As the design trends of 2023 are in full swing, we are ready to witness another year of aesthetic revivals and creative experiments. However, what makes 2023 different from past trends in comparison to what has gone before?
Design is the product of creative minds, but trends are also the product of the context of the times in which they are born or re-born. In the last year, the world had recovered from a pandemic and the design trends were stocked with nostalgic comforts and colourful expressions. That optimism spiked at the beginning of the year but immediately has been strained through this year’s Russian invasion of Ukraine and snowballing global problems, such as rising inflation around the world, and climate and political crises.
Designers are like a weather vane — where the wind blows, our thoughts and projects move there. We can respond to the current circumstances in several ways. Someone is experimenting with the form and format of their messages, someone is trying to rethink classical techniques, and someone is diving with might and main into post-modernity, where meanings become meta-meanings, and the line between the universe and the meta-universe is blurred. One thing is certain: we live in an eclectic design environment and everyone must find their balance between what’s popular and what suits them in a better way.
Risograph was a mid-80s printing technique developed by the Riso Kagaku Corporation in Japan.
It opened the alternative way for cheap printing using dots and colours with the result that images were often grainy and unintentionally styled with double exposures. Today we pay respect for this double exposure but imitate it on purpose. In 2023, risograph printing is reinvented for digital graphics and will become even more popular. Its grainy textures add depth and dimension to minimalist forms. This has inspired many designers to create surreal abstracts with a vintage flair. When depicting real characters, the textures and colours of the risograph are combined with caricatures and simplified strokes, turning the familiar into the unfamiliar. What’s interesting, this simple trend blurs the line between basic forms and machine processes, making digital prints and designs look like manufactured artworks.
Grunge, punk, anti-establishment
Punk is a rebellious counterculture with roots in the Dada movement of the 1920s. Since then, it has never really disappeared. Nowadays punk was born on the margins of society, but its bold character is piercing the whole society from bottom to top. Wherever you have rules — you’ll have a protest. Wherever is a protest — you’ll have a punk style. Product or packaging design is mostly organised, so it’s just a question of time when the rebellion character will brake in,
2023 is a witness of revival punk’s appeal as ordinary people find good reasons against failing systems. Not only has the wealth gap exponentially grown larger, but the death of the Queen is a huge symbol downfall, that happened in turmoiled 2022. This also sparked renewed opposition to the monarchy and its colonial legacy.
Aesthetically, punk tends to be characterized by do-it-yourself techniques like scribbled lettering, cutouts, mismatched fonts, chaotic collages, spilt-out ink and worn textures. Punk design is a general rejection of sophisticated decorum.
Punk artists are not afraid of being messy because life is messy and the public finds solace in this creatively disorganised chaos. The word grunge even sounds close to «energy». You can hear and feel the emotion of the designer, who delivers struggle and protest on paper or digital canvas.
Many designers are using simple line art in 2023 to produce hilarious and enjoyable images. This is a vintage design that evokes the fond recollection of felt-tip marker drawings.
The trend is a natural fit for more humorous projects because the simplicity of the line art lends itself to a cartoonish aesthetic (such as thick outlines and rubber hose limbs). Additionally, due to their simplicity, these drawings can manage extremely vivid colours without tiring out the spectator. Many designers combine these graphics with antique bubble typefaces and design elements like oval borders and starburst stickers from historical magazine adverts to heighten the retro vibe.
Space psychedelic vibe of the 90s
By drawing our attention into unknown and undiscovered, but crowded and vibrant worlds, graphic design from the 1960s made a comeback last year. The trend is carrying on into 90s space psychedelia in 2023, extending its momentum to infinity and beyond (say hi to Buzz Lightyear).
While psychedelia is something usually associated with drug addiction, space-themed psychedelia draws inspiration from nature& Imagine the swirling clouds, melting amber or lava eruption. Nature has all the colours, we can imagine and implement in visual identity. Space psychedelia trend is all just about inspiring the present with the past.
Retro 90s elements include Saturday morning cartoon styles, Memphis Design patterns, and colours evocative of Lisa Frank’s school supplies. It incorporates futuristic motifs like bright neon, cyberpunk, vaporwave landscapes, VR imagery, robots, spacecraft and interstellar travel. Already living in the future (from the 90s point of view), we still can see the technological future as we saw in these vivid, innovative artworks, which are still more wannabe concepts than real-life objects.
The differences between the real and digital can become less distinct the more time we spend online. Graphic designers are erasing this barrier in 2023 by fusing digital graphics with actual photos, combining real with completely made-up. Any kind of form, any kind of texture, any kind of media for your case study — it’s possible with Blender and blending the real images with graphics.
The trend of fusing the artificial with the real may sound a bit awkward because it’s hard to match some things. This is where top-notch art direction is kicking in. Cocktails from real and digital could be good and far more fun and whimsy than traditional technics. Cartoons with happy faces and bright splashes of colour draw attention to how different the elements are from one another.
This style also depicts the world as we would wish it to be, full of wonder and discovery. The imaginative power of art provides escape when life feels down sometimes and serves as a reminder that, if we put our minds to it, we are capable of creating magic.
Experimental Escapism / AI
As designers attempted to lure viewers into captivating, imaginative realms, escapism emerged as a recurrent motif in graphic design last year. Even beyond 2023, the tendency will continue to be popular, but escapism is now becoming more experimental.
Many of these experiments were motivated by current technological developments, which included the Metaverse, AI-generated art, and the James Webb Space Telescope’s interstellar photographs in 2022. The creative industry has been highly impacted by these events. Designers are combining their creative prowess with all of this technological success in attempts to find new ways of inspiration and forms of creation.
Fantastic compositions serve as windows into the psyche world of the designer, but they are the final product as well. This type of escapism has a gloomy, moody feel to it and features artificial, impossible landscapes that are conceptually adventurous. This year, designers are guiding us farther into the realm of the uncharted territory of their very own vision, so we would probably not be able to have a decent map and ways to go only one correct way. We are at the crossroads of infinite possibilities.
Storytelling and complex composition
Storytelling is important. Sometimes it’s the very heart of graphic design because cohesive visuals can support a story, likewise, the story could support an “okay” design.
In 2023, visual storytelling is getting both more literal and more abstract at the same time through complex compositions. These are illustrations that contain several frames, combined into one image. You can find something even in Bosch’s paintings, where more meanings could be discovered through time. rolled into one. One character might be snapping a photo, another might be driving a car, flying a plane or frying something in a pan — all in the same composition.
This trend not only keeps the viewer’s eye moving through an engaging visual, but it also reinforces the idea that we live in a world of multiple stories happening all at once. And this is important to understand, that the world is bigger and deeper than you see it.