Aesthetic Graphic Design: How to Appeal to Different Genres

Posted on February 15, 2023 | Updated on February 15, 2023

The goal of any graphic designer is to create gorgeous products to wow their current clients and entice future ones. Naturally, it’s vital to craft a project that gets people’s attention and holds it. Aesthetic graphic design comes from achieving the delicate balance between content and white space. While the eye is always looking for stimulation, it also needs a break every once in a while. A cluttered project may include all the information the client wants, but that doesn’t mean it will appeal to consumers.

But how can a designer know what kind of layout will please everyone — or at least most? Sometimes, the client will refuse to budge on what they want, which takes away a fair amount of artistic freedom. However, those with more control might feel lost while staring at an empty project. Where is the best place to start to make something eye-catching? Here is an overview of how to create aesthetic graphic designs that impress.

What Is “Aesthetic”?

Brittanica defines aesthetics as the philosophical study of taste and beauty. It actually started as a philosophical movement, with some studiers writing books on the subject as far back as the 1750s. The meaning is so broad because it essentially means looking at a piece of art and determining what about it is beautiful.

That definition likely doesn’t meet what modern people think of as “aesthetic.” The aesthetic philosophers were spending their lives analyzing the perceptions of ugly and beautiful. However, the current lexicon has turned this word into something different but equally hard to pin down. Those who have been on the internet for a while likely have an idea of what aesthetic graphic design can look like, but they probably don’t have a solid way to define it.

Aesthetic started out online as sort of a synonym for “visually pleasing.” It involved a lot of soft colors and minimalistic designs, sometimes with text over them. Pastels, white and light neutral shades were a large part of the new aesthetic movement, as well as pops of dark greenery. Being “aesthetic” in the 2010s has some origins in minimalist design, but it soon transformed from there. After all, the word has always had a very broad definition.

Some people weren’t as into the bright and soft aesthetic, so they made their own dark version. These designs often involved black-and-white photographs, 3D filters, more emotional quotes — an overall darker theme. Others then took the same idea and added color back into it, making a whole new subset of aesthetics. The changes only snowballed from there until the original modern definition needed a label beyond a single word.

Currently, there are a host of different aesthetics to choose from. Cottagecore has been one of the most popular recently, but there has also been a strong resurgence of styles following the early 2000s, pop punk, e-girl, dark academia and much more. Aesthetic now tends to mean a genre or vibe that someone’s art or clothes give off. For instance, someone who loves the vintage aesthetic could love looks from either the early 1900s or 1970s. However, a fan of the “soft girl” aesthetic probably loves florals and pastels.

How to Make Aesthetic Graphic Designs in Different Genres

As shown before, aesthetic does not have a single definition and trying to describe a single design as “aesthetic” doesn’t really make sense. To make an aesthetic graphic design, one has to narrow down what kind of aesthetic they’re trying to appeal to. Perhaps the client already has an idea or the designer is free to take some liberties. Either way, it’s essential to narrow down the goal before jumping into creation.

Here is a list of a few different aesthetics and what kinds of graphic design elements they comprise. While this isn’t an exhaustive list — there are many different genres to choose from — it has quite a few ideas graphic designers can draw inspiration from.

1. Cyberpunk

Cyberpunk encompasses all things techy. Those familiar with bright electric and neon signs have an idea of what the aesthetic looks like. However, it also includes advanced futuristic technology, such as flying cars or robotic limbs. It often has a darker background that contrasts with the brightness that gives off a feeling of rebellion, which is where the “punk” part of cyberpunk comes in.

To create a cyberpunk aesthetic graphic design, relying on neon can help establish the vibe right away. Pair it with a darker background to help the brighter colors pop. When choosing text, ensure it looks futuristic. Cyberpunk aesthetics also typically have a cool tone despite the warm highlights, so try adjusting the white balance to blue and ramp up the saturation to achieve this effect.

2. Vintage

Vintage is another word with quite a vast definition. Many think of it as describing decades from the 60s up until the 90s. However, the 90s have branched off into its own aesthetic since it’s a bit closer to modern times. The vintage aesthetic could potentially stretch back to the 1920s, but beyond that, it likely becomes antique. Depending on the era, the style of the design will vary widely.

The 1920s is all about art deco and expensive-looking design — the Great Depression didn’t start until 1928, after all. The 50s and 60s have a lot of light, happy neutrals and things that look handmade. In the 70s, there’s a big jump toward earthy color palettes while still incorporating hand-drawn art. Colors in the 80s become a lot bolder and almost Cyberpunk-like, but the feeling is a lot happier.

3. Cottagecore

This aesthetic harkens back to the dream of foraging in the forest, growing food in a home garden and surrounding oneself with greenery. It is a light, joyful genre that asks people to get more in touch with nature. Those who love cottagecore often do draw inspiration from the vintage aesthetic, but the intention is much different — this vibe is all about comfort.

Creating a cottagecore aesthetic graphic design involves simplicity and an emphasis on nature. Incorporate drawings or photographs of berries, mushrooms, frogs or baked goods like pies. There’s the possibility of going with a dark green background with brighter art and font as the eye-catcher or an off-white or light brown and darker images. Consider experimenting with making things look a little cluttered. Overall, the project should exude a feeling of coziness.

4. Minimalist

Minimalism seeks to offer comfort in a much different way than cottagecore — their definition of “simple” is quite different. The people who love minimalism love getting to the bare bones of what design should be. They, too, love neutrals — often beige, white or gray — along with just a couple of accents.

Graphic designs focusing on minimalism will want to draw on these colors for their backgrounds. Any accents can be light brown, pink, yellow or even teal. However, it’s essential to use those pops with a gentle hand. A bit of nature is often present, along with sketch-like hand-drawn images. The font choices should be simple and elegant without any superfluous flourishes.

Creating Beautiful Aesthetic Graphic Designs

There isn’t just one way to define “aesthetic” — there are hundreds of styles graphic designers can choose to appeal to. It all depends on the vibe the client wants or hopes to achieve. Utilize these tips on aesthetic graphic design to create gorgeous projects anyone might love.

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About The Author

Cooper Adwin is the Assistant Editor of Designerly Magazine. With several years of experience as a social media manager for a design company, Cooper particularly enjoys focusing on social and design news and topics that help brands create a seamless social media presence. Outside of Designerly, you can find Cooper playing D&D with friends or curled up with his cat and a good book.

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