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The Definite Guide to Graphic Design Styles and Their Usage

A Guide to Graphic Design Styles and How to Use Them

Graphic design
Sep 25, 2020
5 minutes


Graphic design has many types, styles, elements and popular waves adapting to the ever-changing culture, fine art and human habits. Here are some of the most important and resonant styles that are commonly used today.

From flat design and minimalism to bold colors and 3D illustration, there are many ways to utilize graphic design to the best of your needs and brand identity. But what are these styles, and what do they express? Why can’t you use Bauhaus for a toy company or bright colors and cartoon illustrations in banking? Because every graphic design style has a distinct voice and application. Let’s take a look at each prominent graphic design style and its use in this ultimate guide.

Still, keep in mind that most of these styles are often interchangeable and every design work can consist of more than one style (for example, minimalist typography).


The typography style of graphic design consists of modifying and playing with typefaces to invoke a feeling or relay a message to the public. Sometimes, typography can be metaphorical (typographic illustrations, posters, word pictures), while other times it will just be used literally (logo design, headings, packaging).

There are different types of typography, such as serif, script, sans serif fonts, decorative lettering and others. They have to serve not only the purpose of legibility but also the overall aesthetic and look of the design. The text of the script has to be relevant and on-brand with the overall message and identity.

There are graphic designers who work solely on studying and creation of typography.

The typography style fits any industry or market since it encompasses many styles and options. The most important graphic style inside typography is the International Typographic Style, most commonly known as the Swiss Style, that had a huge impact on the modernist design and advertising graphic design in the past century.


Since “retro” is a word that reflects a retrospective style or appreciation of the past, it is a wide term that can encapsulate many old styles. That depends on the current tastes and popular designs, but most commonly retro or vintage represent the old Victorian style of graphics and typography, the 19th-century industrial style and the 20th-century Art Deco Style and the Art Nouveau movement.

Lately, retro also can mean bumper-stickers and colorful posters and groovy lettering from the 60s and 70s, or 80s and 90s style of neon illustration and bright colors.

The retro style is widely popular in products and some service industries. However, it’s uncommon to use it in corporate design.

retro logos.jpg Mila Katagarova on Behance


A three-dimensional style is characterized with life-like shapes, natural lighting effects, and an illusion of bigger depth and volume. It’s sometimes hyperrealistic, and still a common sight in graphic design trends nowadays. In modern graphic design, you will commonly see 3D illustrations that are very abstract and have bold color schemes, mostly used for digital marketing purposes, landing page design, web design, etc.

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A design project the steps out of the lines of conventional, predefined style and use of design elements, is abstract. Just like abstract fine art, abstract graphic design is somewhat random and subjective, so every person can experience it differently.

In abstract design, it’s not uncommon to see unlikely color palettes, distorted shapes, grainy patterns and unusual use of negative space.

It’s rarely used in corporate or advertising design, and more common in decorative arts, editorials, album covers, magazine design, etc.


**Clean geometric shapes, monochromatic palettes and backgrounds, natural forms of lettering **and an overall toned-down aesthetic is typical for the minimalist style of design.

Minimalism exudes a sense of luxury, eliteness, mysticism and scarcity, so its use in corporate design, advertising, packaging is expected. If you’re striving for simplicity and communicating your brand message directly, minimalist design is the style to consider.


Photorealism or photorealistic illustrations are the design works that make you look twice to check if it’s not really a photo. They are realistic representations of natural shapes and forms, colors and other design elements in illustration. They are very detailed, have many lines, colors and a truthful resemblance to the real image or inspiration.

Photorealism is commonly used in architecture renders, interior design plans, advertisement, mockups, as well as in CGI in motion design.

Flat design

Flat design is two-dimensional, and usually more simplistic than say 3D illustrations. A typical representation of flat design is icons, pictograms and simple illustrations. Flat design tends to be simplistic and monochromatic because you don’t need a natural lighting effect to accentuate one color and create the illusion of depth.

The flat design style is popular in web design and digital marketing, as well as UX and landing pages. You can find many flat design illustrations in ManyPixels’ vast gallery of great free resources.

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The type of design that is based on sharp geometric shapes, accentuated lines and edges, and a balance between the abstract and realist. One of the most important schools of design, Bauhaus, is mostly based on the geometric style. Geometric designs often overlap with minimalism, modernism and even typography, since there is a whole subcategory of geometric typefaces.


The grunge style of graphic design and typography is a sort of a counter-movement, a way to stand up to the conventional ideas and principles of design. It’s considered to be a counterpart to punk in graphic design. It is often Gothic and dark, and the images are gritty and rough.

We hope this helped you distinguish different styles of graphic design. Naturally, there are many more styles, as well as types of graphic design. Learn more about them.

If you’re willing to learn more about the skills a good graphic designer should have in their resume, we’ve got you covered.

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Stefanija Tenekedjieva

September 25, 2020

Journalist turned content writer. Based in North Macedonia, aiming to be a digital nomad. Always loved to write, and found my perfect job writing about graphic design, art and creativity. A self-proclaimed film connoisseur, cook and nerd in disguise.