The graphic design trends of 2023 have arrived, ushering in another year of aesthetic renaissance and creative experimentation. But what distinguishes 2023 from past trends?
Design, rooted in the creativity of its practitioners, also emerges from the context of its time. The previous year witnessed a world in recovery from a pandemic, and design trends leaned toward comforting nostalgia and vibrant expression. Much of that optimism endures in 2023, albeit tinged with this year’s global inflation, the relentless march of the climate crisis, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Here are the top 12 graphic design trends for 2023:
- Mysticism In a design context, mysticism delves into iconography associated with astrology and divination. This trend heavily incorporates popular symbols like zodiac signs, all-seeing eyes, lotus flowers, and sacred geometry. These symbols, as in times of old, act as talismans infusing the natural and celestial world with occult and deeper meanings.
- Risoprint Reimagined Risograph, a printing technique from the mid-80s developed by the Riso Kagaku Corporation in Japan, has inspired a digital revival in 2023. Its grainy textures add depth and noise to minimalist shapes, leading many designers to create surreal abstractions with a touch of vintage flair. When portraying real subjects, risograph textures and colors combine with exaggerated caricatures and simplified features, transforming the familiar into the unfamiliar. This trend blurs the line between basic shapes and machine processes.
- Punk Revival Punk, a rebellious counterculture with roots dating back to the Dada movement of the 1920s, has persisted on the fringes of society. In 2023, it is experiencing a resurgence in mass appeal as people find reasons to protest against failing systems. The widening wealth gap and the passing of the UK’s monarch in 2022 have ignited renewed opposition to the monarchy and its colonial legacy.
Aesthetically, punk is characterized by do-it-yourself techniques like scribbled lettering, cutouts, mismatched fonts, and chaotic collages. It embraces a rejection of opulence and decorum, unafraid of messiness, as it reflects the chaos of life. These disordered arrangements brim with visual energy, expressing frustration through jagged edges and graffiti-like splatters.
- Retro Line Art In 2023, many designers are turning to minimal line art to create playful and humorous illustrations. This retro style evokes the nostalgic memory of drawing with felt-tip markers. The simplicity of line art lends itself to a cartoonish style with thick outlines and rubber-hose limbs, making it suitable for lighthearted projects. The minimalism of these drawings allows them to incorporate ultra-bright colors without overwhelming the viewer. To enhance the retro effect, many designers pair these illustrations with throwback bubble fonts and design features reminiscent of vintage magazine ads, such as oval borders and starburst stickers.
- Airbrush Surrealism Surrealism, a perennially popular design approach due to its inventiveness, is undergoing an unexpected fusion with 80s airbrush techniques in 2023. Soft retro filters overlay bizarre, chimeric imagery. This 80s airbrush technique is resurging, stepping back from the Y2K trend of the 2000s, offering a gauzy effect that tempers the usual disorientation associated with surrealism. In some cases, the blurring of color creates a soft glow, making the image feel inviting and transcendent. Airbrush surrealism fosters approachability, suggesting that the strange has become ordinary.
- Folk Botanical Patterns have long been a staple in graphic design, often featuring nature as the subject matter. In 2023, nature patterns take a less refined turn with shaky doodles, rough textures, and incongruous coloring. This trend reinterprets familiar nature themes into whimsical drawings, rejecting the geometrical precision typically imposed by vector art tools. The vibrancy in these patterns arises not only from the plants themselves but also from the shaky imperfections of the human hand. The result is digital artworks that feel organic in multiple ways.
- 90s Space Psychedelia In 2023, the trend of psychedelic design continues, taking inspiration from the 60s and the escapism it offered, immersing viewers in vibrant, colorful worlds. This year, the trend extends this momentum into the realm of 90s space psychedelia. Space psychedelia marries the past and future by incorporating 90s retro techniques, such as Memphis Design patterns, Saturday morning cartoon styles, and colors reminiscent of Lisa Frank school supplies. It also includes futuristic themes like androids, spaceships, vaporwave landscapes, simulated environments, and cyberpunk neon. With these bright, imaginative illustrations, designers look toward the technological future with optimism.
- Mixed Dimension As we increasingly inhabit digital spaces rather than physical ones, the boundaries between the two become blurred. In 2023, graphic designers obliterate this boundary by seamlessly integrating digital illustrations into real-life photography. This trend is driven by joy and whimsy, with vibrant splashes of color and grinning cartoons emphasizing the contrast between digital and real elements. It presents the world as a place of discovery and wonder, offering an escape from the occasional gloominess of life.
- Acid Graphics Acid graphics, sometimes referred to as Y2K grunge, represent the next stage of the Y2K revival. This trend features grimy textures, chrome metallics, broken grids, and amorphous shapes. It’s a nostalgia that embraces darkness over fond memories, stemming from the late 90s goth subculture.
Acid graphics align with styles like brutalism and anti-design due to their moody nature, frequent use of computer glitches, crowded text, and messy layers. They reveal a darker side of the internet and are often seen on websites, album covers, and social media posts. This style ponders whether the future of digital art will cater more to computers than human eyes.
- Experimental Escapism Escapism became a dominant theme in graphic design last year, drawing viewers into mesmerizing, imaginative worlds. This trend remains strong in 2023 but is taking on an experimental dimension. Inspired by recent technological advances, such as AI-generated art, the Metaverse, and interstellar images from the James Webb Space Telescope, designers merge these innovations with their creative expertise.
The result is exploratory compositions that offer a glimpse into the digital psyche. This form of escapism features darkness and moodiness, containing artificial yet conceptually adventurous landscapes. Designers are leading us further into the artistic unknown.
- Complex Compositions At the heart of graphic design lies storytelling, even when conveying abstract concepts. In 2023, visual storytelling takes on both literal and abstract forms through complex compositions. These illustrations incorporate multiple “scenes” within a single frame, with various characters engaged in different activities. Although these designs are dense, they often maintain a stylistic minimalism that accommodates several elements without overwhelming the viewer. Often used in website headers and as featured images for news articles and blogs, this trend keeps the viewer engaged, reminding us of the multifaceted nature of the world.
- Abstract Gradients Gradients, a long-standing trend in design, continue to evolve in 2023. This time, they manifest in abstract shapes, diffused in blurs. The organic forms of abstract gradients create a sensation of weightlessness, harmonizing with their effervescent color schemes. The noisy edges add a touch of realism, as though these gradients consist of windswept, multicolored sand. Gradients are naturally calming due to their soft colors, and the fluidity of abstract gradients enhances this effect. With gradients remaining a reliable presence, they provide comfort and familiarity in design.
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