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

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Read Time: 8 min

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 early 2000s graphic design trends and seeing how you can easily recreate them in your work using some terrific resources from Envato Elements.

To understand the Y2K graphic design trends, we need to take a look at the whole picture. 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 graphics and 00s aesthetic graphic design trends often reflect the new digital design techniques that were just becoming available.

But it's not all positive—the emo style of the 2000s exemplified the angst experienced by many young people in those turbulent and, for some, alienating times.

Let's explore some of these early 2000s aesthetic trends in more detail, before looking at some awesome resources to help you recreate them. You can also head over to the Envato Blog to read more in detail:

How to Use the Y2K Aesthetic in Your Design Projects

What Is the Y2K Aesthetic in Graphic Design?

So exactly what is the early 2000s 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.

Groovy Glitter Text EffectGroovy Glitter Text EffectGroovy Glitter Text Effect

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 backgrounds and 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.

pink text effectpink text effectpink text effect

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.

Girl 3d Text EffectGirl 3d Text EffectGirl 3d Text Effect

Characteristics of Y2K Graphic Design

As we've seen, the early 2000s aesthetic 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 aesthetic graphic design trends more by looking at some Y2K graphics and this fantastic Y2K background poster composition by Abbey Esparza:

Cool Y2K Graphic Design Resources

Do you want to recreate the Y2K aesthetic in your work? Check out these useful resources from Envato Elements, along with this hand-crafted 2000s aesthetic collection of assets:

Y2K Graphics Collection from Envato Elements

Y2K Aesthetic Pink Background (JPG)

Y2K backgroundY2K backgroundY2K background

Pink gradients were a popular feature of graphic design in the early 2000s graphic design, 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.

Nightcore: Emo Horror Font (TTF)

Nightcore - Emo Horror Font (TTF)Nightcore - Emo Horror Font (TTF)Nightcore - Emo Horror Font (TTF)

Nothing screams "2000s emo aesthetic" more than a cool Y2K emo font. The Nightcore font is inspired by the emo style of the 2000s and horror movies. Use it to create unique 2000s emo art! And if you need emo fonts, check out the ones available at Envato Elements.

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 for some 2000s emo art.

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.

Paper Cut Alphabet (AI, EPS, SVG, PNG)

Paper Cut Alphabet (AI, EPS, SVG, PNG)Paper Cut Alphabet (AI, EPS, SVG, PNG)Paper Cut Alphabet (AI, EPS, SVG, PNG)

Make all your 2000s emo aesthetic dreams come true with this cool paper cut alphabet! Using this early 2000s aesthetic graphic, you can make unique Y2K emo posters, album covers, and more!

Cheverly 2000s Font (OTF, TTF)

Cheverly fontCheverly fontCheverly font

When you need text for your Y2K design, look for a font that's bold and chunky, like Cheverly. This would be the perfect 2000s font for headlines or other display text.

Old Cell Phone (JPG)

old 2000s cell phoneold 2000s cell phoneold 2000s cell phone

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 design.

Unicorn Vector Gradients (AI, JPG)

Unicorn Vector GradientsUnicorn Vector GradientsUnicorn Vector Gradients

Here's another option for an early 2000s aesthetic 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 Y2K 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 design 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?

Pastel Goth Skull Pattern (JPG)

Pastel Goth Skull Pattern (JPG)Pastel Goth Skull Pattern (JPG)Pastel Goth Skull Pattern (JPG)

If you're a fan of the pastel goth aesthetic, you need to add this asset to your collection. These pastel goth skulls will look amazing in a variety of early 2000s graphic design projects such as posters, flyers, invitations, and more!

Pastel Goth Aesthetic Image (JPG)

Pastel Goth Aesthetic Image (JPG)Pastel Goth Aesthetic Image (JPG)Pastel Goth Aesthetic Image (JPG)

A pastel goth aesthetic design isn't complete without an image like this. Use it as Y2K aesthetic design inspiration or as a base for your projects!

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 download your favourite resource today.

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

Editorial Note: This post has been updated with contributions from Maria Villanueva. Maria is the Associate Editor of the Tuts+ Design channel.

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