Graphic design is an exciting space to watch in 2020. With inspiration everywhere, from retro neon dystopias to old-school collage, the future of graphic design is coming in hot—in all the best ways. The dynamic mix of popular graphic design trends that have already made waves in the new year is at once eclectic, familiar, and wide-ranging, so here we’ve pulled together the ones we think will be sticking around for a while.
1. ‘90s Rewind
It’s the era that brought us the Spice Girls, lava lamps, and the Elaine dance, but—rejoice—the cringey isn’t so cringey anymore.
We recently listed ‘90s revival as a trending illustration style for 2020, where we looked at designs such as Retro Geometric Shapes by themefire, which reminds us of the ‘80s/’90s hip-hop patterns featured in the Saved by the Bell opening credits.
But what’s driving the influence from past decades right now, which includes the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and even the early ‘00s? It appears nostalgia is creeping into our everyday obsessions, from the TV we’re consuming (hello, Twin Peaks, Will & Grace, and The X-Files) to the Instagram accounts we follow: 90s Anxiety has over 880k followers and a Winona avatar.
2. Acid Trip
When you think ‘acid’, you may conjure up hippy notes of the ‘60s or the acid house rave culture of the ’90s, but the latest incarnation of acid design is a little different. Touted by Eye on Design as “the new psychedelia—with a heady dose of cynicism”, the acid graphics trend features bright colors and warped elements, and it draws heavily on sci-fi futurism.
For examples, look to pop culture, such as the cover artwork for BTS singer J-Hope’s solo work Chicken Noodle Soup ft Becky G. See it in motion in the Acid and Modern Intro video template by nixmotion_v2.
Cyberpunk is everywhere in 2020, having popped up in design trend wrap-ups by Behance, as well as Envato’s own digital and design trends year in review.
While it can tend toward the wacky, often making appearances in particularly saturated colors, the current trend fits firmly in the ‘80s zeitgeist—for example, in films like the remade Blade Runner of 2017.
Cyberpunk goes hand in hand with this kind of dystopian storytelling—also showing up in shows like Black Mirror, and even in the highly anticipated video game Cyberpunk 2077.
“Today’s cyberpunk is an evolution of the Vaporwave subculture that popped up around 2010,” explains Kate McInnes, Envato’s Content Specialist for Graphics.
“Vaporwave is fairly experimental and mixes glitch art with themes of ‘80s and ‘90s consumerism and cyberpunk tropes,” Kate explains. “However, the aesthetic has merged with and evolved into a few offshoot genres such as outrun, which is heavily focused on a neon reimagining of ‘80s Miami with abstract sunsets and glowing perspective grids.”
The vaporwave aesthetic can also be seen in more neutral scenes, like in the work of Dublin-based Marinel Sheu.
4. Earth Tones
They say neutrals never go out of style, and earthy tones have a particularly warming and calming appeal in today’s turbulent political and economic climate. We’ve seen a hark back to the ‘70s with burnt orange, which featured in our recent Color Trends 2020 feature, while elsewhere designers are using shades such as camel, caramel, and burnt sienna.
For templates, backgrounds and typefaces embracing this popular trend, look no further than Envato Elements. Earth tone items include Business Card v.17 by telllu, Nude Branding Mockup by Genetic96, and Palette Burn Orange for Procreate by a_slowik.
An effective tool to ensure balance and unity within graphic design, monochromatic color palettes look to retain their perennial seat at the table in 2020. But we’re seeing a shift away from black and white designs to an exploration of unique monochromatic color schemes.
A great example is Typographic resume posters – vol. 2 by duelofdoves, while Monochrome Agate Textures by FreezeronMedia and Inverto WP – Minimal WordPress Theme by IshYoBoy stick to a simple black and white monochrome palette.
Trends That Break the Rules
6. Street Art
In a similar retro vein to cyberpunk and acid trip, the street art trend leans on the ‘70s punk scene, the acid-bright ‘80s, and the hip hop grunge of the ‘90s. It’s rebellious, yet stylish. Our 2019 trends review looked at spray-can creativity, embracing spontaneity and seeming improvisation.
Start using this aesthetic in your own designs with a font like Bombero by Blankids or by experimenting with one of 69 stoke spray shapes by M-e-f, or try out a template like Ganes – Graffiti PowerPoint Template by StringLabs, all available on Envato Elements. Or check out Graffiti Text Effects – 10 PSD – vol 1 by Sko4 and Graffiti Painter Photoshop Action by 315700 on GraphicRiver.
We looked at brutalism as an up-and-coming trend in our creative trend predictions for 2020—and we stand by it: it’s not so ugly anymore.
This “anti-design” movement, as Envato User Experience Designer Tahlia Giannopoulas called it, first came to influence in 1950s architecture.
“I think this is an important trend,” says Tahlia, “because it challenges beautiful design and pushes people to make something engaging which isn’t conventional.”
8. Sketchy Illustrations
Sketching was mentioned as an illustration trend in our 2020 roundup, where we pointed to the Essential Vector Brushes Collection by Annalvanir as an example of this style. Geometric, abstract, and vector still dominate, but there’s a move to more organic hand-drawn designs too.
As consumers continue to seek out authenticity from the companies that they engage with, it makes sense that brands want to put out content that looks as if it was created by humans, for humans. Check out Hand Drawn Fast Food Elements by EightonesixStudios and Skateboarding Color Hand Drawn Set by macrovector for more.
It’s a style that’s experienced medium amounts of attention through the last few decades, but now could be the time to shine for collage. It was featured in the Over trend report for 2020, where it’s likened to the “post-truth climate” of layered perspectives and the union of chaos and harmony.
Featuring layers, fragments, paper shapes, handwriting, and painterly touches, this year’s style is unashamedly angular and embraces cut-and-paste contrast.
For this scrapbook technique, look at backgrounds such as Collage Colorful Patterns by Youandigraphics, Photoshop actions like Collage Art Photoshop Action by MintActions, or effects like Inky Brush Strokes by featherandsage.
10. Variable Fonts
Lastly, 2020 looks to be shaken up significantly by the most staple of design features: typefaces. A variable font is one file that gives you many options—achieving different appearances with options for spacing, weights, and widths, and thus ever more combinations.
So there’s no need to stay static with fonts.
“With variable fonts, you can now grow, shrink, stretch, and flex your type to any given range, screen, or platform to create proportional balance, consistency, or even animation,” say the designers over at Adobe’s blog.
For more design inspiration, check out Envato’s Creative Trends Report 2020.
By exploring the most popular things people searched for and bought, we can reveal insights that could help inform your own work in 2020.