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Back to the 2000s: How to Use the Y2K Aesthetic in Your Design Projects

Want to integrate the trendy Y2K aesthetic into your work? Here are some of the best 2000s inspired templates on Envato Elements and how to use them…

Posted 24 Aug 2021
Back to the 2000s: How to Use the Y2K Aesthetic in Your Design Projects

Hold onto your UGG boots and hot pink Motorola Razrs, because the 2000s are back baby! Featuring fun fashion like butterfly clips, space buns and shell necklaces, and unforgettable pop-culture masterpieces such as Avril Lavigne’s Sk8er Boi and – the most quotable teen movie of all time – Mean Girls, there’s no denying that the ’00s were an iconic decade defined by a collection of bizarre trends and styles. As tacky as it was unique, the ‘Y2K aesthetic’ is officially back in vogue – and it has us feeling super nostalgic.

Ready to go back to the naughty noughties? As Regina George would say: get in loser, we’re going back to Y2K!

What Is the Y2K Aesthetic?  

The turn of the millennium saw design trends move away from the grunge and grit of the 90s, instead favoring bright, obnoxious colors, kitsch textures such as plastic, metallics and faux fur, and bling as far as the eye could see.

From street style to celebrities on the red carpet, 21st Century trash-glam was all the rage.

Y2K Aesthetic - BRATZ 2020 Website by Mar The Bratz
Bratz Dolls – Behance

With an increased focus on the internet, gadgets and technology, the 2000s also centred heavily around cyberculture, with the increased rise of chat rooms, and tools such as MSN Messenger, as well as the new breed of social media platforms like Bebo, Twitter, Tumblr, and of course, Facebook. It also saw the alternative trends of the 90s merge with digital culture, leading to the explosion of the cult social networking site MySpace, the rise of mp3 players and the iPod, emo music and fashion, pop punk, and the world of online gaming. All in all, the ’00s were bright, bubbly, and oozing with optimism as the world collectively celebrated the start of a new century.

Y2K Asesthetic - Nokia 3310 by Giacomo (James) Sforza
Nokia 3310 – Behance

What Defined 2000s Design?  

Although there were some huge design developments in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, the 2000s saw a digital revolution for graphic design. With the rapid improvement of technology, a whole new world of tools, programs and possibilities became available to designers.

As a result, the 2000s were responsible for some of the most iconic designs in history, including the Sydney 2000s Olympics logo, Shepard Fairey’s Obama Hope poster, the Harry Potter lightning bolt font, and of course, Apple’s famous silhouetted, brightly-colored iPod ads. 

All of a sudden, designers were faced with a whole new challenge: creating content that looked as good on a billboard as it did on the screen of an iPhone. New software allowed for the creation of three-dimensional objects and typography manipulation like never before. Many 2000s designs featured three-dimensional shapes – typically with a gradient or a drop shadow to achieve a 3D feel.

2000s Design - Harry Potter Poster
Harry Potter Poster – Wikipedia

In addition to their tools and programs becoming even more refined and powerful, designers were now able to work on portable devices, such as smartphones, for the first time, and they discovered the importance – and constraints – of designing for all device types.

Where Is the Y2K Aesthetic Being Used Now?  

Although it may have been short-lived the first time around, the Y2K aesthetic is definitely back, as creatives, creators and social media users alike rediscover the charm of this fun, trashy, and futuristic style.

Unsurprisingly, the resurgence of the Y2K aesthetic began on social media – TikTok in particular. Noughties trends have absolutely dominated the short-form video app, with the style being heralded by users who weren’t even born yet the first time around. Y2K fashion, makeup, hair and accessories have all become massive trends on TikTok, and have made the leap across to  other social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, including these ironic, Y2K inspired memes by @afffirmations, and these iconic 2000s pop-culture throwbacks by @popcultureangel

The fashion industry has also jumped on board the Y2K train, with the return of iconic 2000s pieces such as baguette bags (made famous by Fendi), denim-on-denim, graphic baby t-shirts, and of course – velour tracksuits. We’re also seeing a succession of 2000s TV reboots from Sex & the City to Gossip Girl, as well as podcasts devoted to shows like The O.C.

