Hence, the reemergence of ’90s-oriented designs. While some of these trends hit their peak nearly three decades ago, they are once again rising through the ranks in the design world.

There is some appeal in grunge aesthetics right now, but that is just the beginning. In the past year, graphic design has seen its fair share of vibrant colors, abstract shapes, and funky patterns. Many of these nostalgic, fresh new trends relate to the concepts we’ll discuss below, such as maximalism and bold typography. In keeping with the twenty-year concept, however, we can expect to see more styles from the late 1990s and even Y2K reemerge in 2024. 

Diversity

For years, diversity has been a challenge in the world of graphic design. Research highlighted by PRINT magazine reveals that less than 5 percent of designers are Black. The result? A too-frequent failure to build an inclusive perspective into design initiatives. This is beginning to change, however, and a big step forward can be expected in 2024 as more brands and initiatives make a purposeful effort to include diverse voices, ideas, and artistic individuals.

Much of this progress has been driven by the Diversity in Design (DID) collaborative, which aims to highlight diversity as a creative advantage while providing enhanced opportunities for a wider range of current and aspiring graphic designers to partake in mentorship and professional development. 

Maximalism

Minimalism had its moment, but right now, graphic designers are all about going big and bold. Maximalism provides an exciting opportunity to break with convention and make important messages unforgettable. Indulgent and spontaneous, this evocative style frequently shows up in packaging but is increasingly prominent for branding in the digital space.

This far-reaching concept encompasses many of the trends we’ll touch on below, such as bold typography, expressive hand-drawn styles, and even surrealism. Other hallmarks include vibrant colors and a willingness to experiment with repetitive elements. These features should coalesce to create an impression of organized chaos. 

Typography

In recent years, the most dominant typography trends have centered around bigger and bolder styles. The fonts themselves are more eye catching than those featured just a few short years ago. Beyond this, the latest trends shift their focus toward how exactly text is incorporated within layouts. Left-aligned text is increasingly popular, and other memorable layouts may also enter the picture.

Kinetic typography in particular promises to shake things up. This approach draws on the power of animation to create memorable moving text. Other trends relate closely to the many concepts we’ve already touched on or will discuss below. Examples include hand-drawn fonts and the return of the serif. In general, we can expect a lot of experimentation in the year to come and a definite departure from the assumption that classic or minimalist styles are more “professional.” 

Serif Fonts

Decorative lines or tapers distinguish serif fonts, which, years ago, fell out of favor and were replaced by their more streamlined sans-serif counterparts. Think Arial and Helvetica (sans serif) as opposed to Times New Roman. In keeping with bolder, maximalist trends, the pendulum is once again swinging toward serif fonts — but with some fun updates that give it more artsy vibes.

Friendly and charming serif styles (often evoking ’70s aesthetics) became more prolific in 2023 — and this emerging trend will continue to make an impression in the year to come. When sans serif is used, it will more likely feature rounded corners, again indicating the potential for appealing throwback styles. 

Surrealism

Highlighting the power of the absurd, surrealism aims to shock audiences by leveraging jarring styles that force them to think. Surrealist ideas are always distinct and dynamic, but they also appear more frequently these days, creating powerful messages that clearly resonate with customers. These concepts are increasingly incorporated within logo styling, which may draw on surprising elements such as harsh contrast.

In web design, surrealism can transport users to new worlds. Many concepts and works qualify, but most will incorporate some form of juxtaposition. The underlying goal is to bring imagery or ideas from the subconscious to our everyday lives. Maison Schiaparelli’s Daniel Roseberry gives the BBC a helpful definition: “Somewhere between fantasy and reality … darkness and light … the surreal feels just out of reach, yet its emotional punch is visceral and sometimes even urgent.” 

Traditional Media

Digital media has dominated graphic design for decades, and for good reason. These days, we are constantly immersed in the virtual environment. Still, traditional media (such as print magazines, direct mail, and even TV) has enduring value. If anything, today’s consumers find these forms of media even more compelling, as they stand in stark contrast to the digital messages with which consumers are inundated day in and day out.

For many, traditional media resonates from a nostalgic perspective — it provides the opportunity to unplug and relive the “good old days.” Consequently, these traditional mediums often incorporate the nostalgic design elements highlighted above. Increasingly, however, this is integrated with digital initiatives, providing a more nuanced and well-rounded take on design that offers something for everyone. 

Simplicity

At first glance, today’s maximalist or surrealist styles may seem directly opposed to the concept of simplicity. Take a closer look, however, and it should be evident that simple styles can be maintained even when aesthetics clearly emphasize big and bold. The goal is to avoid clutter, even when incorporating eye-catching elements.

