Reach out to younger audiences with Y2K imagery, tap into cutting-edge conversations with AI content, or speak to counter-culture Millennials with mystical design.
Below, you’ll find the five design trends to know about right now for 2024, and how to use trending stock content themed on these trendy topics.
What Are the Biggest Design Trends in 2024?
Why should you use trending stock content in your campaigns? Trends may seem fleeting and frivolous, but they are in fact far from it. Savvy marketers know that by tapping into current design trends, it’s possible to reach audiences who might be, until now, unresponsive to your brand campaigns.
Trends help people to find their tribes online, whether it’s through a shared love of Y2K fashion or a mutual devotion to Japandi interior design. If you’re looking to target a new audience, or simply want to upgrade your branding to keep ahead of the design curve, trends are your way into creating more successful and engaging campaigns.
It can be difficult to keep up with the sheer quantity of micro-trends emerging in design and pop culture all the time (think Barbiecore, Gothcore, Cottagecore, etc.), but our research shows that these core design trends will continue to wield influence over consumer audiences in the year ahead.
In this article, we’ll look at how you can channel these five design trends through choice use of stock photos and stock illustrations:
Read on to delve into each of these design trends in more detail, and discover inspirational imagery and ideas for integrating these 2024 trends into your brand style.
1. Y2K Design
For those who lived through the late 1990s and early 2000s, the early Noughties was perhaps not notable for its design caliber. Yet, the era of bling, bodycon, and Paris Hilton certainly had a distinctive design aesthetic, albeit one that Millennials would rather forget.
Gen Z consumers, however, still can’t get enough of the pink-and-diamante allure of the Y2K era, and this is definitely the design trend to tap into if you want to target this elusive younger audience.
For brand imagery, combine a retro digital aesthetic with holographic gradients, Bauhaus-inspired graphics, and lashings of pink.
Glitter, fur textures, and psychedelic backgrounds will also help brands tap into the Y2K trend. If something feels “bad taste,” you’re probably on the right track, and your designs will look all the more fabulous for it.
Try digital psychedelic video content to bring immersive animation to websites and social media campaigns, or use neon Bauhaus stickers and pastel-saturated photography to capture the saccharine sweetness of the Y2K trend.
Choose a glittering pastel palette in photography to create Y2K backgrounds for websites and online campaigns. Clockwise, from top left: License these images via Niquirk, Anna Martyanova, YRABOTA, dodotone, and ZozaMimoza.
For illustration and graphics, look to retro-digital elements and holographic stickers, to give social media posts a Y2K mood. Clockwise, from top left: License these images via SergeyBitos, derter, and Martyshova Maria.
2. AI Design
No design trend is set to make a bigger impact across graphic design, illustration, and photography in 2024 than AI design. The ability to generate imagery at the prompt of only a few words is quickly transforming the way consumers and artists engage with creative content, allowing non-creatives to generate their own stock images (sometimes with mixed results!).
While AI generators take a little getting used to, the ability of AI design to attune uniquely to what an individual is searching for is certainly thrilling. A fluffy unicorn in a holographic forest glade? No problem. A proud lion resplendent in a tudor ruff? Easy!
Whether you’re looking for complete surrealism or a uniquely tailored scene for a product mockup, AI design can help you achieve your creative vision.
In 2024, we’ll see the influence of AI design stretching beyond the novelty factor of toying around on generators. As more photographers dip a toe into AI design, we’ll start to see slicker AI-generated imagery that pushes the boundaries of what’s achievable through photography alone.
In your own brand campaigns, look for AI-generated images that blend the lighting and composition styles of photography with the hyperrealism offered through AI. Hyper-defined portraits and 3D surreal scenes have an almost wet look that draws in viewers looking to identify whether an image is “authentic” or AI-generated.
AI design is a 2024 design trend full of potential and exploration. Begin your AI creative journey by trying Shutterstock’s AI Image Generator or discover a library of beautiful AI-generated images.
All of these images have been created using Shutterstock’s AI Image Generator. Clockwise, from top left: License these images via Shutterstock.AI x2 x3 x4 x5.
These hyper-real portraits were also created using Shutterstock’s AI Image Generator. License these images via Shutterstock.AI x2.
3. Mystical Design
Millennial consumers have a diverse range of interests and, as a result, can be notoriously difficult to reach with blanket marketing methods. The hobbyist generation, individuals born between 1981 and 1996 are redefining the meaning of family, home, and career, with more focus on cultivating individual passions or stoking side hustles than generations before them.
While a Y2K aesthetic will entice in nostalgic Gen Z, brands will have more success targeting Millennials through a connection with alt-culture.
Having moved away from traditional frameworks of religion, the Millennial demographic is interested in alt-spirituality and mysticism, with the boom in astrology and explosion in tarot-themed products (and mystical beauty palettes) testament to this generation’s interest in mystical design.
The mystical design trend holds particular appeal for female audiences, with interest in astrology, wicca, and crystals (which, oddly enough, is outpacing the diamond market according to this Bloomberg report) only increasing as alt-spiritualism finds a home on social media.
