Your visual guide to design styles

One of the easiest ways to have a better client-designer working relationship is to align the project's design style.
 
We've prepared a visual design style guide as handy reference for both designers and customers.
Minimalist, grunge or abstract? There are so many design styles out there, where do you even start?
 
Below we have compiled 15 design styles and their stunning examples. 
 
We encourage you to consider complementing different styles to play off each other. For example, you get a playful design from combining flat and illustrated; or you get a luxurious logo from combining vintage and masculine.
 
Designers: use this guide to help you define your design style better and be more discoverable by potential clients.
 
Customers: use this guide to help you find the design that best describes your brand.
 

3D

The three-dimensional artwork gives the opposite illusion of a flat design. It is characterized by the illusion of volume and mass, therefore looking like it occupies space. 3D design is commonly used to create skeuomorphic designs, the idea of creating something to resemble a real-life object.
 
Characteristics
  • Illusion of depth / volume
  • Employs lighting effect
  • Employs shades of one color
Combines well with:
Abstract, fun and playful, grunge, illustrated, masculine
 
Keywords
Perspective, skeuomorphism, shadow, video games, app design
 

Abstrait

Abstract is the style of creating a piece of art that is independent from the way it looks in the real world. An abstract design style is achieved by a combined composition of colors and shapes usually based on the individual interpretation of the designer, the client or both.
 
Characteristics
  • Ambiguous representation of an object / concept
  • Invites individual interpretation
Combines well with:
3D, clean and minimalist, fun and playful, geometric, organic and natural, professional / corporate
 
Keywords
Colorful, artistic, logo design, illustration
 

Clean and minimalist

Minimalism is a style or technique that is characterized by spareness and simplicity. It is the opposite to lavish and highly-decorative styles and leaving its most basic form to communicate the message.
 
Characteristics
  • Uses small number of colors
  • May be achieved by using fluid or straight lines (line art)
  • The opposite of abstract
Combines well with: 
Abstract, feminine, flat, geometric, professional/ corporate, luxurious 
 
Keywords
Simple, line art, negative space, flat design
 

Conceptual art

Conceptual art is a sub-category of illustration, and is a metaphorical depiction of a visual idea. Consider it as the fictional section of illustration, as it doesn't necessarily feature likeness to the real object it models after.
 
Characteristics
  • May contain some elements of reality
  • Features designer's own interpretation of the object it models after
Combines well with:
All styles 
 
Keywords
Illustration, drawing, abstract

Féminin

The opposite of masculine design, feminine style is usually characterized by details that stereotypically attract female attention such as soft color palettes, florals and cursive writing.
 
Characteristics
  • May employ cursive, fluid fonts
  • May incorporate pastel colors and/or shades of red (eg. pink, purple, orange)
  • May feature a woman's face, flowers and fashion components (eg. lipstick, shoes)
Combines well with:
Clean and minimalist, flat, illustrated, luxurious, organic and natural, typographic
 
Keywords
Flower, cosmetic, pastel, fashion, love, beauty
 

Flat

This style could be considered as a subcategory of the minimalist look: it employs minimal use of colors and shading for a visually-pleasing aesthetic.
 
Characteristics
  • Uses small number of colors
  • No realistic shadow effect
Combines well with:
Clean and minimalist, feminine, geometric, luxurious, typographic, vintage / retro
 
Keywords
Clean, infographic, minimalist, line art, illustration, app design
 

Fun and playful

A design style that inspires fun and usually gives off an informal, rather than rigid, impression. Commonly used to create cartoons, it can be non-realistic or semi-realistic artistic style of drawing.
 
Characteristics
  • May feature caricaturized person / animal
  • Colorful
  • May contain elements of fantasy
Combines well with:
3D, abstract, illustrated, organic and natural, typographic, vintage / retro
 
Keywords
Humor, mascot design, character design, kids, caricature, cartoon, animal
 

Geometric

Derived from the idea of geometry, this style is characterized by heavy use of straight lines and shapes. The typical geometric design can comprise of rectangles, squares and triangles.
 
Characteristics
  • Incorporates straight lines
  • Features symmetry
Combines well with:
Abstract, clean and minimalist, flat, professional / corporate
 
Keywords
Minimal, tech, simple, internet, flat
 

Grunge

Sometimes considered as a subcategory of the vintage style, grunge evokes the darker, gritty and cool style of the 1990s. It is typically characterized by distressed/rough or torn appearance to its designs. Grunge is also commonly associated with punk and gothic styles.
 
