This post isn't going to be a slam against the "dungeonpunk" style of the third edition books, although I must say I'm not a fan of it. It's just that something occurred to me, based on the realization that dungeonpunk effectively mimics a real-word fashion.
Here's the question: the 3e generation was handed a particular vision of the fantasy world based on a fashion that had occurred and largely retreated into obscurity before the publication of the game. What I started wondering is whether there's a correlation between the age of the artist (or creative director when there's a unified "look") and the aesthetic of a different generation.
In other words, guessing at a particular average age of a D&D player, the mainstream punk era probably took place sometime maybe 20 years before the player picks up a D&D book in 2000. That's just shy of one average generation. Not quite their parents.
Maybe it's the younger uncles and aunts, maybe it's what shocked their parents, maybe it's completely unrelated, maybe it's related to the age of the creative directors and not the audience. Still, it's an interesting question.
The new age aesthetic of the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance clearly didn't reach as far back for the aesthetics, in terms of generations, as 3e did. And I'm not sure you can really identify a unified aesthetic for AD&D, but there's a 70s vibe to some of it, at least (Otus and some Trampier), which would tag a generation that's the new players' older siblings, not a generational gap at all.
In other words, I can't spot any direct correlation, but it did strike me that in no case did the aesthetic of the fantasy world reach back to the age of one's parents. It always seems to be drawing NOT on what's going on right at the moment (4e is not "grunge D&D"), but not TOO far into the past. It's based on something that happened in between your generation and your parents'.
Just an offhand thought, signifying nothing and not even full of sound and fury, but I thought I'd mention it.