One-Horned Wonders Through History: Unicorns in Graphic Design

28 Aug 2023 By Nick
An illustration of a unicorn created by a Mythic Digital employee

As an experiment, this blog post was written entirely using ChatGPT-4, along with HubSpot's new Content Assistant tool. The least human-editing possible was performed to demonstrate both the advantages and disadvantages of writing solely with artificial intelligence. 

AI-generated images below are a reimagining of Betye Saar's "To Catch a Unicorn" (1960)

If you're curious about how Mythic can create content for your team that has a human touch but with AI efficiency, book a session with Nichole here.

Table of Contents


Today's article intertwines the magic of unicorns, weaving through:

  • age-old fables,
  • lively myths,
  • contemporary design schemes.

Their unique mix of mystery, wow-factor, and meaning gives them a timeless aura in the world of storytelling through images. 🦄✨

Let's take a look through history, unravel the roots of the unicorn, investigate their continual role in graphic design, and discover the enchanting appeal that has mesmerized generations.

Unicorns find their beginnings in old-world tales and cultural mythologies. They've occupied a significant niche in the world of visual arts, epitomizing all things fantastical and mystical. From Hellenic legends to the tapestry of Chinese art, these creatures have deeply imprinted our shared psyche.


AI-generated unicorn art in an isometric style


In ancient Greece, unicorns were deemed potent entities, accredited with cleansing and rejuvenating powers over water. Held as icons of virtue and celestial favor, they echoed profoundly with the spiritual convictions of the Greeks. This reverence towards restoration and purity still fires the imagination of today's artists in graphic design, invoking awe and sparking wonder.

In Chinese traditions, unicorns symbolized auspicious omens and flourishing prospects. They were entrusted with the abilities to bestow blessings and repel malevolent forces, thus gaining high honor and reverence. The vivid hues and elaborate artistry in traditional Chinese artworks amplified the unicorns' regal and magical essence. These mythical beings hold a significant space in the Chinese artistic panorama, reflecting their importance as tokens of fortune, abundance, and positivity.

Logo design has increasingly employed unicorns as businesses recognize the mythical creature's capacity to convey metamorphosis, expansion, and adaptation. Incorporating a unicorn into brand insignias signals a proactive and forward-looking stance, echoing its transformative symbolism.

From Myths to Modernity

Unicorns have a recurring role in visual arts as icons of magic and whimsy. They held diverse meanings in Greek and Chinese cultures, underlying their global charisma and eternal fascination. In the sphere of graphic design, these wondrous beings persist in enthralling us, symbolizing transformation, progression, and change.

These ethereal qualities seize the audience's attention and set a brand apart as pioneering and vision-driven. Beyond logos, unicorns grace other branding assets like packaging, ads, and social media imagery. They infuse elements of spellbinding charm and allure, encouraging individuals to undertake their self-improvement odysseys, reminding us that we hold the keys to our own futures.


AI-generated unicorn art in a futuristic style


Historical Allure and Modern Relevance

In Greece, Ctesias, a 5th-century BC physician and writer, contributed significantly to the unicorn lore. He painted these creatures as robust beings with solitary horns, attributed with restorative abilities. These features resonated deeply within Greek spiritual paradigms and further enriched the unicorn's enduring mystique.

According to Ctesias, unicorns were formidable creatures with a single horn on their forehead, possessing the power to heal and purify water. Such qualities made them revered symbols of purity and divine intervention in Greek mythology. 

Ctesias' accounts of the unicorn greatly influenced the perception of these mythical creatures in Greek culture, while contributing to their enduring appeal throughout history. The unicorn's association with healing and purity resonated deeply with the ancient Greeks, who valued these qualities in their gods and mythical beings. 

AI-generated unicorn art in a paper art style


Such age-old attributions continue to feed modern graphic designs, filling them with a spirit of otherworldliness. Whether for a wellness emblem or a fantastical book cover, the unicorn's role in art and design remains vital and celestial, entrancing present-day audiences.

Major Occurrences in Chinese Art History

In Chinese art history, unicorns have played a significant role as symbols of good fortune and prosperity. These majestic creatures were not only depicted in paintings, sculptures, and textiles, but they were also incorporated into various aspects of Chinese culture, including architecture and decorative arts. The Chinese believed that unicorns possessed the power to bring blessings and ward off evil spirits, making them highly revered and sought after. 

In traditional Chinese paintings, unicorns were often portrayed alongside other auspicious symbols, such as dragons and phoenixes. These depictions showcased the importance of unicorns as symbols of luck and positivity in Chinese culture. The vibrant colors and intricate details used in these artworks further emphasized the majestic and enchanting nature of unicorns. 

And then, there's the Qilin. 

The Qilin, with its dragon's head, deer's body, ox's tail, and horse's hooves, is seen as a celestial creature bringing serenity and prosperity. Ancient Chinese rulers considered its appearance a good omen, symbolizing their wise and benevolent governance.

As a motif in Chinese art, the Qilin embodied these desirable traits, maintaining popularity across centuries. Even today, the Qilin continues to be a central figure in art and cultural festivals, fostering an ongoing dialogue between past traditions and contemporary cultural expressions.


