Frank Ricci Digital School

Most common visual styles

Lesson 3

When designing a new design, one thing you need to know from the start is which graphic style you need to use. Having knowledge of the most popular artistic styles allows you to be a versatile professional.

The statement

If what you want to do is create wraphic designs for clients, you must necessarily know different artistic styles. This is because working on commission you have to be able to satisfy different requests from people with different tastes. A professional manages to put his personal taste aside for the benefit of that of the client.

Define the graphic style to be used

Before starting to study the tools that allow you to create the super cool digital graphics you want, I advise you to study the expressive forms of visual art and its different styles.
The preliminary study of the most common graphic styles will allow you to have clear guidelines to follow in the development phase of the concept and to satisfy most customer requests.
For this reason it is important to establish the graphic style of a new wrap design project from the beginning.

Here are 17 different graphic design styles commonly used in the world of wrap design. Each design style has distinct characteristics that can be combined with other styles to create unique work pieces.

Define the graphic style to be used

Minimalism

The minimalist movement began in the 1920s with architecture design, but has seen ups and downs in popularity since then.

Maximalism

The polar opposite of minimalism, maximalism uses oversaturated color schemes and patterns in its bold design.

Maximalism work commonly uses erratic layouts that lack traditional balance. Unlike minimalism, this style fills up the page rather than using white space. Layering text, images and texture are common maximalism practices. 

Jhonny Núñez is a maximalist designer who creates beautifully bright and bold illustrations full of overlapping shapes. 

Characteristics: 

  • Unexpected color palette
  • Contrasting patterns
  • Bold fonts and textures

 

maximalism design style

Typographic

Like the title suggests, typographic design uses font styles to communicate a message.

While this design style may use illustrations or be paired with other complementary graphic design styles, the text itself is the main component. Text-based logos are a great example of typographic design in action.  

Characteristics: 

  • Font is the center of the design
  • Font conveys the message
  • Paired with other visual styles and elements

typographic design style color

Retro

Retro style encompasses old-school fonts and design.

Examples include vintage style or 20th-century art deco. These classic art styles incorporate nostalgic elements and fonts that are recognizable to audiences of all ages. The design includes decorative elements and illustrations tied to a specific period.

Characteristics: 

  • Vintage fonts 
  • Details that invoke the psychedelic ‘60s and ‘70s era 
  • Blended modern and retro elements

retro design style

Abstract

Abstract design style depicts images and visual elements that are detached from what they may look like in reality.

The design is open for interpretation by its target audience and uses contrasting elements of form, shape and tone. 

Characteristics: 

  • Unique color palette
  • Surreal depiction of reality
  • Intended for interpretation

 

abstract design style

Geometric

This visual style is based on geometry, a branch of mathematics that focuses on the relationship between angles, lines and points.

The overall design is aesthetically minimal, focusing on the balance of straight lines, shapes and edges. These simple designs can be elevated with varying color palettes and paired with images. 

Maya Ealey’s work is a great example of geometric design that strays away from boring blocks – rather she uses color to her advantage.

Characteristics: 

  • Symmetry and balance 
  • Straight lines and shapes 
  • Varying color palettes

geometric design style

Flat

Minimalist and flat designs are a current graphic design style, which first started to gain popularity in the 2010s.

This style is easily recognised for its monochromatic or limited approach to colour use, minimal shading, bold line work, strict adherence to grids, crisp photographic images, simplified linear illustrations and a preference for sans serif typefaces.

The ongoing popularity of minimalist and flat design is palpable. It is utilised in every sphere design is found, from branding and packaging, to editorial, infographics and digital. This style is everywhere because when done well it offers clean, stylish and easy to read design outcomes which are easily translated across every design format.

Iconic examples of the minimalist design style can be seen in the branding of well-known skincare company Aesop, whose brown glass bottles and minimally designed packaging are recognised as a style icon globally. An example from print and editorial would be art and travel magazine Cereal, with its sleekly designed covers and efficient, minimalist layouts. In all, despite seeming sparse, this approach to design offers our digital age a versatile approach for the effective communication of information, branded style and story telling.

