Girl in green jumpsuit holds orange prop bike on cartoon-style studio set, looking at rendered balloon apple tree.

Soft Pop: cuteness goes boom

What’s popping in 2022? According to Adobe Stock’s 2022 Design Trends, Soft Pop is bursting on the scene, in a pastel-wash of confectionary goodness.

Soft Pop: cuteness goes boom

Girl in green jumpsuit holds orange prop bike on cartoon-style studio set, looking at rendered balloon apple tree.
Credit: Adobe Stock / Ajonegro Studio/Stocksy

What’s popping in 2022? According to Adobe Stock’s 2022 Design Trends, Soft Pop is bursting on the scene, in a pastel-wash of confectionary goodness.

If this trend had a Pop Art mentor, it would be under-sung Belgian artist Evelyne Axell, whose experiments with screen-printed layers of vinyl produced images that were graphic, colorful, and decidedly femme. Much like the Powerfully Playful visual trend, Soft Pop celebrates optimism and fun, but with an extra emphasis on graphic design, cartoony stylings, balloon lettering and curvy shapes, and sweet, bright visuals.

Instagram’s 2022 Trend Report predicts “young people making bold moves with their style choices, using fashion as a vehicle for joy, optimism, and self-expression.” If you’re looking to suit up for this trend, you might head over to nooworks, for one of their fun, maximalist, and all-size friendly graphic jumpsuits, throw on some Erstwilder accessories, and jump in.

Image grid. Top left: cartoon-style graffiti illustration in pop colours. Top right: two feet with a yellow printed sock and a white sock. Bottom left: minimalist cartoon-style icons with faces peek from holes in beige overlay. Bottom right: inflated rubber onesie in yellow cow print strikes pose.
Credits: Top left: Adobe Stock / 9george. Top right: Adobe Stock / Dariia. Bottom left: Adobe Stock / rawpixel. Adobe Stock / NeoLeo.

Sweet pastels that pop in all dimensions.

To check out the living embodiment of Soft Pop, look no further than artist Amina Mucciolo, whose Studio Mucci brand and Instagram handle are bursting with rainbow pastels, determined optimism, inclusivity, fun interiors, and eye-grabbing graphic designs. Muccuiolo is a proud advocate for autism awareness and trans rights, and embodies a sense that adorability need not undermine one’s power, with slogans like, “Don’t Mistake My Cuteness for Weakness,” and “Your Voice Matters.” Almost anything can get a lift with a Soft Pop makeover, from Vogue cover redesigns by KaCeyCal, to a stairwell by Casa Chaucha, to the entire solar system. Rounded, welcoming lines are trending everywhere for 2022, from interior design to body positivity.

Of course, few real, live people can affect Mucciolo’s level of cartoony fun, which is why Soft Pop also celebrates 3D cartooning and character narratives. Berlin-based illustrator and designer Giulia Hartz blends pale pastels with meme-forward slogans and sticker graphics. AvantForm artists bring a diverse array of CGI images and animations to their Adobe Stock collection, demonstrating the limitless possibilities of pastel with a punch.

The prevalence of cartoons underlines the fact that while retro-futuristic looks are definitely in, Soft Pop design is more sweet than edgy. Updated expressions align this trend with the “kawaii” and “happycore” aesthetics. Kawaii, a fashion and pop culture look that originated in Japan and refers to an aesthetic of extreme cuteness, has proliferated around the world and combines all things pastel, pink, floral, and embellished with cartoon characters into a pastiche of maximalism, softness, and vulnerability. Meanwhile, the adjacent happycore aesthetic centers on positivity, broadly inclusive of rainbows and cartoons with a healthy dose of wholesome memes.

Left: clones of LEGO-style cartoon young man working on computer around pink room. Right: digital render-style illustration of yellow ice cream truck in front of green balloon foliage.
Credit: Left: Adobe Stock / YIPPIEHEY/AvantForm. Right: Adobe Stock / 3DJustincase.

Bubble, bubble.

Fun, squishy type is a huge part of the Soft Pop trend, with dimensional, bubble typefaces blowing up the scene. While literal foil balloons on walls may have peaked as a trend, its graphic counterpart is rolling strong into 2022. Thanks to some creative design magic from Adobe Stock contributor mego-studio, you can deploy your own Balloon Text or pastel Neon Sign type without a drop of noble gas or a worry about sea turtles eating the remains! Or, if you have your own products that need a Soft Pop touch you could look at 3Djustincase's soft, scrumptious, and sprinkly scenes.

The soft aesthetics of bubble lettering pair naturally with self-affirmations, and while these might be the prevailing trend for Soft Pop, there is also a link to the harder-edge style of graffiti lettering. But whether these messages are claiming turf or just claiming space for self, high-visibility, bouncy type treatments are rising to the top.

Image grid. Top left: line art style illustration in primary school colours of rows of beaded bracelets. Top right: bubble-style 3d-render illustration of hand giving thumbs up with hearts, text "Like, like, like" on pink backdrop. Bottom left: assorted bubble-style cartoon items belonging to young child, in flatlay on orange backdrop. Bottom right: product mockup of smartphone with superimposed notifications from apps, on blue backdrop.
Credits: Top left: Adobe Stock / Dariia. Top right: Adobe Stock / lauritta. Adobe Stock / YIPPIEHEY/AvantForm. Adobe Stock / mego-studio

Stock creators wanted.

Fundamentally, Soft Pop is a cool, contemporary style choice to add whimsy, fun, and approachability to branding or graphic treatments. And while the trappings are soft, don’t be fooled—the results are eye-catching and the messages have real impact.

Get inspired by design past and present, with the Soft Pop curated gallery, moodboard, and more. Designers and illustrators, visit our full Soft Pop Call for Content for more inspiration, then upload your work to start selling your Soft Pop-inspired templates, vectors, and illustrations.