AI-generated unicorn art in a phantasmal style


In China, unicorns took prominent roles in art, cohabiting with other auspicious symbols like dragons and phoenixes. Traditional paintings often rendered these beings with meticulous attention to detail and color, underscoring their grandiosity and enchantment. These still resonate in today's visual mediums, upholding their status as emblems of prosperity and wellbeing.

Be it architectural embellishments or intricate ceramics, unicorns adorned a variety of decorative art forms, adding splendor and good vibes to Chinese dwellings. Their role in visual narratives endures, mirroring their deep-rooted cultural reverence.

Transformative Imagery


AI-generated unicorn art in a classic comic style


Unicorns go beyond mere aesthetics. They stand for personal reformation, nudging us to morph into our fullest selves. In graphic arts, their celestial features induce people to accept change and set forth on their own spiritual quests.

Whether featured in wellness logos or self-growth literature, unicorns act as catalysts for personal elevation and spiritual enlightenment. These magical icons are emblems of lasting allure and universal relatability.

Branding with a Mythical Twist

Incorporating unicorns in brand design isn't just a fad; it's a potent statement of adaptability and progress. Their magical charisma draws viewer attention, inviting them on their own metamorphic adventures.

Their imagery enriches diverse brand materials, from packaging to social posts, establishing a compelling brand persona while charming specific audience sectors that resonate with the supernatural.

In the era of transformation and disruption, unicorns aptly represent the essence of adaptability and growth. Businesses incorporating this mythical creature in their branding reap the benefits of its magical allure, ensnaring viewer attention and sparking imaginative thoughts.

Whether it's a fledgling startup or a behemoth enterprise, a unicorn logo speaks of a company's visionary strides, imbuing their brand identity with elements of mystery, magic, and progressive thinking.

A Journey Within

Unicorns aren't just magical beasts from fairy tales; they're also incredible mentors for anyone on a quest for self-growth. 

When you see a unicorn in this context, it's like getting an invite to a more magical version of yourself. They inspire us to chase our dreams and face challenges with courage, kinda like how our adventurer character gears up for an epic quest. Unicorns tell us it's okay to stand out and be different because that's where the magic really happens. So, next time you come across a unicorn, whether in art or some other form, let it remind you to unleash your own inner sparkle.


AI-generated unicorn art in a photo realistic style


The Lisa Frank Phenomenon and Late-20th Century Unicorn Themes

Ah, Lisa Frank! If you grew up in the '90s, her rainbow-filled universe probably graced your school supplies. Known for her eye-popping designs bursting with color, Lisa Frank brought unicorns into the mainstream like never before. Her version of unicorns was like cotton candy for the eyes: rainbow manes, twinkling stars, and neon hues.

This kaleidoscopic interpretation was more than just visually striking; it mirrored the optimism and exuberance of the late 20th century. As the '90s boomed, Lisa Frank's unicorns were emblematic of a world where dreams could come true if you just believed. These designs added another layer to the unicorn legend, transforming them from mystical creatures of lore to symbols of everyday magic and possibilities.

So, the next time you find yourself entranced by a unicorn design, remember that you're part of a long, fantastical tradition. From medieval tapestries to Lisa Frank stickers, unicorns have been enchanting us for centuries, and their magical journey is far from over. 

Unicorns in Modern Graphic Design: More Than Just Sparkles

Unicorns have trotted far beyond the rainbow world of Lisa Frank. Today, they’re a versatile symbol in graphic design, turning up in everything from startup logos to edgy fashion brands. Their shape and form have been simplified, getting a minimalist makeover that pairs well with contemporary aesthetics. Think of the clean lines and flat colors often seen in app icons and branding; it's a far cry from the intricate tapestries of old.


AI-generated unicorn art in a surrealistic style


Then there's the "unicorn grunge," an alternative art style that blends the ethereal unicorn with darker elements like skulls or fire. It's a nod to the unicorn's original, wilder nature, back when they were more closely tied to the mysterious unknown. This trend is all about challenging the status quo, taking the unicorn back from pure whimsy to a symbol of complex emotions and untamed creativity.

We also have "unicorncore," which takes the aesthetic to perhaps its most extreme expression!

Digital artists are also taking unicorns into the virtual realm. With augmented reality filters and 3D models, unicorns are becoming more interactive and lifelike. The result? A fresh chapter in the unicorn saga that bridges the mythical and the digital in a way that's spellbindingly modern.


Unicorns represent a fascinating blend of history and contemporary culture, embodying ancient lore while continuously adapting to modern narratives. Their dual nature—rooted in history and yet undeniably modern—makes them a compelling symbol in graphic design. Unicorns serve as a testament to the power of imagery, seamlessly melding mystery, majesty, and profound meaning to captivate audiences through the ages.

Drawing from diverse cultural origins like ancient Greek mythology and Chinese art history, these mythical creatures convey potent imagery and symbolism that inspire enchantment and ignite imagination, as well as represent journey of change, self-discovery, and evolution.

So, the next time you encounter the majestic unicorn in a logo, book, or artwork, pause and reflect: How does this mythical creature inspire you to channel your own uniqueness and transformation? 

Remember, we all have a bit of that unicorn magic within us, waiting to be unleashed! 🦄


AI-generated unicorn art in a modern style
Nicholas Silverman
Created magically by Nick on Monday, August 28th