It’s no secret that people are smitten with autumn. For many, the sight of pumpkins springing up on neighbors’ doorsteps or the first taste of a hot, spiced latte is enough to send them into a tizzy of nostalgia.

As a designer, this nostalgia is a goldmine for audience engagement, but you don’t have to follow the traditional autumn design route. When falling leaves lose their luster, here are other unique ways to embrace the arrival of fall in your designs.

1. Explore Old Themes with New Subjects

Autumn creates a yearning for the comfort of old times and old rituals. This connection between the season and nostalgia opens up tons of possibilities for subject matter far beyond the confines of typical fall imagery. Changing leaves, football games, and steaming cups of coffee can begin to lose their impact, becoming a source of routine rather than comfort. Elevate your designs with more unique subject matter that targets the audience’s nostalgia in unexpected ways. Below are a few unique possibilities, but you should also draw on your own memories for inspiration.

Fall yard maintenance is never-ending and the cluttered backyard shed houses all the necessary equipment.

A garden shed with all the tools of the gardener by thieury
A garden shed with all the tools of the gardener by thieury

Mushrooms are prolific in many places in the fall, when their forest beds are enriched by falling leaves.

Mix of forest mushrooms over old wooden table by Natasha Breen
Mix of forest mushrooms over old wooden table by Natasha Breen

Create an eerie effect by dissecting traditional spooky imagery into its individual parts, like the fence that encircles an abandoned mansion.

Shut iron spiked gates with blurred autumn trees on the background by SergeBertasiusPhotography
Shut iron spiked gates with blurred autumn trees on the background by SergeBertasiusPhotography

There’s no better way to access nostalgia than visiting that playground of forgotten treasures, the flea market.

Aerial view of a stall in a flea market full of bits and pieces by nito
Aerial view of a stall in a flea market full of bits and pieces by nito

2. Incorporate Unconventional Colors

Color is a pretty big deal in the fall. A conventional autumn palette is red, yellow, and orange, but these hues are just half of the sampling of colors present in nature during the fall season. While warm colors are prominent in changing leaves, cool tones can also appear, offering a stunning contrast to traditional autumn palettes. This adds interest and, if placed correctly, emphasizes important elements of your design. Avoid the monotony of monochromes with deliberate blues, greens, and purples. Look to nature to find these effortless pairings of warm and cool tones.

Pink and purple is not a typical fall palette, but the subtle tints and shades in this image make the combination look rustic.

Fresh fruit figs by Nitr
Fresh fruit figs by Nitr

The standard fallen leaves image is reimagined using darker shades and hints of blue.

Bright Beautiful Fall Foliage Floating in a Clear Creek from Stunning Maple Trees in Lost Maples State Park, Texas by Richard A McMillin
Bright Beautiful Fall Foliage Floating in a Clear Creek from Stunning Maple Trees in Lost Maples State Park, Texas by Richard A McMillin

The produce stand is bursting with vibrant colors in the fall – take advantage by skipping the familiar pumpkin image and digging up something more colorful.

Colorful carrots by Alena Haurylik
Colorful carrots by Alena Haurylik

3. Feel Out New Textures

Texture is an often overlooked but unexpectedly powerful way to capture the mood and feeling of a design. Digital design may not seem like a natural place for texture, but just like a picture of food brings to life certain smells and tastes, a design incorporating texture can evoke tactile feelings and memories. Autumn is the best time to incorporate texture because the season is overflowing with rich organic and manmade materials. Think of leaves crunching under boots or the steam of hot cider melting a cold nose.

There are multiple ways to incorporate texture into your designs: use it as a fill for fonts, as a backdrop, or even as the focus of your photographs. The textures experienced in nature, textiles, and the atmosphere are varied and extremely individual to each person — think about your own favorite fall outfit or bakery shop treat and see if you can source a texture from it.

Below are some that might come to mind; see if you can evoke feelings of texture by incorporating velvet, cashmere, tree bark, flannel, wet and dry leaves, or mohair into your designs.

Flipping through dog-eared records evokes vintage through touch.

Retro styled image of boxes with vinyl turntable records on a flee market by Mediagram
Retro styled image of boxes with vinyl turntable records on a flee market by Mediagram

Corduroy often gets overshadowed by denim and leather, but its plush feel is indicative of fall.

Colorful corduroy trousers in a store by Tom Gowanlock
Colorful corduroy trousers in a store by Tom Gowanlock

You can feel age in the cracks and creases of old leather sneakers.

old shoes.old background. dirty shoes. grunge by FINDEEP
old shoes.old background. dirty shoes. grunge by FINDEEP

Soft and crisp, velvet is an ageless fall fabric that creates intimacy and warmth.

Velvet velour cloth background with glowing light and dark shadows by Natalya Prokopenko
Velvet velour cloth background with glowing light and dark shadows by Natalya Prokopenko

When you’re stuck in the monotony of traditional autumn imagery, remember that much of the season’s power comes from its nostalgia. Use your memories and sense of comfort to discover new subject matter, interesting color combinations, and sensory textures.

For more colorful autumn inspiration, explore our curated “All Fall” collection »

Curated Autumn Collection

Top image: Fire in nature with bokeh from the fire by ivandan