Design by the Decades: Get inspired by 90s graphic design trends

Are you ready to bring back the loud colors, dive deep into pop culture, wear everything tie-dye, and venture into the raver’s paradise?

Design by the Decades: Get inspired by 90s graphic design trends

Millennials rejoice! This one is for you. Are you ready to bring back the loud colors, dive deep into pop culture, wear everything tie-dye, and venture into the raver’s paradise?

Mainstream media certainly set the stage for everyone who grew up in the 90s to really be an “individual” and develop a sense of style. We still don’t know whether this was a good or bad thing… But one thing is for sure, we won’t ask you to use Comic Sans MS ever again.

Don’t forget to read up on 70s and 80s design trends before you get started!

The design trends of the 1990s can sometimes be challenging to put a finger on. While previous decades had well-defined trends associated with each period, the 90s focused more on individualism than any decade before it.

Influenced by fashion, music, videos, and magazines of this decade, along with the globalization of the internet, it’s no wonder there was such a wide range of design styles prevalent during this time.

The way you remember the 90s is probably very different from how your peers remember it. This could be explained by your age when you lived through the decade but more likely attributed to the wide range of styles available.

Early in the ’90s, there were a lot of echoes from the ’80s, including amplifications of New Wave and Memphis-style patterns, bright and pastel neon colors, and geometry. But this is not what defines the 90s decade of design.

Here are the top three graphic design trends of the 1990s.

90s stickers
Art by Lilla Bardenova

Musical Influence

The start of the decade experienced a carryover of design styles from the 80s; this is really where the similarities ended. In the time of Kurt Cobain, Stone Temple Pilots, The Spice Girls, and Oasis, the ultimate goal of the 90s was to be cool. This was reflected in the designs and styles of some of the “coolest” bands of the time.

Rock, indie, British pop, grunge, and electronic rave music ruled the decade, influencing a “carefree” design style throughout. This decade also faced some polarization in the design styles influenced by music. Neon and psychedelic smileys lived on the club culture side of things. These were opposed by the carefree grunge mood and fun-loving style of Britpop.

Simply put, there are plenty of elements to choose from when it comes to the music-influenced design of the 90s.

  1. Roll'n Roll! 90s art branding design headphones illustration isometric illustration isometry music roller skates ui vintage walkman
  2. Cassette Tape Photoshop Mockups 3d 90s case cassette cassette tape covers instagram labels mockup music music tape nostalgia object photoshop plastic promo psd retro template vintage
  3. Janet Jackson for NPR 90s collage dance editorial illustration janet jackson music paper collage
  4. Definitely Maybe turns 25! 90s britpop cover definitely maybe disc draw gallagher illustration ipad pro music oasis procreate vinyl
  5. Smiey pattern 60s 90s acid background character face fashion groovy illustration line lsd melt pattern poster psychedelic seamless smile smiley trippy wallpaper
  6. OutKast 90s andre3000 artist atlanta biography design hiphop music music app music player outkast profile rap southern typography ui ux vintage web webdesign

Row 1: Magdalena KulasRoberto PerrinoBlake Cale. Row 2: Gustavo ZambelliSlavko KahovskyJake.

Innovative Typography

If the 90s were to be remembered for any singular design trend, it would have to be the typography.

From the infamous creation of Comic Sans (1994) to the creation of Microsoft WordArt, novelty typography played a considerable role in the decade’s design trends. With vector software readily available to designers of all levels, and most designs from this decade immortalized on the internet, there are plenty of examples to draw inspiration from.

Check out iconic logos for Clueless, Jurassic Park, and the Friends and Rugrats TV series as prime examples.

  1. 40k art comic sans doc editor followers geek illustration mac macintosh retro text thanks type uxui vintage windows word wordart
  2. Overtime: Is Comic Sans Really That Bad? comic sans fun geometric playful podcast art shapes vector
  3. Fake Jewelry 80s 90s beach cursive custom type fake jewelry hand neon palm trees pixel art script shopping mall type typography vaporwave
  4. 90's Slang Pattern 90s hand lettering highlighter lettering lettering pattern nineties nostalgia pattern retro typography vintage
  5. Tumb Ink Trap Display Font 80s 90s bold contemporary design display font fonts fun hipster inktrap lettering modern poster quirky sans serif serif typeface typeface design typography

Row 1: Gustavo ZambelliMeg LewisConnor Brandt. Row 2: Kathrin SchönbornDina RodriguezFonts.

Minimalism

The latter years of the decade brought the beginning of the global movement of minimalism. Influenced by leaders in the fashion industry, namely Calvin Klein, designs of the late 90s were filled with clean lines and neutral color palettes emphasizing elegance.

The minimalism trend continued through fashion into interior design, products, branding, and of course, graphic design. Monochromes and black and white photography ruled the design landscape and set high marks for today’s brand design.

From furniture to fashion, minimalism has been the most resilient design style to emerge in the 1990s.

  1. Still with Seriously Nostalgic Serif :) 70s 80s 90s cool editorial eighties elegant font groovy layout magazine nineties retro serif seventies vintage vintage advert
  2. Jam of The Week | 141 90s music 90s rock album art alt-rock art direction branding creative direction design graphic design illustration jam of the week rock the toadies typography ui web website
  3. Kilimanjaro Sans use case examples 70s 80s 90s advert advertising bold editorial eighties font layout magazine nineties poster retro sans seventies type vintage
  4. UX/UI & Brand design for Balance Farm™ brand branding flat ui grid icon set icons interface logo logodesign logotype minimal minimalistic mobile modern simple system ui ux uxui web
  5. Super Deluxe Sight & Sound 80s 90s brand brand design brand identity branding branding design concept creative design identity packaging retro ui ux uxui vhs vintage web website
  6. John adobe collage design graphic design minimal minimalism monochrome photography photoshop poster poster art poster design print screen print simple typography

Row 1: Nicky LaatzBritton Stipetic for Rogue StudioNicky Laatz. Row 2: Igor Grytsiuk for Geex ArtsMatt RomoDora Lazarević.

Honorable mention: Anti-Design

The Anti-Design movement cannot be left out of a discussion on 90s design styles.

The widespread availability of the internet meant that anyone could be a designer (and the same is true today)! But with what limited software and tools were available at the time, the result was as you’d expect: an aesthetic mess.

Due to today’s information-heavy landscape of content creation, the anti-design style has made a comeback. With many creators prioritizing content over design or simply not having classically trained design skills enabled by tools like Canva, anti-design is on the rise again.

Bold, clashing colors, busy interfaces, and off-grid typography “define” Anti-Design. You’ll know it when you see it.

For millennials, the 1990s was the decade of design.

From the legacy of 80s geometric patterns and maximalism to the global minimalist movement, and peppered with musical influences and novelty fonts, the 90s sure had a lot going on.

But the cool thing about this decade is that designers today can select which 90s design theme they want to emulate, and almost everyone will be able to identify it as an influence of the 1990s.

This is the time to whip out your tie-dye, put on your bike shorts, and create those 90s-style pieces.