It is possible for elevated styles to be dynamic or even eclectic without coming across as overwhelming to the human eye. This is often achieved through negative or white space, but there are many paths to making designs or layouts feel simple yet decidedly sophisticated. Simple will always be in style, and that definitely rings true for 2024. 

Sustainability: Natural Designs

Design choices can have a huge impact on the environment. Today’s graphic designers are aware of this and determined to act as stewards while still sharing creative messages. The UX Collective refers to sustainable design as “graphic design in support of all life flourishing.” This can play into everything from font to color selection and far more. Beyond this, the goal should be to “make tangible, make understandable something about sustainability or climate change.”

Amid this trend is a clear focus on biophilic design, which aims to strengthen connections between humans and nature — especially within urban and suburban settings. While this concept has its roots in architecture and interior design, there is no denying its impact on graphic design, which can easily invite the natural world into our digital landscape. 

Hand-Drawn Illustrations: Doodles and Sketches

Again relating to the nostalgia trends highlighted above, hand-drawn illustrations reveal the enduring power of human artistry. These provide a more personal touch that consumers clearly crave when they are usually inundated with tech-dominant marketing materials. Hand-drawn styles require much more skill, but this means that professionals equipped with elevated artistic abilities enjoy a clear competitive edge.

The hand-drawn effect is especially popular in typography. With this setup, each letter is created by hand, rather than relying on typical digital avenues. This delivers distinctly authentic vibes and can quickly stand out in a sea of digital designs. 

Muted Colors

Bright colors are a big deal in this maximalist era, but they do not provide the only means of making a statement. Muted colors can set a decidedly different tone but are no less distinctive if done right. These should not be confused with the neutrals that were so popular through the 2010s; muted colors limit saturation by adding white or other base colors to make central shades a bit less bright.
Muted palettes can be effective when aiming to draw attention to other design elements. This effect is easy to implement even when working with specific, predetermined brand colors or logos: simply use muted hues as secondary colors, which feel fresh while remaining on-brand. 

Monochrome

Bright colors can be powerful, but changing light levels or shades can also make an impression. This is the thinking behind today’s monochrome trends, which rely on singular hues but incorporate varying tints by simply adding different amounts of white. The effect can be cohesive yet bold, in keeping with the simplicity trend outlined above.

When placed near one another, monochrome shades can add depth and dimension to any piece. There remains a great deal of potential for incorporating contrast and developing focal points. This approach is more versatile than many designers realize, and as experts from Microsoft point out, it can be used in vibrant pieces as well as to “elicit feelings of tranquility.” 

Negative Space

Often referred to as white space, the concept of negative space draws attention to the expanses that remain empty. As one of the most instrumental design principles, this idea is far from new — and despite maximalism’s takeover, the general preference for white space is not about to disappear.

In a mobile-dominant world, white space remains one of the best strategies for making content appear organized, as it creates an instant visual hierarchy. This is a great option for drawing attention to many of the elements described above, such as hand-drawn illustrations or unique fonts. 

Advancements in Technology

While there’s no denying the outsized role that nostalgia plays in today’s graphic design trends, technology is also majorly impactful. The rapid integration of cutting-edge technology has huge implications for how the graphic designers of tomorrow will work and connect with viewers.

Two of the most influential technologies we’ll see develop even further in 2024 include artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR): 

AI

No discussion of upcoming graphic design trends would be complete without at least a mention of AI and its far-reaching impact on the industry at large. AI understandably has current and aspiring graphic designers worried, especially as ChatGPT demonstrates a wide range of impressive skills.

That said, AI can only accomplish so much. Brand development manager Sean Makin explains on LinkedIn that automation has many limitations: “AI algorithms can only generate designs based on pre-existing templates and design rules. They cannot replace the creativity and originality that human designers bring to the table.”

Many graphic designers, however, are starting to use AI in small ways to complement their work. It provides a myriad of opportunities to personalize content for specific users and can even be counted on as quality control. Makin explains, “AI algorithms can analyze and detect errors and inconsistencies in design elements, such as typography, color, and layout.” 

VR

Immersive opportunities bring a whole new world of possibility to graphic design, and vice versa, as graphic designers are needed to develop visually impactful VR and augmented reality (AR) environments that boost the user experience while drawing on design’s undeniable storytelling powers.

Graphic designer Grace Fussell tells Shutterstock that VR is a great option for transforming traditional 2D works into immersive 3D wonders. She adds that through mixed reality, it is possible to make designs uniquely interactive and therefore more accessible and impactful for a wider audience. 

Start Your Graphic Design Journey Today

Interested in entering the wonderful world of graphic design? Natural creativity is a great start, but you will also need to develop a strong skill set, complete with advanced computing abilities, and master the basics of digital illustration and, of course, page layout. All this (and more) is covered in Bryant & Stratton’s Associate of Applied Science in Graphic Design. If you’d like more information, contact us today.

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