5 Top Graphic Design Styles to Inspire Your Poster Art | Blog | Domestika (2024)

Explore examples of different graphic styles from the history of poster design, and how they are remixed in the trends of 2022

An effective poster should persuade, sell, educate, and appeal, according to graphic designer and lettering artist, Martina Galarza a.k.a. Marte (@marte_). Type and imagery unite to communicate a single meaning, and it’s because of this impact that posters are a great source of design inspiration.

Here we dive into a list of five graphic design styles, each with their own textual and graphical aesthetics that you can use to develop compelling work—for posters, websites, or even book covers. Whether you’re a fan of rigorous organization or “organized chaos”, there’s a style to suit you…

Marte has designed posters for musicians like puss* Riot and Paul McCartney, and brands like Budweiser and WeWork. She also created a poster series titled Female Power in 2018—a key year for Argentinian feminism. In her course on poster design for events, she stresses the importance of understanding different types of graphic design to ensure your work combines purpose with visuals.

In the wake of rapid change in the last few years, design trends shift frequently. The desire for simplicity and rejection of over-consumption calls for more organic and “real” graphic styles. Conversely, maximalism is back, with bright colors and patterns appearing in Gen Z-oriented brands.

Understanding different graphic design aesthetics and their key characteristics can help us find more effective inspiration and techniques, and solve design problems through informed choices that tackle the specific challenge in front of us.

Without further ado, Marte breaks down five different styles popular in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—and we explore their relevance in the trends of 2022.

5 graphic design styles explained

1. Victorian style (early 1900s)

The printing press was developed during the industrial revolution, and consumer products suddenly became part of everyday life.

In posters, Marte notes that excessive decoration “reflected the ostentation of the time”. The posters were carefully constructed in architectural layouts. They were often tall and slim, with clear lettering and illustrative frames. Font styles were angular and heavy, but with ornaments that made them fit with any imagery in a strict, coherent way.

While this style has become less popular in recent years, architectural structure is still common—look for streamlined, clean lines with less ornamentation, as in the case of the examples below from Domestika teacher Julian Montague (@montagueprojects).

2. Art Nouveau style (1890-1910)

This style emerged at the height of the printing press in France. Art Nouveau was often used for whimsical yet bold adverts for clients such as the Moulin Rouge and alcohol brands.

The designs were inspired by nature with organic elements, curving lines, and botanical patterns. In contrast to the Victorian style, there weren’t many angular shapes. When it came to human figures, Marte points out the simplified figurative style, drawn with a heavy outline.

In 2022, we see botanicals and serif fonts calling back to this style. With themes like eco-consciousness and sustainability, the organic language of Art Nouveau is a great inspiration. There is also a renewed interest in spirituality and self-care, meaning everything from beauty products to tarot cards are including elements of Art Nouveau, often mixed with hippie vibes (as explored below).

3. Expressionist style (First World War and Post-War)

Emerging in Germany, Marte explains that for the first time “the subjective point of view of the artist was more important than the element to be represented”. A distorted view of reality would generate strong emotions in the viewer.

Quick, torn-looking, rough strokes and dark colors produce a nightmarish effect. The lettering seems to tremble and move. The content could be shocking for the time, whether due to explicit nudity or gruesome depictions of war and famine.

Nowadays, we can relate this style quite easily to horror movie ads, and metal or punk bands, though it doesn’t often break into mainstream advertising.

4. Art Deco style (1920s)

In the 1920s, the softness of Art Nouveau was abandoned in favor of angular designs once more. The Art Deco style marveled at technological progress, luxury, and innovation. This style was often used for theatrical events, magazine covers, and travel posters for steamships and airlines.

The design tended to focus more on the product. Simpler, more streamlined, and dynamic shapes created a sparse yet impactful effect, with strong use of directional lines. The color palette was toned down, often monochrome with touches of gold.

There have been several instances of Art Deco returning, usually under names like “Retro Futurism”. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory released a set of posters that imagined what Art Deco ads for interplanetary destinations might look like.

However, in the last couple of years, the importance of structural clarity has been challenged time and again, with retro designs much more likely to verge towards the final design style…

5. Psychedelic style (1960s)

This brief but spectacular movement arose in San Francisco from the excesses of drug culture combined with a sense of alienation from society. It was influenced by Art Nouveau, taking floral, organic shapes and accentuating the curves even further.

Another key influence was optical art, as designers combined mismatched, vibrant colors to give the sensation of movement that replicated an LSD trip. Surrealistic compositions meant that even rigid objects seemed to melt and become nonsensical.

This movement hovered on the edge of legibility, structure, and form. Marte notes that it didn’t comply with basic poster law: that the work could be read from afar quickly. This was truly a case of aesthetics over message.

With nostalgia being a big part of design in the 2020s, we’re definitely seeing this style everywhere, along with other era throwbacks like the '90s and Y2K. Look for exaggerated bubble lettering in bright colors, and even the anti-design movement which seeks to break with traditions of form and produce cluttered, intense, and radical designs.

Deepen your understanding of graphic design

If you enjoyed exploring these influential graphic design styles, you can begin to create your own with these resources.

1. Dive into our full list of online graphic design courses to learn the software and skills to solve any creative challenge.

2. Read these essential graphic design books for all the inspiration you’ll ever need!

3. Find more about the concept of design process.

4. Learn about minimalist poster design with this course by Julian Montague.

5 Top Graphic Design Styles to Inspire Your Poster Art  | Blog | Domestika (2024)
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