With the year 2020, graphic design trends have reached an important milestone. It’s the dawn of a new decade, and graphic design is poised to reach new heights as designers begin to define the era. There’s a feeling in the air that anything can happen—that we are about to witness the next evolution of graphic design as we know it.
And that’s also what makes this moment so daunting. Here we stand at the 20s’ inaugural year, and the upcoming decade is full of mystery. You can imagine that graphic designers everywhere must be experiencing a collective blank page anxiety, gripping their tablets and stylus pens and asking: where do we go from here?
Although it might take a few more years for the 20s to hit their stride, designers are already showing us glimmers of what is to come. Let’s take a look at the reigning graphic design trends 2020 that are already starting to characterize this decade-long journey we’re about to embark upon.
1. Cyberpunk color schemes
Our streets might be clogged with electric scooters instead of flying cars, but considering how thoroughly computers have integrated into our lives (right down to our pockets!) it does feel like we’re living in the future. In graphic design, futuristic themes are often expressed with color—especially bright and oversaturated hues that we don’t typically see in nature. These colors are associated with cyberpunk, a sci-fi genre that usually depicts dark, futuristic, neon-infused cities, like in the movie Blade Runner.
Expect color schemes in 2020 to get even more vibrant and luminous.
In practice, cyberpunk color schemes create surreal experiences for viewers that they are unable to experience in real life, like the otherworldly vegetation covering Pepper Pack Design’s packaging below. Their brightness also makes designs feel friendly and inviting, despite the fact that they are shamelessly calling attention to themselves.
In cyberpunk, neon creates pleasant splashes of color against a dark cityscape, and likewise, designs that take advantage of color schemes like these can brighten up our own, sometimes gloomy world.
2. Street art styles
Graffiti and street art techniques have a retro appeal to them, conjuring up images of the 70s punk scene, the neon 80s and the grungy 90s. But in 2020, this trend is more than your average comeback. Street art’s return to graphic design is ripe for our particular moment in time.
Over the past decade, learning design has become more accessible than ever before. That means there are a lot of new kids on the block who’ve had to make a name for themselves on their own, an ethos that fits well with the DIY aesthetic of street art.
With its inherent edginess (given its association with vandalism), graffiti is also a movement of jubilance and freedom, of breaking bonds and protesting convention. That’s what makes the photo backed by street art in Anton Siribaddana’s design feel like it’s going to leap off the screen. All in all, the street art trend is the perfect aesthetic to get us feeling like the future is in our hands.
3. Ultra thin geometry
As a fundamental element of graphic design, lines express the form and nature of an object. Geometric lines illustrate objects that are man-made and technological, whereas curvy lines represent more natural and organic forms. In 2020, we are seeing designers merge these line styles to achieve impossible shapes. These designs are based on stable geometry, but they still manage to feel transient and ethereal. They look metallic but drift like smoke.
Ultra thin geometry is sleek, abstract, and difficult to pull off without computer assistance, which is probably why it’s popular in tech and industrial branding. This style seems to express the future of technology—something less and less physical the deeper we venture into “the cloud”—and speak to the mysterious possibilities awaiting us in the coming years.
4. Paper cut-out collages
Many collages try to trick the eye into seeing one cohesive image where several exist. But the collages of 2020 have nothing to hide. Designers are mixing images that clearly do not belong in the same universe, such as illustrations and photographs. Ditching seamless photo manipulation, they are leaving images with the angular edges and white outlines that come from quick-and-dirty cutting and pasting. The effect is to straddle the line between contrast and harmony, bringing together these disparate elements in a kind of asynchronous beauty.
While they are visually striking, collages are largely on the artsier side, making them great for editorial illustrations, posters, and book covers. In OtomPotom’s blog cover images, for instance, mismatched elements are brought together in a surrealistic fashion to illustrate the abstract topics the content will speak to.
5. Hand lettering with big personality
Typography has always been a critical element of graphic design. In the digital age, when everything must make immediate sense to new users, typography became very functional by necessity. But in recent years, type has become bigger, bolder and more experimental in ways that we have not seen since print ads and magazines of days gone by.
Designers are proving that even a composition that limits itself to white space and text can still be adventurous with bold typographic forms.
In 2020, the trend of larger-than-life type will continue, but in a more human direction. Custom hand lettering is already extremely popular, and branded typography will follow by becoming more colorful, imprecise, and eccentric.
This can be achieved with lettering that comes alive like the examples above. Lettering can personify its subject matter (like the Beast Mode logo) or be offbeat and nonidentical (as in Crazy Plant People) to give a sense of the people behind the brand. In the years to come, consumers will be craving designs crafted by human hands, and it’s up to designers to deliver type that will speak to them.