If you are in any way involved within the latest trends within pop culture, art and design, you may have noticed a surge in the 90s trend in the last year. Also referred to within fashion and mainstream media as the ‘Y2K’ trend, we’ve seen this 90s inspired love find its way into the graphic design world.
You might remember this time by what it was characterised by – Britney Spears, Nirvana, 90210, Friends, Rugrats, Full House and Saved by the Bell to name a few. This aesthetic was for many millennials a significant moment in their lives – their teen and childhood years. Oversized clothing, bright colours and eye catching typography was all the rage, and to no surprise, its back!
Towards the beginning of this decade, the aesthetic leaned more towards a grungy style that included skateboarding, graffiti and punk culture. In contrast, the ending was marked by bubble gum pop which dominated culture at the time. Vibrancy and fun were hallmarks of this era – so its rebirth in the year 2021 was more than welcomed by the design world. A key part of this movement was its constant push on boundaries, as well as the need to experience and throw out any rules or guidelines.
A surge in the use of sans serif and handwritten fonts was prevalent in design during this time. With the famous ‘Comic Sans’ being released right in the middle of the decade, this font within pop culture became overused and oversaturated – leading to its now known controversy. However, it does seem to be on the rise again, as the Y2K trend dominates a number of creative spheres.
In this post, we’re gonna dive right into the 90s graphic design trend in all its forms. Get ready!
The 90s Trend in Mainstream Media
One of the best ways to fully grasp the essence of this 90s trend, is to dive right into the culture of the time – TV shows, movies, music, advertisements and fashion. Any kind of design that uses the 90s inspired trend is likely to be bright, attention grabbing and loud! This is all intentional however – as the designs stay in the viewers mind for a long time after seeing it. Which is what design is all about right? Let’s take a closer look at some specific elements…
The typography that dominates this trend is kind of childlike, bright, colourful and doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. The playfulness of the fonts that inspired this era perhaps stemmed from the Comic Sans introduction we mentioned earlier. This font alone was a great hallmark for the carefree nature of the 90s movement.
Here are some great fonts to recreate the 90s style:
- Vintage Party
- Night Vibes
- The Moonlight
What better way to understand the essence of the 90s style than by watching the famous feel good show Full House. This show alone is a great embodiment of everything we aim to describe in this post, with the storyline itself as well as the fashion, set design and title font all capturing the 90s era.
Another great example is the worldwide phenomenon – Friends. Similarly to Full House, the set design, fashion, title and overall aesthetic of the show captures the carefree, bright, joyful nature of this era.
Some other examples include:
Fresh Prince of Bel Air
Step by Step
Similar to what we’ve already mentioned – you guessed it! Ads during this time (and those that are inspired by this time) were friendly, bright, eye catching and inviting. The warmth that this trend brought was perhaps what has made it such a fan favourite, as well as why it has now been integrated into contemporary graphic design. T
he ad designs that were created in this way drew in potential clients and customers, prompting them to engage with the product or brand behind the ad itself. To get a better understanding of what exactly I’m talking about, take a look at some examples.
As we know, music and graphic design are closely related. For more on this, you can check out our post on the best album cover designs of 2020/2021 at a deeper look into the artwork process of some of your favourite albums!
One of the most poignant artists of the 90s who really worked to shape the trend into what it is today is pop icon Britney Spears. Her debut album …Baby One More Time was a chart topper from the jump and began the transition from the grunge portion of the 90s era into the bubble gum pop she is so well known for.
The typography in this particular album over is rather delicate, innocent and whimsical. The use of a handwritten typeface serves as a contrast to the lower case sans serif font used in the title.
Some more examples of other popular music albums of the time include:
The Spice Girls
The Backstreet Boys: Millennium
The anti-design movement first came about in the 1960s but became particularly popular in the creative boom of the 1990s. This movement was especially prevalent amongst the graphic design, interior design and fashion industries. The loud energy of the 1980s was taken over by minimalist, raw anti-design.
As we mentioned earlier, the early 90s graphic design trends were based in grunge themes of chaos and radicality. Countering the rigid beauty standards that had been created in society, anti-design embraced the ‘ugly’ side of art, and ushered in a surge of experimental design, layouts, elements that screamed “I’m unapologetic!”. Although anti design may not appeal to everyone, it was undoubtedly a significant moment in creative society that is integrally involved in the creative freedom we have today.
At its core, anti-design is meant to grab our attention and leave an impact – and that’s exactly what it did! By challenging the definition of ‘good design’, this movement was defined by its:
- A busy interface
- Bold colour schemes
- Abstract typography
- Experimental elements and themes
This tongue in cheek design style has evolved over the years into what is now commonly referred to as Brutalism, a design trend with deep roots in the anti-design movement of the 90s.
90s Rave Culture
Another significant movement that worked to influence the 90s graphic design trend was 90s rave culture. This movement was born out of the previous era’s acid house scene within the music industry. This is yet another example in recent years of music culture having a significant impact on the graphic design world. This underground subculture of music was characterised by house music, surrealism, psychedelics and cyberpunk themes.
Similar to anti-design, this movement took on a similar rebellious approach and rejected preconceived notions of what it meant to create a ‘good design’. In terms of design elements, bold typography, dark backgrounds, abstract patterns and textures as well as neon designs became integral to graphic design at the time. This was done in order to capture the popular underground rave scene and culture.
Today, the 90s rave trend is still very much alive and pumping! Its increase in popularity has resulted in a number of album covers, advertisements, social media posts, websites and digital art within contemporary design culture.
Check out this Instagram profile for more 90’s work.
The 90s trend today
The boom of the 90s graphic design trend was for many a significant part of their childhood, teenage years or early adolescence. With all of these being significant life events, it’s no surprise that contemporary design culture has embraced this positive, optimistic, experimental trend once again.
The bright colours, abstract textures and attention grabbing typography can be seen in a variety of interfaces today, including websites, posters, advertisements, social media posts and branding to name a few.
We hope that after reading this post you understand a little more about what the 90s trend really is, where it came from and how it has become such a well-loved trend today.
We’ve provided some of our favourite 90s inspired resources here. Have fun and rave on!
Best 90s fonts
Our selection of fonts for the 90s.
Best 90s Instagram Templates
Our selection of Instagram Templates to recreate the 90s style.
Best 90s Graphic Resources
Check out these great 90s graphic papers, 90s lightroom presets and 90s graphic bundles.