Characteristics
  • Generally uses dark colors and monochromatic color scheme
  • Generally invokes the feeling of darkness and danger
Combines well with:
3D, illustrated, masculine, typographic, vintage / retro
 
Keywords
Cool, street, gothic, black, grafitti, T-shirt design
 

Illustrated

The illustration style is derived from the interpretation or visual explanation of a text, concept or process.
 
 
There are plenty of subcategories under illustration, among them conceptual art and photorealism, which are also explained on this page.
 
Characteristics
  • Generally has 'raw', hand-drawn look 
  • Look dependant on designers' drawing style
Combines well with:
3D, feminine, fun and playful, grunge, masculine, organic and natural, typographic, vintage / retro
 
Keywords
T-shirt design, sketch, drawing, tattoo, art
 

Luxurious

The luxurious design style evokes the idea of indulging in extra comforts or pleasures additional to the necessary standard of well-being. The use of rich colors such as gold helps achieve this idea of luxury.
 
Characteristics
  • Often uses the colors black, gold and bronze
  • Achieves the idea the brand is impactful on its own by employing simple, minimalist designs
  • Uses either old-style fonts or simple and modern fonts 
Combines well with:
Clean and minimalist, feminine, flat, masculine, vintage / retro
 
Keywords
Elegant, sophisticated, fashion, understated
 

Masculine

Masculine design style is stereotypically appealing to men. Details in masculine design may include simple lines, monochromatic theme (black and white) and "rugged" texture.
 
Characteristics
  • May employ hard-edged, thick-stroke fonts
  • May incorporate rugged and gritty images
  • May feature blue or darker colors
Combines well with:
3D, grunge, illustrated, luxurious, professional / corporate, vintage / retro 
 
Keywords
Rugged, outdoor, classic, modern
 

Organic and natural

Organic design is a style which takes the flowing natural forms of a reality and characterized by continuous lines and dynamic curves. Organic style can also feel rustic by adding weathered and texturized effects.
 
Characteristics
  • Generally incorporates natural elements like leaves, flowers and fresh produce
  • May be combined with illustrated look for the raw, organic look
Combines well with:
Abstract, feminine, fun and playful, illustrated, typographic, vintage / retro
 
Keywords
Nature, rustic, handmade, illustration 
 
 

Photorealism

Photorealism is a form of illustration where the designer closely matches it to the original image or photo as much as possible.
 
Characteristics
  • Features refined details to emulate the original image as much as possible
  • Usually achieved by, but not limited to, pencil sketches
Combines well with:
3D, feminine, grunge, masculine, organic, vintage
 
Keywords
Drawing, illustration, sketch, tattoo, art
 

Professional / corporate

The professional design style is usually characterized by muted colors, and minimal details to represent conservative ideas. This style is typically employed by organizations who want to make formal impressions on their target audience.
 
Characteristics
  • Employs straight, classic font types
  • Generally incorporates simple shapes or objects
  • May invoke formal impressions with use of negative space and line art
Combines well with:
Abstract, clean and minimalist, geometric, masculine
 
Keywords
Business, formal, minimal, classic, simple
 

Typographic

The typographic style utilizes the modification of fonts. It is the design of the written words to evoke response in its target audience. For logo, fonts need to be uniquely modified.
 
Characteristics
  • Font style is generally the focus of the design
  • Typographic design may incorporate objects, but the text usually conveys the main message
Combines well with:
Feminine, flat, fun and playful, grunge, illustrated, organic and natural, vintage / retro 
 
Keywords
Font, illustration, artistic
 

Vintage / retro

Vintage or retro (short for "retrospective") is a style that is derivative of trends from the recent past. Some popular vintage styles include Victoriana (inspired by decorative styles of the Victorian era), steam punk (an ode to the industrial revolution of the late 19th century) and Bauhaus (the minimalist style movement between the 1920s and the 1930s). 
 
Characteristics
  • May incorporate rustic, nostalgic elements to invoke the past
  • May use illustrated ornate ribbons and wreaths reminiscent of the 19th century
  • May incorporate visual clues such as old letterpress, hand-drawn typefaces and elaborate decorative arts
Combines well with:
Flat, fun and playful, grunge, illustrated, luxurious, masculine, organic and natural, typographic
 
Keywords
Rustic, T-shirt design, drawing, illustration, logo design