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Aesthetics of The Past Reacts to Modern Digital Turmoil: Extraordinary Graphic Design Trends

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The aesthetics of the past is in the present. Under the unavoidable impact of modern digital trends and technologies, it has experienced changes, acquired a somewhat different form and entered the digital age as a kind of innovation.

Clay Vaporwave logo by Clay

Graphic design trends usually reflect what people experienced in recent times. This year, they went through a lot. Naturally, graphic design has absorbed these changes and given birth to new styles or brought some old-school trends back to life. Here you can find an outlook of several trends in graphic design that appeared many years ago and resurrected today.

Mesmerizing Psych-Out

We may remember psych-out from old American movies about hippies, psychedelic music and recreational drugs. It looks like a flash of bold colors, weird forms and psychedelic motifs. This style is fun, playful, and hypnotic. Sometimes, psych-out is a little bit dark, inspired by Dark Americana aesthetics.

This year, the trend is coming back, acquiring a more futuristic shape and often referencing cyborgs, climate change, sustainability and automation. The counterculture of the ’70s becomes just another piece of a modern graphic design pie. Fantastic scenes of psych-out that often depict traveling, flying, outer space and imaginative landscapes become even more actual this year when many people stay at home during the lockdown. This style sparks imagination and switches the mind into a fantasy mode.

Priests Show Flyer by Evan Wachowski
Vertigo — Hitchcock by Mani Bharathi Ravi
Hello World by Aslan Almukhambetov for Fireart Studio

Vaporwave Revival

Vaporwave is another retro trend transformed into a style that matches today’s reality and social mood. Initially, it appeared as a response to powerful economic and social streams in 2010, which are still actual today: globalization, runaway consumerism, and nostalgia. Vaporwave visuals are easily recognizable due to a specific color palette that is bright, bold, with neon lights and metallic glares but softer than cyberpunk’s one. It’s also featured by dreamscapes, sweetness, renaissance elements (sculptures, in particular) and references to old-school Internet reality.

Vaporwave has a sense of humor. Its fantastic combinations of objects, colors and typography may sometimes have slight sarcastic vibes. Playful graphics, pastel tones, pixel art and digital stickers — all this is also about vaporwave.

Graphic Design Trends 2021 Inspired By What We All Experienced This Year

Adjustments by panoplied
ReArt — Vaporwave by Alice Nanni
3d hover interactions by Andy Selimov for Fireart Studio

Hello Again, Bauhaus

Bauhaus is a school of design, architecture and art that existed in Germany from 1919 to 1933. It was born as the reaction of designers to the industrialization of their design and artworks. At that time, they started creating controversial art that focused on self-expression and building things yourself, independently, out of the system. The school was closed to the demand of the Nazi regime.

Modern Bauhaus characterized by clear geometric compositions, dramatic color combinations, a bold palette, and the dominance of red, yellow, black and blue. The style has experienced some changes such as the incorporation of 3D, digital art and animation. These innovations have brought Bauhaus back to the digital future.

Bauhaus100 posters by Attila Kanto
Limited Sneakers 2.0 by Ephus
101 years of Bauhaus | UI #002 by Dan C.

Playful Retro

This year, we also witness a blast from the past in the form of traditional retro in all its beautiful manifestations, such as a limited and muted color palette, hand-lettering, old-school fashion, obsolete technologies, seamless compositions, simplified illustrations, retro textures and so on. We may often see the use of imaginative landscapes from old-school games, cartoons and movies in graphic design.

Retro typography takes a special place under the sun in the digital age. While preserving a previous shape and color combinations, it has started “speaking” about things that refer to today’s social and economic problems and movements. Slogans and mottos like “black lives matter,” saturated with deep symbolism and context, are more often incorporated in contemporary digital art.

Master of disaster by Magda for Fireart Studio
Black Lives Matter by Roberlan Borges Paresqui
Illustration by 🧙‍♂️Patryk Wojciechowicz for Fireart Studio

Graphic Design Trends That Will Help Your Business Stand Out in 2021 | Fireart

Wrap Up

The past aesthetics is not forgotten, it’s not left far in the past. It’s here and it’s today. Here I have collected several styles and trends born many years ago and experienced a quick comeback today. After some transformations happened under the impact of the digital epoch, they have resurrected and become a fresh breeze in the modern online world.


Aesthetics of The Past Reacts to Modern Digital Turmoil: Extraordinary Graphic Design Trends was originally published in Muzli – Design Inspiration on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.