As we enter the mid-year of 2023, let’s take a closer look at the ongoing graphic design trends that continue to captivate us.
In the realm of design, mysticism involves incorporating symbols associated with astrology and divination. This trend embraces popular imagery such as zodiac signs, all-seeing eyes, lotus flowers, and sacred geometry. These symbols hold deep significance, infusing the natural and celestial world with hidden meanings. Visually, mystic designs possess a soft and delicate quality. They feature delicate lines and organic shapes that gracefully flow. The colour palette leans towards calming tones, often with muted shades. Depictions of moons, stars, and serene faces evoke a sense of tranquility, offering an escape from daily concerns and providing a comforting sense of hope. This is why the mystic design trend appeals to a broad audience; you don’t need to believe in tarot cards to appreciate the serene beauty they embody.
2. Risoprint reimagined
In the mid-80s, a printing technique called Risograph was developed by the Riso Kagaku Corporation in Japan. It revolutionised affordable mass printing by using dots and faded colours, resulting in grainy and unintentionally stylised images with double exposures.
In 2023, risograph printing is being reimagined for digital abstract graphics. Its grainy textures add depth and noise to simple shapes, inspiring designers to create surreal landscapes of abstraction with a touch of vintage charm. When representing real characters, risograph textures and colours are combined with exaggerated caricatures and simplified features, transforming the familiar into something unfamiliar. Ultimately, this trend blurs the boundary between basic shapes and mechanical processes.
3. Punk revival
Punk is a rebellious subculture that traces its roots back to the 1920s Dada movement. It has always existed on the outskirts of society, and it continues to persist. However, in 2023, it is experiencing a revival in popularity as more and more people find reasons to challenge failing systems. The growing wealth inequality, exacerbated by a recession, and the recent passing of the UK monarch in 2022 have reignited opposition to the monarchy and its colonial history.
In terms of aesthetics, punk is known for its do-it-yourself (DIY) approach, featuring scribbled lettering, cutouts, mismatched fonts, and chaotic collages. Punk design rejects opulence and formality. It embraces a messy style because life itself can be messy, and this honesty resonates with audiences. Furthermore, these disorganised arrangements visually convey energy and frustration—the jagged edges and graffiti splatter almost seem to echo the outcry against the status quo.
4. Retro line art
In 2023, many designers are turning to minimal line art to create illustrations that are humorous and fun. This is a retro style that recreates the nostalgic memory of drawing with felt-tip markers.
The simplicity of the line art lends itself to a cartoonish style (like thick outlines and rubber hose limbs), which is why the trend is a natural fit for more light-hearted projects. And because these drawings are so minimal, they can handle ultra-bright colours 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.
5. Airbrush surrealism
Surrealism remains a popular design approach due to its unique and endlessly imaginative weirdness. However, in 2023, surrealism is unexpectedly merging with 80s airbrush techniques, resulting in the overlay of soft retro filters onto strange and fantastical imagery.
This combination creates a hazy effect that tames the usual disorienting impact of surrealism, enveloping the graphics in a consistent mist. It’s like viewing an image from a partially recollected dream. Sometimes, the blurred colours produce a gentle radiance, making the image feel inviting and transcendent. Overall, airbrush surrealism promotes approachability, almost suggesting that what was once considered strange has now become commonplace.
6. Folk botanical
Patterns are commonly used in graphic design to create backgrounds or frame content. Nature often serves as inspiration for these patterns, combining leaves, fruits, and vines to capture the vibrant essence of a forest. However, in 2023, nature patterns are taking on a more raw and unconventional style, featuring shaky doodles, rough textures, and unique colour choices.
This emerging trend presents a fresh interpretation of familiar nature themes through whimsical drawings. It moves away from the precise geometric shapes typically associated with vector art tools, embracing a more organic and imperfect feel. The resulting digital artwork exudes vibrancy, not only from the natural elements but also from the hand-drawn quality contributed by human artists. It celebrates the charm of imperfections and brings a sense of liveliness to digital designs.
