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2000s Graphic Design: From the Y2K Aesthetic to Glitter Text and Emo

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The turn of the 21st century was a pivotal time for graphic design.

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Today we'll take a look at what the Y2K aesthetic is by checking out 00s graphic design trends and seeing how you can easily recreate them in your work using some terrific resources from Envato Elements and GraphicRiver.

00s Graphic Design Trends

The turn of the millennium was a volatile time. First there were the overblown fears about the Y2K computer bug that was supposedly going to destroy civilisation as we knew it.

Then there was the excitement of entering the new millennium, but it was swiftly followed by the bursting of the dotcom bubble, and then 9/11 and the beginning of the long "War on Terror". Later in the 2000s, there was yet another financial crisis bringing more economic chaos.

Despite these upheavals and changes, many of the design trends of the era were surprisingly optimistic. Perhaps the beginning of a whole new millennium brings with it a certain amount of hope despite the world's problems—Barack Obama, of course, got elected with that word as his slogan, memorably captured by Shepard Fairey's famous poster, which you can learn to recreate in the following tutorial:

Perhaps the optimism and hope were also fuelled by the lightning-fast development of exciting new technologies in this era. Y2K art and 00s graphic design trends often reflect the new digital design techniques that were just becoming available.

But it's not all positive—the emo design trend exemplified the angst experienced by many young people in those turbulent and, for some, alienating times.

Let's explore some of these trends in more detail, before looking at some awesome resources to help you recreate them.

What Is the Y2K Aesthetic in Graphic Design?

So exactly what is the Y2K aesthetic, and what forms did it take?

New Technology

Technology was advancing fast in the early years of the century. Mobile phones were prevalent, smartphones came later in the decade, and the internet was developing from a mostly passive reading experience to a dynamic multimedia environment to which everyone could contribute, first through chatrooms and blogs and later through social media.

The designs of the era often reflect the excitement of having all these technologies to hand. And, at the same time, designers were able to use the new capabilities of design software to add more complex effects to their Y2K art, such as gradients and lens flares.

lens flareslens flareslens flares

Glitter Text Effects

Maybe it was left over from all those turn of the century parties, but glitter was everywhere in the early 2000s. So there's nothing that says "Y2K style" more than a glitter text effect.

Glitter Happy PatternsGlitter Happy PatternsGlitter Happy Patterns

Emo Design

The emo subculture gained popularity in the early 2000s, stemming from rock music but also filtering into the design world with dark imagery reflecting sensitivity, introversion, angst, and a rejection of the sunnier mainstream culture.

emo flyeremo flyeremo flyer

An Abundance of Loud Colours, Especially Pink

Y2K designs often used bright and loud colours, especially pink. So if you want to recreate the Y2K aesthetic, putting in a dose of pink is always a good idea.

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Chunky 3D Text

The text of the era was often bold and chunky, with 3D effects proving particularly popular. So if you're creating a Y2K-inspired design, be sure to include blocky text.


Characteristics of Y2K Graphic Design

As we've seen, the Y2K style took many different forms. Here's a quick summary of some of its main characteristics:

  • Celebration of new technology
  • Early use of social media
  • Loud, optimistic colours, especially pink
  • Gradients
  • Lens flares
  • Glitter text effects
  • 3D text
  • Bold, chunky fonts

Now let's explore 00s graphic design trends more by looking at some examples.

Cool Y2K Graphic Design Resources

Do you want to recreate the Y2K aesthetic in your work? Check out these useful resources from  Envato Elements and GraphicRiver.

Y2K Aesthetic Pink Background (JPG)

Y2K backgroundY2K backgroundY2K background

Pink gradients were a popular featured of graphic design in the early 2000s, so why not pay tribute with this cool Y2K background? If you want to know what to put on top of that background, read on for more ideas.

Emo Character Sprite Sheet (PSD, AI, EPS, PNG)

Emo Character Sprite SheetEmo Character Sprite SheetEmo Character Sprite Sheet

Since emo design was a big feature of the era, why not try out this emo character design sprite sheet? It's perfect for a game design, but you could use this character in other designs too.