In your designs, think mysterious, sensual, and female-friendly. Brand campaigns can be given a mystical twist with candlelit portraits and dark, moody color palettes.
Zodiac illustrations also bring a personal touch to targeted campaigns, while atmospheric landscape photography makes for mystical backgrounds on landing pages and web banner designs.
Atmospheric forestscapes and crystal-strewn backgrounds will bring a mystical touch to Millennial-targeted campaigns. Clockwise, from top left: License these images via Shyntartanya, Nicholas Steven, Foxartbox, Anna Martyanova, photomaster, and Rytis Bernotas.
For the mystical design trend, turn to illustrations with hand-crafted touches, such as watercolor textures and letterpress styles, to tap into the alt-culture mood of the trend. Clockwise, from top left: License these images via ONiONA, Iaroslava Daragan, Larisa Rusina, and Artemisia1508.
4. ’90s Nostalgia
Nostalgia is one of the most powerful forces in marketing, and a number of our trends (see Y2K Design, above) are centered around the design aesthetics of earlier decades.
For the digital-native generations (Millennials and Gen Z), much of their consumer interest is fueled by a hyper-nostalgia for pre-digital culture and—ironically—saturation of inspirational imagery from this era through social media.
Y2K design is hitting the right notes for younger Gen Z, but the 1990s is also resonating with older Gen Z and Millennial audiences.
In fashion, we can see the influence of the 1990s coming through in the quiet luxury trend, a new-age minimalism that lifts inspiration from the clean ’90s collections of Calvin Klein and Jil Sander.
In graphic design, photography, and interior design, we’re also seeing the ’90s making a minimalist impact, with simplicity, beige palettes, and naturalistic imagery bringing pared-back sophistication to branding and campaigns.
Nineties nostalgia, with its ingrained connections to fashion, architecture, and interior design, is the perfect fit for brands themed on retail, beauty, or lifestyle.
Look for minimal product backgrounds for cosmetic mockups, or try using gritty, unfiltered photography to capture the ’90s spirit in email designs and fashion campaigns.
To update ’90s nostalgia for now, don’t be afraid to introduce strong color into an otherwise minimal scheme.
Natural, unfiltered photography in simple black and white or bold monochrome color is a high-impact choice for brand campaigns. Clockwise, from top left: License these images via LUMEZIA.com, Master1305, Master1305, and Master1305.
Minimal backgrounds in neutral color palettes will be the perfect ’90s design backdrop for product mockups. Clockwise, from top left: License these images via allme3D, 3DJustincase, cybermagician, JC08, and myboys.me.
Have we saved the most influential design trend for last? Scandinavian design is a macro-trend, spilling over from the Nordic architecture and interior design scene into almost every aspect of style and culture over the last decade.
In recent years, the obsession with all things Scandi has been propelled even further by Hygge (the Danish concept of coziness) and Japandi—a hybrid interior design trend that merges Scandinavian minimalism with the natural tactility of Japanese craft.
You may think that Scandinavian design has run out of steam by 2024. Think again. Consumer demand for minimalist design products shows no sign of waning, and the twist given to the Scandi formula of warm wood, pale color palettes, and an overall cozy yet clean aesthetic through Japandi has given this macro-trend fuel for the future.
Scandinavian design appeals across multiple demographics, and remains a consistent trend in interior design, product design, and lifestyle branding.
A particularly potent trend for holiday marketing, use folk illustrations and geometric graphics to bring minimalist interest to social posts and campaigns, or look to evocative photography to build contrast between cozy interiors and epic outdoor settings.
If you want to market lifestyle, retail, or product brands to a slightly younger Millennial or Gen Z audience, consider integrating Japandi imagery into your website designs. Look for tactile natural textures, dramatic cherry branches, and soothing interior spaces to bring an Eastern mood to minimal imagery.
Scandinavian design is a macro-trend, wielding influence across culture, lifestyle, retail, and design. The perfect fit for holiday marketing campaigns, cultivate a Hygge aesthetic with simple, home-centric photography. Clockwise, from top left: License these images via YuraYaryna, Linda Lauva, Netrun78, and LemonsInKitchen.
Dial up the color and texture in your campaign imagery to tap into 2024’s Scandinavian design trend. Clockwise, from top left: License these images via V1ktoria, Liliia Lytvyn, Ground Picture, and PHATCHARA_S.
Japandi design fuses Scandinavian minimalism with the organic forms and textures prevalent in Japanese design. To channel this design trend in your projects, look for images with plenty of texture, soothing settings, and deeper, darker colors. Clockwise, from top left: License these images via Anna Smolskaya, Yana Andriyanova, Im just a poor boy, and V1ktoria.
Conclusion: Reach Untapped Audiences with Trending Stock Content
Although often dismissed as fleeting fads, trends are powerful marketing tools and shouldn’t be overlooked by marketers or designers. Design trends shape how consumers engage with brand content, and tapping into these aesthetics with trending stock content can help you reach elusive audiences.
On the hunt for trend-setting imagery for your next project? We’ve got you covered!
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License this cover image via dodotone and Anna Bova.