In a similar vein, last year saw the resurgence of 60s psychedelia in graphic design, captivating viewers with vibrant and immersive worlds. In 2023, this trend continues to evolve, now embracing the aesthetics of 90s space psychedelia.
While traditional psychedelia draws inspiration from nature, incorporating multicoloured clouds and melting mushrooms, space psychedelia combines the future and the past. It incorporates 90s retro techniques such as Memphis Design patterns, Saturday morning cartoon styles, and colors reminiscent of Lisa Frank school supplies. These elements are then merged with futuristic themes like androids, spaceships, vaporwave landscapes, simulated environments, and cyberpunk neon.
Through these vivid and imaginative illustrations, designers in 2023 look towards the technological future with a sense of optimism, combining nostalgic elements with a forward-thinking vision.
8. Mixed dimension
As we spend more time in online spaces rather than physical ones, the lines between the two can become blurred. However, in 2023, graphic designers are breaking down this boundary by seamlessly integrating digital illustrations into real-life photography.
Instead of creating a dystopian atmosphere, this trend focuses on bringing joy and whimsy. Bold splashes of vibrant colours and cheerful cartoons are used to highlight the contrast between the different elements.
This trend also presents the world as we aspire it to be—a place of exploration and enchantment. In times when life can feel gloomy, art’s imaginative power offers an escape and reminds us of our ability to create magic if we set our minds to it.
9. Acid graphics
Acid graphics, also known as Y2K grunge, are the latest phase of the Y2K revival that started last year. This trend embraces gritty textures, shiny metallics, fragmented grids, and abstract shapes. Unlike most nostalgia-driven trends, acid graphics favour a darker aesthetic influenced by the late 90s goth subculture.
The acid graphics trend aligns with styles like brutalism and anti-design because of its moody atmosphere and incorporation of computer glitches, crowded text, and chaotic layers. Like these movements, acid graphics reveal a darker side of the internet, finding their best expression in websites, album covers, and social media posts. It’s a style that contemplates whether the future of digital art will prioritise computers over human eyes, evoking a sense of uncertainty and introspection.
10. Experimental escapism
Last year, escapism became a prominent theme in graphic design, captivating viewers with captivating and imaginative worlds. This trend continues to thrive in 2023, but with a twist of experimentation.
The driving force behind this experimentation is the recent advancements in technology. The rise of AI-generated art, the Metaverse, and the awe-inspiring interstellar images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope in 2022 have had a significant impact on the creative industry. Designers are now incorporating these technological breakthroughs into their own artistic visions.
The outcome is a collection of exploratory compositions that serve as windows into the digital realm. This new form of escapism carries a sense of darkness and introspection, featuring surreal landscapes that are both artificial and conceptually daring. In the current year, designers are pushing the boundaries of artistic exploration, taking us further into the unknown than ever before.
11. Complex compositions
Graphic design revolves around storytelling, even when representing abstract concepts. It uses cohesive visuals to weave narratives about brands. In 2023, visual storytelling is taking on a more literal and abstract approach through intricate compositions. These illustrations incorporate multiple “scenes” within a single image. You might find one character taking a photo, another paddling a canoe, and yet another conquering a mountain—all within the same artwork.
Despite the complexity of these designs, they often maintain a minimalist style, allowing for the inclusion of numerous elements without overwhelming the viewer. Due to their landscape orientation, these compositions are becoming popular as website headers or featured images for news articles and blogs. This trend not only captivates the viewer’s attention as they explore the visual, but it also emphasises the idea that our world is diverse and filled with multiple stories unfolding simultaneously.
12. Abstract gradients
Gradients, also known as colour transitions, have been a popular trend for quite some time, and they continue to surprise us each year. In 2023, gradients take on a new form: abstract shapes blended with soft blurs.
The elongated and organic forms of these abstract gradients evoke a sense of weightlessness, complemented by their vibrant colours. The slightly imperfect edges add a touch of realism, as if the gradients are made of windswept, multicoloured sand. With their gentle hues, gradients naturally create a calming effect, and the fluidity of abstract gradients enhances this sensation. Knowing that gradients are here to stay brings a sense of comfort, as they have become a reliable presence in the design world.