Ever noticed that many people get nostalgic about the 90s era right now?
This retro trend is not just coming back but also becoming the new trend in graphic design. 2022 sees the coming of vibrant, playful, and even somewhat kitschy aesthetics from the era. What can you expect to see from this trend? What are visual aesthetics to apply when you try to incorporate the 90s in your design? Here is a simple guide.
Main Aesthetics of 90s Design Trend
90s design returns to the main design trend after decades of minimalism and elegant muted colors as the “modern design rules”. The visual aesthetics of the era boast loud, bright colors, along with abstract shapes, tacky fonts, fun patterns, and chaotic layouts. The style is the antithesis of the later design trends that focus on sleek lines, harmonious “natural” colors, and symmetrical designs.
Not all the 90s aesthetics are sweet and cheerful. Influences from grunge and Britpop cultures, for example, have brought the trends of raw and moody atmosphere, abstract or striking photography, and chaotic layouts.
Why does the 90s aesthetics become a trend again? One possible cause is the rising trend of 90s nostalgia, a time when many millennials and early Gen-Z feel like “the easier times”. Pandemic and other real-life challenges have made people return to nostalgia as a tool for coping and self-expression. Simple, muted, “clean” aesthetics are replaced with bold colors, rich motifs, and uneven, wavy, or crooked lines.
If you design for digital or online media, you should be familiar with the old website or graphic aesthetics. Many of these websites are colorful, have bold and quirky lines, and use a lot of cartoonish or abstract elements.
Ideas of the 90s Design Visual Trends
Here are several ideas of the 90s designs you can adopt, based on the popular movements during those times.
The Consumer Aesthetics Research Institute (CARI) came up with the term “groovival” to describe the colorful 90s designs. This term combined the word “groovy” and “revival”, indicating the goal to bring the 60s and 70s “flower power” trend into the 90s. This trend was a big hit among older and younger generations at that time, embracing as many demographics as possible.
You can incorporate this trend by using a lot of bright colors (often clashing), flower motifs, and blocky, playful fonts. Groovival is also not afraid of using bold, clashing motifs. You can also see Groovival imagery in many cartoon-inspired visuals.
Britpop moment in the 90s saw the popularity of music schemes that emphasized the “Britishness”. It also saw the rise of iconic alt-rock, indie, folk, and glam rock musicians and bands. The cultural moment popularized “glamorous casual” fashion and a lot of British motifs in patterns and images.
If you want to evoke Britpop look in design, use iconic British icons like Union Jack, red telephone boxes, and architecture as visual inspiration. They can be silhouettes, patterns, or mixed media elements. Graffiti font and gritty sans-serif typefaces are inseparable parts of Britpop aesthetic.
Rave was a staple of summer during the 80s and 90s, prevalent in many iconic cities from Detroit to Manchester and Dublin. Just like the event, designs inspired by rave culture are bright, bold, and striking, peppered with neon colors.
If you want to evoke rave culture in your design, do not be afraid to “burn the retinas”. Combine bold, contrasting colors and neon with bold fonts. Cut and paste several images together to create a quirky, overwhelming image, like geometric patterns, soundwave motifs, pop culture images, and icon vectors.
The complete opposite of Groovival and rave, the grunge aesthetic is inspired by the grunge movement in 90s music. Musicians and bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden popularized laidback, gritty, and unconventional styles that differed from the poppy music culture in the previous era.
To evoke grunge aesthetics in designs, you can find inspiration from grunge music albums, zines, and posters. Iconic elements include gritty and textured backgrounds or effects, faded visuals, torn or uneven edges, and silhouettes or shapes inspired by street culture and urban architectures.
The 90s aesthetics are vibrant and bold with strong visual cues, perfect for adding personalities to your design. Try incorporating 90s elements into your design to create unique, stylish art that makes your work distinctive.