Characteristics

  • No depth of field
  • Minimalist design space
  • Neutral tones and secondary colours
  • Linear design elements
  • Use of negative space

flat design style interior

Three-Dimensional

Three-dimensional graphic design brings flat design to life. The goal is to create an illusion of realism using the effects of natural lighting and shadowing.

As technology advances and becomes more widely available, innovations in design continue. While not entirely recent in its use, the quality and realism of 3-dimensional design has skyrocketed with the advent of more powerful and refined programs.

A perfect example would be to turn on your phone and look at the Google suite icons. With just a few indications of depth and light, many of these icon illustrations are given a 3-dimensionality. Most app icons maintain skeuomorphic elements, meaning the imagery has been designed to mimic the weighting and lighting of the original 3-dimensional object they replicate. 

Characteristics

  • Illusion of live-like depth and volume
  • Employs various lighting effects
  • Shadow and depth indications often utilise one colour, with tonal variations

3d design style

Organic

The organic design style uses natural and rustic elements that connect well within the natural world.

Common elements include natural textures, organic shapes and neutral color palettes. Fluid hand-drawn lines are also a popular technique in this design style. 

Organic design often incorporates botanical elements like plants and leaves, and is a common design style for eco-friendly brands and produce companies. 

Characteristics: 

  • Earthy elements
  • Neutral color palette
  • Fluid lines and organic shapes

 

organic design style

Modern

Modern graphic design, also known as late modernism, dates back to post World War II.

Common elements of this design style include irregular geometric shapes and lines, vibrant colors and unique layouts. Fonts used with this design are usually basic sans serif fonts. 

Characteristics: 

  • Vivid color palette
  • Geometric lines and shapes
  • Paired with sans serif fonts

modern design style

Corporate

The corporate design style is great for brands looking to give off a more professional impression.

It usually uses conservative design elements and formal font styles. Simple icons and layouts are also commonly seen with this contemporary design style. The corporate style works especially well for business presentations and marketing packages. 

Characteristics: 

  • Simple shapes and fonts
  • Clean lines
  • Complementary color palette

 

corporate design style

Illustrated

Several design styles in this guide fall under the illustrative category of graphic design.

Illustration style is unique to each designer and varies with techniques including animations, 3D, photorealism and more. If you’re a designer, pick up your tools and start sketching — there’s your illustrated design style right there!

We love Cachetejack’s unique illustrative style, full of color and life.

Characteristics: 

  • Hand-drawn look 
  • Unique to the designer 
  • Umbrella graphic design style

 

illustrated design style by Cachetejack

Psychedelic

The phenomena of psychedelic design, art and music is synonymous with the 1960s and 1970s.

It influenced and was influenced by the style of dress, philosophy, literature and culture of the time, while holding sway over the design culture throughout the decade. It still emerges as a recycled stylisation in design today.

Band and concert posters of the 1960s to 1970s offer a vast reference library for this style. We see the use of bright and clashing colours, illegible hand-drawn curvaceous type, abstracted curvilinear shapes and metaphysical or surreal illustrative or photographic subject matter. The psychedelic design style harbours the influence of Art Nouveau designs, particularly in the hand-drawn type and consistent use of images depicting women or the female form.

Characteristics

  • Influenced by the psychedelic drug culture
  • Intense, clashing colours
  • Type and image use influenced by Art Nouveau
  • Hand-drawn type generally illegible and hard to read
  • Abstracted curvaceous forms and design elements

Photorealism

With this unique drawing style, visuals are designed to look as similar to their real-life counterparts as possible.

The design is open for interpretation by its target audience and uses contrasting elements of form, shape and tone. 

Characteristics: 

  • Unique color palette
  • Surreal depiction of reality
  • Intended for interpretation

 

photorealism design style

Masculine

This design style is often used in advertisements and brands that are geared toward a primarily male audience.

Monochromatic color palettes, rough textures and thick-stroke fonts are popular elements for this style, as well as gritty or even rugged visuals. 

