With the Y2K aesthetic making a major comeback, especially in design and photography, the emo subculture is also on the rise.
The emo aesthetic is especially nostalgic for millennials, as they were at the core of this trend in their teenage years. In the early aughts, emo was a major juxtaposition for the vibrant styles within pop music, which included glittery textures and bubblegum colors. Now, the aesthetic has made a comeback, which is known as e-boy or e-girl.
In the 2000s, while emo was at its peak, the internet shook up teenagers’ worlds, thanks to emerging social media networks giving them spaces to express themselves.
This was a major foundation of emo style, which you can see in the aesthetic’s pixelated imagery and design elements. Having fun with early internet imperfections is what makes the emo style interesting to work with in our modern day.
The photography during this time also had a distinct style, which is making a comeback, as well. Imagery is essential to recreating this trend, as it was the cornerstone of where this aesthetic originated from.
With any trend making its comeback, there are new and compelling ways to put a twist on its design elements. There are refined ways to bring this subculture back with various color palettes, fonts, and textures.
Follow along for specific ways you can create an emo aesthetic.
Embrace Emo Color Palettes
An emo style is all about the dark and monochromatic color palettes. Black and darker tones are a major theme here, in imagery and all other design elements. You’ll often see tiny pops of color here and there, too.
That said, you can always put your own twist on it by experimenting with bits of color as a secondary focus in your palette.
The most important way to stay aligned with this style is to make sure black is the main character. Not only does it create a dark and moody look, but black is more than just a color for this style, it’s a symbol of the emo lifestyle.
Using black or dark backgrounds in your designs can help these tones dominate as the primary color. On top of that, you can use white or contrasting text that will come alive against the black.
It’s also important to make sure this color palette stays consistent not only in design elements, but also in any photography you’re using.
Pick Punk-y Fonts and Typography
You can combine the more playful fonts here with a more modern, refined text to create contrast and ground your designs.
Combining fonts is all about creating juxtaposition to allow your style to come together. If you’re going to use the more playful, handwritten fonts in your project, pair them with sans serif fonts to allow your main font to stand out.
Go All-In on Grunge
The emo aesthetic is all about grungy textures and patterns. To incorporate these, you can use ink blot textures, distressed patterns, or paint dripping elements.
Another way to gather inspiration is (again) by looking at album covers and observing their prominent patterns and textures.
This Rolling Stone list of the “40 Greatest Emo Albums of All Time” is a good place to start.
A quick and easy way to add more of an emo aesthetic to any design is compiling these subtle, distressed textures on top of your photos or final project. This looks best on logos, social media graphics, or even your own album art.
As mentioned before, photos played a major role of this trend during the early 2000s. As Myspace was dominating most teenagers’ time spent online, it was all about posting photos with a certain moody style.
Nowadays, people are spending more time on social media—TikTok specifically—where tutorials on how to create the “emo photo aesthetic” have nearly 41 million views.
Call back to the early days of camera phones, when most photos were pixelated, gritty, and unrefined. Dial photo saturation and contrast way up to create images that are reminiscent of early Internet editing tools and cyberpunk trends. Add in those aforementioned distressed textures.
Use these tips to your advantage! Amp up the nostalgia and breathe a new, moody life into your creative direction.