Graphic design trends are more than mere forgettable fads: they reflect year-old limitations and clichés changed for something new. Because imagine how boring life would be if the design remained the same.

This year – like the echo of near symmetry that 2022 represents – graphic design trends are tentatively the second wave. The world is slowly but surely recovering from a protracted pandemic. Patterns over the decades have been given a second life. A few experiences replace the old with the new. Our journey through 2022 promises to be unpredictable, as we’ll find out in the following 12 graphic design trends.

The top 5 inspiring graphic design trends for 2022 are:

90s nostalgia
Expressive and experimental lettering
Ukiyo-e flat design
Daydream doodles

1- 90s nostalgia

It seems not so long ago that popular media like Stranger Things and It brought ’80s nostalgia back into the mainstream, ushering in an era of gothic seduction, neon colors, and steamy-wave landscapes. In 2022, the ’90s retro comeback finally arrived (after being recently romanticized on Netflix’s Fear Street).

As you can see in many of the trends on this list, the 90’s are back in many ways. However, this particular tendency depends on nostalgia, that is, looking backwards at the ideal gaze of longing. To this end, we’re re-experiencing the 90’s through Memphis design patterns, simple emojis, and primitive internet frames. Childhood memories reign supreme through brightly colored blocks and dripping slime. Whenever your design project demands comfort with an old-fashioned cool touch, bring your watch back to the 90’s.

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2. Expressive and experimental letters

As the world becomes more global and online, we cannot always rely on words to convey meaning from culture to culture. Far from a setback, many designers see it as an opportunity. For 2022, we want typefaces to push the boundaries of legibility and create expressive forms.

Because this trend is rooted in experimentation and personal expression, the sky is the limit when it comes to its looks. Mismatched letter styles, puzzling shapes and amorphous blobs are all on the table. Taken together, these font styles challenge the distinction between abstract shapes and readable letters. This could be a risky trend — one that is hard to pull off for audiences less interested in artistic experimentation. But it rewards those brave enough with freedom: to be free from the constraints of any particular language.

3. Ukiyo-e flat design

For years, designers have been looking for ways to revive the flat vector graphics imposed by digital design standards. The designers of 2022 draw inspiration from graphic design pioneers of the past, notably the Ukiyo-e artists of the Edo period in Japan.

Ukiyo-e is a print style that uses hand-carved woodblock prints (although sometimes painting). One of the most famous artworks of this style is the big wave off the coast of Kanagawa. It was often characterized by bold contours, flat colors, and limited perspective techniques. All of these are familiar to vector designers.

For over 300 years, we have rendered everything from ukiyo-e artist landscapes to local celebrity and mythical scenes in stylized flatness. They mainly portrayed everyday scenes that resonated with their main consumer, the merchant class, but facial expressions and human poses were often exaggerated with a touch of liquidity. Nowadays, creatives use a similar technique to give the same extraordinary effect to the regular flat vector scene.

4. Daydream doodles

Doodles are more than just no-nonsense shapes that you draw when your mind wanders during the zoom-in / zoom-out show. What you draw can actually say a lot about you.

These winding drawings are very personal, and the 2022 designers inject professional work with a bit of their own abstract mind landscape. By doing so, you can bridge the gap between digital tools and human touch and create friendly designs. At the same time, it doesn’t have to compete with digital design. Tools such as animation help evoke the free-form drawing nature of the graffiti process.

5. Anti-design

Over the past decade, the app race has fostered strong design conventions focused primarily on usability. While this has resulted in interfaces that any average user can easily understand, it has also resulted in a homogenous digital landscape. Many creatives fight back by breaking the rules. In 2022, some plan to break them completely: introduce anti-constructors.

Anti-design (related to brutalist but not completely synonymous) is how it sounds: it avoids traditional design principles and traditional aesthetic sense. It challenges us with asymmetry, colliding colors, bare interfaces, crowded elements, and complete typography. We see it most commonly in the digital arena, but the spirit of rebellion can be applied to any design context. For that critic, the style is ugly because it’s ugly. But for that champion, it creates a design that is free from beauty standards built by someone else.

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