Characteristics: 

  • Thick-stroke fonts
  • Muted color palette
  • Rugged textures and imagery 

 

masculine design style

Feminine

This illustrative style is used for brands and advertisements that are geared toward a primarily female audience.

Common elements include cursive fonts, charming decorative details and soft pastel colors. This graphic design style can be paired nicely with organic and natural elements. 

Characteristics: 

  • Cursive fonts 
  • Sloped and curved lines and shapes
  • Delicate color palette

 

feminine design style

Street art

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The design is open for interpretation by its target audience and uses contrasting elements of form, shape and tone.

Characteristics: 

  • Unique color palette
  • Surreal depiction of reality
  • Intended for interpretation

 

photorealism design style

Grunge

Grunge illustration style is dark and somber — usually portraying a certain mood like anger or doom.

Irregular lines and shapes and distressed elements are used within this design. Gritty textures and stained backgrounds are also popular elements. This design style is often seen accompanied by gothic and punk styles. 

Characteristics: 

  • Dark and contrasting color palette
  • Portrays an ominous mood
  • Distressed and rough textures

 

grunge design style

New York style

The New York design style emerged from a group of artists living in the city during the 50s and 60s. They created an informal group called The New York School,.

whose art was permeated with the idea of dance, poetry, and music, leading to an avant-garde design style that was free-flowing, bright, and highly-experimental. The typography on the right-posted is a good example of this, using colourful triangles to create an interesting effect, rather than just having plain text. Using this kind of design style in your website or branding may give you an interesting quirkiness that people are drawn to.

This design style also gave birth to abstract expressionism—an entirely abstract style with no attempt to create recognisable objects, made famous by Jackson Pollock.

Characteristics: 

  • Unique color palette
  • Surreal depiction of reality
  • Intended for interpretation

 

graphic design styles new york

Grunge

Grunge illustration style is dark and somber — usually portraying a certain mood like anger or doom.

Irregular lines and shapes and distressed elements are used within this design. Gritty textures and stained backgrounds are also popular elements. This design style is often seen accompanied by gothic and punk styles. 

The definition of grunge is “grime or dirt,” and you can clearly see these reflected in the grunge design style. Typography is typically bold and roughly drawn, with letters dripping or splattered, as though drawn with a rebellious attitude. Shapes are torn, ripped, or crooked, giving it a rawness that may remind you of punk or rock. Colours are often minimal, and usually include one vivid primary colour that looks stark against the rest of the design.

If you’re looking to appeal to people who thrive on anarchy, this is probably the design style to go for.

Characteristics

  • Dirty textures and background images
  • Irregular lines and crooked elements
  • Dirty stains such as coffee rings and spilled out liquids
  • Torn images and paper edges
  • Hand-written and hand-drawn elements

 

Graphic Design Styles: Grunge

Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau is the first truly modern design style. Created in the 1890s, it’s a result of Western artists trying to create a style they could call their own, which with the fast increase of global trading, could be promoted more easily.

The style is identified by its lengthy organic lines, often used to animals, plants, and delicate objects, creating an ornamental and beautifully decorative effect. The typography used in this style follows similar principles, with a heavy use of natural-looking serifs, and looping shapes that complement the graphical elements.

Colours are kept to a minimum in Art Nouveau because printing was expensive in the early 1900s, so designs tended to use a single colour (commonly black) with subtle shading, as with the left example shown above.

Characteristics

  • Intricate illustrative style
  • Bold, heavy weighted outlines
  • Hand drawn and coloured
  • Use of natural forms
  • Use of a natural colour and tonal palette
  • Regularly features female personas

types of graphic design styles art noveau

Art Deco

If something has been designed with strong geometric shapes, bold colours, and plenty of symmetry, there’s a good chance it’s in the Art Deco style.

This style is heavily influenced by Cubism—another style that used hard shapes to create a cube-like effect—and Futurism, which is famous for its monochromatic style that used materials like metal, plastic, and glass, which you can clearly see in the Metropolis image on the left.

