1. 90s Nostalgia
In 2022, a retro comeback finally landed in the ’90s (recently also romanticized on Netflix’s Fear Street). As we’ll see in many of the trends on this list, the ’90s are back in various incarnations.
This trend is re-experiencing the ’90s through Memphis design patterns, simple emojis, and primitive internet frames. Fun childhood memories reign through bright color blocks and dripping slime. Whenever your design project calls for a sense of comfort with a touch of old-fashioned cool, turn back time to the ’90s.
2. Expressive and Experimental Lettering
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 this as an opportunity. For 2022, we expect letters that push the boundaries of easy readability, creating forms that are expressive in and of themselves.
Since this trend is rooted in experimentation and personal expression, the sky is the limit as far as it seems. Mismatched letter styles, confusing shapes, and amorphous blobs are all on the table.
Overall, this style of lettering challenges the distinction between abstract shapes and legible letters. This can be a risky trend—difficult to do for an audience less interested in artistic experimentation. But it rewards those brave enough with freedom: the unfettered meaning of a particular language.
3. Ukiyo-e Flat Design
The designers of 2022 took inspiration from past flat design pioneers, particularly the Ukiyo-e artists of Japan’s Edo Period. Ukiyo-e is a style of printed (though sometimes painted) artwork using hand-carved wooden blocks. One of the most famous works of art of this style is The Great Wave off Kanagawa. These often feature bold lines, flat colors, and limited perspective techniques—all familiar to vector designers.
4. Daydream Doodles
These meandering images are deeply personal, and the designers of 2022 are injecting their professional work with a bit of their own abstract mindset. Tools like animation are helpful for evoking the freeform nature of drawing from the doodle process.
Over the past decade, the app race has driven strict design conventions that focus on usability above all else. While this has created an interface that is easy for the average user to understand, it has also led to homogeneity across the digital landscape. By 2022, some are planning to destroy it completely: enter the anti-designer.
Anti-design (related but not entirely synonymous with Brutalism) is what it sounds like: it eschews traditional design principles and conventional aesthetic tastes. It challenges us with its asymmetry, clashing colors, bare interface, bustling elements, and striking typography. While we see him most often in the digital realm, his rebellious spirit can be applied in any design context. To his detractors, style is ugly. But for his champions, he creates designs that are set free from the standards of beauty that others create.
This trend is full of unexpected colors, seductive settings, and whimsical character designs. It is a way for designers and viewers to experience the expansion of their imagination. While this is mostly an illustration trend, it can be useful for background patterns on labels and websites. The key is to fill this world with densely attractive imagery where viewers will lose themselves as they explore.
In a much more literal sense than today, people in the Y2K era believed technology would be their doom. When that proved untrue in 2000, an echoing sigh of relief led to intense renewed optimism in the technology. But social media isolation and misinformation have dimmed significantly in recent years. No wonder many creatives are trying to reclaim that initial sense of excitement—when anything seemed possible through technology—through Y2K-inspired designs.
This particular period, circa the late nineties and early rogue, is characterized by a rugged interface, low poly CGI, bubblegum pinks, blues, and colors reminiscent of the back of a CD. In many ways, it’s close to cyberpunk, but much more bright and innocently nostalgic than dark, neon, and sleek.
8. Parametric Patterns
Patterns are a mainstay of graphic design. They are useful for breaking up solid colors and adding visual interest to a background. But in 2022 designers are bringing statement patterns to the forefront through parametric geometry.
In the 2022 design, parametric patterns are used to represent the complexity of their subject matter, be it human communication or identity.
Frasurbane—a portmanteau of the ’90s American sitcom Frasier and the word “urbane”—is another style that listens back to the ’90s but from a young adult point of view. It takes into account GenXers who, at the time, settled in urban areas and ended up earning enough money to indulge themselves in some high culture.
While trends have mostly had their moment in the interior decorating world, 2022 brings Frasurbane to graphic design. Here, it finds expression through the majestic serifs, muted colors, and carefully placed design elements. It’s a trend that wants to have both—to balance the sophistication of rigid adults with the modern style of living in the city. It doesn’t evade the traditional aesthetic for messy clutter (as young movements like anti-design do), but it’s more of a culture-loving show-off than minimalism.
If it goes too far, his style—like Frasier’s own—can come off as pompous and pretentious. Done right, Frasurbane can encapsulate measurable maturity.
10. Intricate Maximalism
Maximalism is not just about filling a space, it’s about filling a space with objects, colors, and patterns that reflect the artist’s desires. It’s like how hoarding can reflect a lifetime of memories that mean nothing to anyone but the hoarder. The trend has evolved over time through related interior design movements such as “grand millennial.”
Basically, designers focus on individual pieces, and when we look at the entire composition, we experience a jumbled expanse that represents cumulative and sometimes clashing tastes. In this way, it is a style that has no shame, showcasing all aspects of a designer’s artistic taste. Despite the trend, it has real staying power: so many elements vying for your attention means there will always be new discoveries waiting.
11. Extreme Bubble Design
The shape of the bubble has an undeniably positive effect, as the circle often denotes friendliness and frivolity due to the lack of angles. But unlike the typical fonts and bubble shapes (which are often found in products aimed at children), this 2022 trend is exaggerated through elongated shapes and psychedelic colors. This makes these inflatable designs feel mature, even as they retain the essential spark of childish excitement.
12. Grunge Revival
Grunge is the incarnation of anxiety, and its return is the acknowledgment of an out-of-control world. It is characterized by gritty textures, shadow imagery, and zine-like collages.
Most notably, grunge has a physical presence—through analog elements like ribbons, torn pages, and scribbled handwriting—rebelling against the clean, flat graphics of the digital age.