Out in the wild, the fun, fluffy futurism of the early 00’s can be seen in this in the intro to this trailer for Aurora Memoria, in this Y2K Branding & Web Design by artist Mar The Bratz, and in this Lookbook for Vietnamese Streetwear Brand BOO. Even worldwide pop-star Olivia Rogrigo has drawn inspiration from the Y2K aesthetic for the artwork for her hit album SOUR, and emulated the style of classic 2000s chick flicks for her ‘good 4 u’ music video.

Y2K Aesthetic - Y2K FASHION - Magazine by Gizem Şevval Alimisoğlu
Y2K FASHION – Magazine by Gizem Şevval Alimisoğlu – Behance

With this 2000s surge following on from the retro revival back in 2019, and the huge popularity of 80s and 90s trends that re-emerged in 2020, it seems that nostalgia is here to stay. 

Why Is Nostalgia in Design So Powerful? 

In this fast-paced, technology-driven world, nostalgia can be a welcome comfort for many. Instead of anticipating the next great thing, nostalgia design urges us to focus on things we already know, repackaging the comfort and familiarity of the past and adapting it to the needs of now. ​​Music, photos, branding, logos and even color schemes can all trigger feelings of nostalgia, and evoking familiar feelings is a great way to connect with audiences, followers or consumers on a relatable and personal level. 

One of the reasons why nostalgia works so well for design is because of its strong effect on our mental wellbeing. Studies have found that nostalgia gives our lives a feeling of meaning and continuity, leading to a stronger sense of interconnectedness and purpose. Nostalgia also helps bring relief from the feelings of uncertainty that the future brings, allowing people feel like they belong and have purpose. Combine these warm fuzzy feelings of nostalgia with a great design, brand or product, and you’ve got a recipe for success. 

How to Integrate the Y2K Aesthetic into Your Designs 

Y2K Aesthetic - SEPRONIC WORLD
SEPRONIC WORLD – Behance

So, how can you work the Y2K aesthetic into your work? Start by capturing the free, bubbly, fun feeling of the 2000s, and steer away from the minimalist, organic, monochromatic designs of the 2010s to now. Think youthful, tacky, plastic and colorful – and when in doubt, think pink. 

Ready to integrate the nostalgic Y2K aesthetic into your work? Here are some of the best 2000s inspired templates on Envato Elements and how to use them… 

Top Y2K Inspired Templates on Envato Elements

Y2K Fonts

From bubble writing to block type to anything remotely 3D, 2000s fonts were thick, chunky and heaps of fun. Here are some of the top Y2K-inspired fonts to work into your designs… 

Tiger – Color SVG Font by cruzine

Y2K Social Media Templates

Famous for bright and pastel colors, collage, cute icons and cyber-inspired design, the Y2K aesthetic has totally taken off on social media. Here are some top social media templates to help you give off that nonchalant 2000s vibe…  

Retro Gradient Instagram Templates by andrewtimothy

Y2K Textures

2000s design was defined by its tacky textures such as plastic, metallics, notebook paper and fur. Here are some textures to integrate into your work for a Y2K feel… 

Fluffy Curved Shapes Vector Backgrounds by themefire

Y2K Video Templates 

In the early 2000s, movement and motion was all the rage. Here are some Y2K inspired video templates to take your viewers back in time… 

Vaporwave Liquid Chrome Background Loop by TheMissingPixel

Y2K Mockups

From CDs and floppy disks to those old chunky computers still running Windows 95, early 2000s tech now seems like a distant memory. But don’t worry – you can keep the dream alive with these nostalgic noughties mockups… 

Nail Polish Mock-Up by Sanchi477

Y2K Photos

Featuring pink faux fur, colorful, customizable CDs, and even the infamous Nokia 3310, here are some epic Y2K inspired photos to take your designs back in time.. 

Pink faux fur detail by tenkende

Pink faux fur detail flat lay. Social media by tenkende

And that’s a wrap! We hope you enjoyed this trip back to the 2000s and deep dive into the super trendy Y2K aesthetic. For more, check out the Y2K Collection on Envato Elements, or read up on the top 90s Trends Making a Comeback, Line Art Trend, the Photo Manipulation Trend, Pastel Design Trend, and our Illustration Trends for 2021!

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