Art Deco is a design style that can stop you in your tracks. It’s almost forceful, demanding that you give it a look—a valuable trick in today’s distracted world, when you want your website or advertisement to shine through. Its intense shapes, highly-contrasting colour schemes, and bold typography has made it one of the most recognisable design styles in history.

Characteristics

  • Bold geometric shapes
  • Use of vertical and motion lines
  • Capitalised typefaces
  • High contrast in colours
  • Flat (in terms of depth)

graphic design styles art deco

Victorian

Victorian graphic design is an ornate, busy style that usually bursts with content, with shapes, borders, characters and letters filling the entire image.

This reflects the style of Victorian Brits (especially royalty), who preferred everything to be opulent and gilded, and can still be seen in royal palaces today.

Victorian design tends to be symmetrical, and its typography quirky, with swirling, serif-laden letters that lend an eccentricity to the style. Colours are typically muted because of the lack of brightly-coloured ink. You may find yourself associating the style with posh royalty, which may appeal to people who value such things.

Characteristics: 

graphic design styles victorian rathbone

American Kitsch

The influence of Art Deco lasted long after the 1930s, inspiring a proliferation of new design styles. One unique style which followed was American Kitsch.

This design approach rose to prominence in the 1940s to 1960s in the USA, with an idealised, cartoon-like illustrative style. American kitsch designs of this era were known for their particular font styles and a futuristic stylisation with dramatised or caricatured imagery.

The graphic design style is synonymous with informal shapes, rich and high contrasting colour use, hand drawn and coloured illustrations, space-age forms and dramatic curves. We might observe a cross-pollination between American Kitsch design and the tone of voice in the advertising and signage of the day. Both employed the characteristic idealism of the American dream, peppered with caricatures. Film posters offer some of the best examples of American Kitsch style film, especially those of the science fiction or fantasy genres.

Characteristics

  • Contrasting imagery and fonts
  • Cartoon-like illustrative images
  • Bold, vibrant colours
  • People in dramatic poses
  • Aerodynamic shapes

Graphic Design Styles: American Kitsch

Punk

A strong ethos of DIY and anti-establishment attitude permeates all aspects of punk design.

The rawness of this form of design came from the culture in which it originated in the late 1970s punk music movement. The design of the time spoke to the individual designers and artists creating these works. Most were entirely untrained as designers and usually were the band members or friends of the bands whose posters they made.

Iconic elements of the punk design style are the DIY hand written or cut and paste typographic elements. Often designers collaged text using found and incongruous type elements—haphazardly intermingling bold serif and sans serif typefaces to achieve the classic punk style.

Punk design style lives on in contemporary zine culture, album cover designs and DIY poster design. These creative communities often operate from the position of having low to no budget. The cheap and readily available production mediums of screen printing and photocopying offer punk design a consistent aesthetic which is very easily emulated.

Characteristics

  • Low quality, photocopier printed images
  • Grainy and matt screen printing effects
  • Found and collaged type
  • Predominantly photographic imagery
  • High contrast, bold colours
  • Overall rough, textured aesthetic

Graphic Design Styles: Punk

American Kitsch

The influence of Art Deco lasted long after the 1930s, inspiring a proliferation of new design styles. One unique style which followed was American Kitsch.

This design approach rose to prominence in the 1940s to 1960s in the USA, with an idealised, cartoon-like illustrative style. American kitsch designs of this era were known for their particular font styles and a futuristic stylisation with dramatised or caricatured imagery.

The graphic design style is synonymous with informal shapes, rich and high contrasting colour use, hand drawn and coloured illustrations, space-age forms and dramatic curves. We might observe a cross-pollination between American Kitsch design and the tone of voice in the advertising and signage of the day. Both employed the characteristic idealism of the American dream, peppered with caricatures. Film posters offer some of the best examples of American Kitsch style film, especially those of the science fiction or fantasy genres.

Characteristics

  • Contrasting imagery and fonts
  • Cartoon-like illustrative images
  • Bold, vibrant colours
  • People in dramatic poses
  • Aerodynamic shapes

Graphic Design Styles: American Kitsch