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11 Graphic Design Styles For Your Design | When To Use + Images

Humans have been creating artistic designs since the Ice Age. They’ve evolved from simple cave paintings made from dirt, charcoal, and animal fat, to a variety of sophisticated graphic design styles that breathe life into advertisements, products, and websites, giving them a character of their own.

In this article, we explore 11 common graphic design styles that you might adopt for your company’s branding, to help illustrate the character and values of your business.

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Table of contents

  1. Contemporary
  2. Minimalist
  3. Flat
  4. Scandinavian
  5. Retro
  6. Psychedelic
  7. Art Nouveau
  8. Art Deco
  9. New York
  10. Grunge
  11. Victorian

Why use a graphic design style for your business?

If you’re starting a new business, or thinking about refining your company’s branding, learning about the various graphic design styles can help you to pick a suitable aesthetic that can shape its personality and identity. Design is a powerful tool that can evoke strong emotions in people, so if you select a style that resonates with your target audience, they’ll naturally gravitate towards it, and you may win their business.

For example, simplicity might be at the core of your product or service, in which case a minimalist design style may suit your branding. Or you may want to transport your customers back to the 60s and remind them of the liberating spirit of that era, in which case the retro style might be best for you. Design styles can represent values, so when you use them for your own business, the values are adopted by your branding, and you can attract the kinds of people you want to attract more easily. You’ll also have a consistent and recognisable brand image that people quickly become familiar with.

11 types of graphic design styles

Here are some of the most common and popular types of graphic design styles to use for your business, with a mixture of old and new.

1. Contemporary graphic design style/h3>

graphic design styles defined contemporary

Image from LazebraArt

types-of-graphic design styles contemporary

Image from svart ink

Contemporary isn’t a graphic design style per se, but encompasses current design trends, so is constantly changing. It includes a wide variety of line styles, shapes, and textures, from thick cartoonish styles as displayed in the left image above, or a “flatter” and more minimalist style that mixes a small handful of clearly-divided colours. The latter is a style that has been particularly popular in 2021.

If you’d like to learn about contemporary fonts for your branding, check out our article on the best fonts for websites.

2. Minimalist graphic design style

graphic design styles defined minimalism

Image from Stack Exchange

types of graphic design styles minimalism

Image from Logo Design

Minimalist graphic design is defined by its simplicity. It tends to use very few elements, a small number of colours, and a single texture style that is usually flat. When used in imagery, the few elements in a minimalist design style almost forces the viewer to pay attention to them, because they’re encapsulated by white space and nothing else. When used in a website or product design, the style is intended to become almost non-descript, fading into the background so that the website’s features and content take center-stage. For this reason, minimalist design is incredibly popular with web designers, because the site’s content and features are the reason that the user is visiting in the first place, making the design more usable. This is especially important for homepage designs—the most popular page on your website.

Minimalism is a hugely influential design style, and you’ll recognise its quality in some of the other styles explored below.

3. Flat graphic design style

types of graphic design styles flat design

Image from Envato Tuts

graphic design styles defined flat design

Image from Shutterstock

The flat graphic style was inspired by three others: the Swiss style, Bauhaus, and Modernism. It might also be considered a type of minimalist design, because it uses many of the same principles. Few colours are used, and if variations are used for a single colour, it’s usually slightly darker to create a two-dimensional shadow effect, as seen in the images above. The colours that are chosen are usually nice and bright.

Lines are created by the elements themselves, without the use of black borders, and they’re mostly straight with the exception of some curved edges. Typography is super-clean too, to match the design style.

Flat design has been made popular by Google, Apple, and Microsoft, who incorporated it into their software products, now used by billions of people across the world. The style works well for software because uncomplicated imagery has smaller file sizes which makes loading faster.

4. Scandinavian style graphic design

graphic design styles scandinavian

Image from Pinterest

graphic design styles scandinavian

Image from 99 Designs

Another minimalist-inspired style, Scandinavian design is known from its stripped-down quality that makes every element seem important. Originally from the Nordic countries of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, it was part of the populist design movement that advocated for a beautiful aesthetic that was affordable by the masses, as opposed to the ostentatious, expensive-looking Victorian style seen in royal British palaces.

Its colour palettes are small, shapes simple, and typography curvy without a serif in sight. You’re also likely to see plenty of white space, to draw focus on the most important elements of the design, whether graphical or practical.

5. Retro graphic design styles

graphic design styles retro expo 70

Public domain image

graphic design styles retro

Image from Techno FAQ

“Retro” graphic design refers to a broad range of design styles from the 1950s to 1970s. This includes Psychedelic, Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Gothic, Baroque, the New York style, and 60s and 70s design, each with clearly distinct styles that would rarely be mistaken for each other. We explore some of these below.

Retro design styles can spark nostalgia, thrusting the viewer to an earlier period of their life where they might have felt a strong sense of belonging or meaning. This sentimentality can evoke a feel-good reaction, and work well in commercial uses like branding or advertising.

The example image on the left is from the Japanese World Exposition in 1970, and is an example of design trends that were popular in the 60s. Again, you can see shades of minimalism in this style, which uses just two colours. On the right is a more complex style that looks to be a combination of Art Deco, New York, and slight influences from Psychedelic.

6. Psychedelic style graphic design

types of graphic design styles psychedelic

Image from 99 Designs

graphic design styles defined psychedelic poster

Image from Pinterest

Psychedelic design is another instantly recognisable style, characterised by its vivid colours and profusion of wavy lines. The principles of this design reflect the psychedelic movement of the 60s, driven in part by LSD—a newly popular, powerful drug that drastically altered people’s perception of reality, particularly the way that objects were viewed, whose edges and lines would wiggle and warp as though shaken from both ends. Colours were also much brighter. Both of these visual effects have been captured in the psychedelic design style, which has become a metaphor for the LSD experience.

You can use our colour wheel charts to help select a palette for psychedelic designs (or any other design, for that matter).

7. Art Nouveau graphic design style

types of graphic design styles art noveau

Image from Wikipedia

graphic design styles art nouveau

Image from A. Beardsley

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.

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8. Art Deco graphic design style

graphic design styles art deco

Image from Design Shack

graphic design styles art deco

Image from Shutterstock

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.

9. New York style graphic design

graphic design styles new york

Image from Minnie Muse

graphic design styles new york school

Image from Cargo Collective

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.

10. Grunge graphic design style

graphic design styles grunge

Image from The Awl

graphic design styles defined grunge

Image from The Grittiness Of Grunge

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.

11. Victorian style graphic design

graphic design styles victorian rathbone

Image from Pinterest

graphic design styles defined victorian

Image from Pinterest

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.

Graphic design styles defined

That’s it! Every major graphic design style defined, with examples and descriptions of each. If you’d like to read more on this subject, check out our article on graphic design trends for 2023.

With an overview of the various graphic design styles, you should be able to select an appropriate style for your branding, that appeals strongly to your target audience. Add this information to a brand style guide and you’ll be able to maintain strong, consistent branding for your customers.