20 Retro Tech Icons (PSD, AI, SVG, PNG, PDF)

retro tech iconsretro tech iconsretro tech icons

Not all of the retro tech icons featured here are relevant to the early 2000s—cassettes and camera film, for example, are much older. But some of them, like the first-generation iPod and the old mobile phone, are ideal.

Y2K Aesthetic Pink 3D Text Effect (PSD, JPG)

Y2K aesthetic pink 3D text effectY2K aesthetic pink 3D text effectY2K aesthetic pink 3D text effect

Recreate the big, bold, 3D text effects of the era—and include a bright pink colour scheme and some subtle lens flares too! This Photoshop text effect is easy to edit, so add your own text and customise it as much as you want to make the perfect Y2K design.

Emo Seamless Pattern (EPS)

Emo Seamless PatternEmo Seamless PatternEmo Seamless Pattern

The emo design trend often defined itself by its opposition to the mainstream, so it's not surprising that emo designs look quite different from the other examples here. This vector pattern nicely captures the essence of the style.

Cheverly Font (OTF, TTF)

Cheverly fontCheverly fontCheverly font

When you need text for your Y2K art, look for a font that's bold and chunky, like Cheverly. This would be the perfect typeface for headlines or other display text.

Old Cell Phone (JPG)

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This old cell phone takes you right back to the early 2000s, doesn't it? It's helpfully placed on a clean white background, so you can easily extract it and place it into your Y2K style design.

Unicorn Vector Gradients (AI, JPG)

Unicorn Vector GradientsUnicorn Vector GradientsUnicorn Vector Gradients

Here's another option for a Y2K background. It uses the gradients that were becoming popular in the graphic design of the time, and mixes in some of the pinks and other bright colours that also defined the era.

Emo Design Photo (JPG)

Emo design photoEmo design photoEmo design photo

Capture the individuality of the emo design trend with this photo. There's also an isolated feel to it that reflects some of the characteristics of the emo culture. How would you include this in your designs?

Cybersky Font (OTF, TTF, WOFF)

Cybersky fontCybersky fontCybersky font

What did the future look like back in the year 2000? The Cybersky font gives us a pretty good approximation of it. Check out those lens flares! It's a sharp, angular font that would work really well in any Y2K style design.

Glitter Text Effect (PSD)

Glitter text effectGlitter text effectGlitter text effect

Create as much glitter text as you want with this set of 26 letters, 10 numbers, and 13 symbols. They're all isolated, making them easy to insert into the design of your choice, and they all come in one well-organised PSD file.

Pink Dream Lightroom Presets (XMP)

Pink Dream Lightroom PresetsPink Dream Lightroom PresetsPink Dream Lightroom Presets

Why not give your images the pink glow that's characteristic of the Y2K style? It's easy when you download this set of 20 Lightroom presets.

Rainbow 3D Text Effect (PSD)

Rainbow 3D text effectRainbow 3D text effectRainbow 3D text effect

Here's another item that combines a couple of different Y2K design trends in one file. You get the bold, blocky 3D text, and you get a rainbow gradient too. What's not to love?

Y2K Aesthetic Pink Photoshop Action (ATN)

Pink Glow Photoshop actionPink Glow Photoshop actionPink Glow Photoshop action

If you like the pink Lightroom preset above but would prefer to stick to Photoshop for your design work, then use this Photoshop action instead. With a few clicks, you can apply subtle pink tones to any image.

Glitter Text Effect Styles, Brushes, & Actions (ABR, ASL, ATN)

glitter text effect stylesglitter text effect stylesglitter text effect styles

We've already looked at one glitter text effect, but here's another option that gives you lots more flexibility. With this bumper Photoshop pack, you can create hexagonal and colour dust glitter styles in 16 colours each. Plus you get 10 auto-shine actions, four particle actions, six glitter brushes, and seven shine brushes.

Choose Your Favourite 00s Design Elements

That's it for our look at the Y2K aesthetic and 00s graphic design. We've also covered some great resources you can use to take advantage of the resurgence in popularity of some of these trends.

If you want to find more excellent design resources to recreate the Y2K style, head on over to Envato Elements and GraphicRiver and download your favourite resource today.

And if you're interested in learning more about graphic design trends, check out these super helpful articles below:

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