Blog Home Design Occulture Trend Report: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market

Astrology and alchemy and palmistry, oh my! See how younger generations’ interest in the occult is shaping one of 2020’s major Creative Trends.

In the design world, the occult is certainly having a moment. Millennial and Gen X consumers are engaging with alternative faiths and experimenting with the experimental, and brands are taking note. Occult-related imagery can be seen across a broad range of commercial items aimed at this consumer age group, with packaging, branding, and products featuring zodiac illustrations, runes, evil eyes, and witchcraft graphics. And, from furniture design to beverage packaging, it’s clear that many brands are starting to capitalize on younger generations’ curiosity about the occult, esotericism, and spirituality. 

There’s data to back up this new-found obsession. The Shutterstock 2020 Creative Trends report identifies Occulture as a major emerging trend, based on yearly searches by Shutterstock users. A +525% rise in searches for “magic” and +289% for “spiritual” indicate that users are seeking out imagery that connects to alt-faiths, the occult, and astrology. 

Occulture: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market — Occult Design
Image by contributor Tithi Luadthong.

From a resurgence in tarot cards and crystal magic to new looks at Witching icons and ancient healing rituals, there’s many facets to the 2020 Occulture trend. Let’s take a look at how creatives are playing with this trend in design and media, across branding, graphics, illustration, and products.

What Is Occulture?

Occulture refers to the renewed and growing interest in alt-faiths and magic amongst Millennial and Gen Z individuals. 

The New York Times writes that “we are living in the middle of a religious revival,” in which astrology and witchcraft are two surging spiritual movements amongst young people. According to a 2018 Pew survey, 20% of Americans believe in astrology, while the number of Americans who identify as Wiccan has surged from just 8000 in 1990 to more than a million today.*

*Source: The Great Awokening: The Rise of Progressive Occultism by Tara Isabella Burton. 

Occulture: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market — Wicca and Alt-Faiths
Wiccan protestors at the 2018 NYC Women’s March. Image by contributor Erin Alexis Randolph.

A desire to express greater individuality has undoubtedly contributed to this renewed interest in the occult. The fact that many of these alt-religions, such as Wicca, place nature at the center of ritual activity also chimes with young people’s desire to reconnect with and respect nature in an environmentally fragile world. 

Occulture: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market — Occult Design Moon Phases
Image by contributor IChaikova.

Neo-paganism seems to be particularly attractive to young individuals, and even those who wouldn’t regard themselves as devout practitioners are more likely than older generations to avidly read horoscopes, practice palmistry, or use tarot cards, runes, or ouija boards. 

Reinforced by a resurgence of supernatural and occult-themed TV shows, such as American Horror Story, Stranger Things, The Witcher, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, young audiences’ interests in magic and the paranormal is steadily growing.

Why Occulture will be a Dominant Trend in 2020…and Beyond

Because many forms of the Occult are defined by individualism and self-discovery, its imagery has less definable borders. This makes it easy for brands and creatives to capitalize on Millennial interest in alt-faiths and the relative flexibility of occult imagery. 

Occulture: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market — Occult Design Trend: Palmistry
Image by contributor ONiONA.

Although the growth of neo-paganism is a valid religious movement, there nonetheless seems to be little hesitation on the part of brands to attract young consumers with designs that thematically connect with astrology, witchcraft, or magic.  

With occult products going mainstream, such as ritualistic candles, jewelry, and books, there’s also an increase in occult-themed designs for otherwise non-occult products, such as kitchenware, alcohol, and clothing.

Occulture: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market — Occult Design Trend: Anthropologie and the Evil Eye
Dish towels and door mats featuring evil eye and palmistry graphics by Anthropologie.

Because interest in the occult is connected to a wider social movement, we anticipate the Occulture creative trend to last a while, into 2020 and beyond. A marker of both individualism and connection, this trend is particularly potent for young generations, and it’s sure to remain a salient design trend for creatives.

Designing the Occult for a Receptive Market

Millennial and Gen Z audiences can be difficult consumers to keep up with, driving a short-term visual culture via digital devices. This market’s growing interest in alt-faiths presents an opportunity for brands to connect with these consumers on a deeper level. 

As a result, large commercial brands and independent designers alike are dabbling in the dark arts, using occult imagery to create compelling designs for products and packaging. 

Take a look at these modern beverage branding and packaging examples, which target Millennials with whimsical, out-of-the-ordinary design.

Occulture: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market — Secret Society Brewery Design by Chad Pinckney
Packaging design for Secret Society Brewery by Chad Pinckney.
Occulture: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market — Tarot-Inspired Branding for Jägermeister
Occulture: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market — Jägermeister Branding by Agency Firstborn
Occulture: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market — Designs by Illustrator Palehorse
A series of tarot deck illustrations by illustrator Palehorse created in collaboration with digital agency Firstborn for the German brand of herbal liqueur Jägermeister.
Occulture: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market — Raven Branding by Hueso Studio
Marketing campaign for Cuervo Speciality Coffee by Buenos Aires-based Hueso Studio

For brands targeting female audiences, horoscope imagery is a huge visual trend, with jewelry, clothing, and lifestyle accessories themed around the signs of the zodiac. 

Occulture: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market — Zodiac Jewelry by Sézane
Zodiac-themed jewelry by French fashion brand Sézane.

Occult and Wicca-themed designs also appear across a wide range of lifestyle products, such as phone cases, kitchenware, prints, cushions, and bags. 

Occulture: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market — White Raven Design by Erika Biro
Celestial Messenger White Raven Design by illustrator and graphic designer Erika Bíró.

The occulture trend is a particularly rich seam for illustrators looking to create unique and interesting designs that still have commercial appeal.

Here, illustrator and designer David Romero applies his distinctive woodcut style  to occult-themed concepts. A finely-tuned blend of traditional folklore references and contemporary color palettes result in extremely effective poster and logo designs. 

Occulture: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market — Skeleton Branding Designs by Romero
Occulture: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market — Witch Poster Design by Romero
Occulture: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market — Running Wolves Illustration by Romero
Illustrations, logos, and poster designs by David Romero.

We’re also seeing an overall normalisation of occult imagery, partly because this imagery is becoming more widely used in popular culture and commercial products. From furniture covered in evil eyes, to flat design Wicca calendars and cheerfully-illustrated tarot cards, designers are integrating these once-taboo graphics and symbols into mainstream visual culture. 

Occulture: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market — Wicca Calendar by Daniela Caldeira
Wicca calendar by Daniela Caldeira.
Occulture: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market — Rejtek Tarot Deck by Illustrator Brigitta Kiss
Contemporary tarot cards by illustrator Brigitta Kiss. Titled Rejtek, meaning sanctuary and mystery in Hungarian, the cards were designed in a modern, illustrative style to ‘draw people’s attention to divination.’

Occulture: 2020’s Macro Trend for Design?

Identified as a dominant trend by Shutterstock search data, Occulture is also reflective of a wider movement in society. With interest in and membership of alt-faiths set to grow over the coming years, it’s likely that occult imagery will become more pervasive in popular culture. 

So is this the end of Millennial Pink…and the start of Goth Black?

Wily designers should certainly consider a move to the dark side — using occult references and styles in the design of brands and products is set to be a macro design trend in 2020 and possibly beyond. Watch this space.

Check out the Occulture image, footage, and music collections to make your next project magic. Discover what other creative trends will be making waves in 2020.

Occulture: Selling the Mystical to a Millennial Market — Shutterstock's  2020 Creative Trends Collections

Cover image by Dotidrop

Looking for more on Shutterstock’s Creative Trends for 2020? Check these out.