Design in 2023 takes us ‘anywhere but here’

What do ‘mysticism’, ‘nostalgia’ and ‘bold journeys’ have in common? They’re influencing this year’s design trends and all show us a desire to escape.
A burst of neon pink that merges into a vibrant purple around the outside of the image.

Written by Marie-Anne Leonard

Writer & Editor – Canon VIEW

The first months of the year are a bit crowded when it comes to predicting the themes and looks that will be influencing creatives for the subsequent twelve months. So, it’s usually a good idea to take a step back, wait and look a bit wider. Often, you’ll see that the predictions merge and overlap to paint a bigger picture of what’s really happening. This is certainly the case for 2023, as the predicted creative trends of the year take us… anywhere but here.

It feels understandable that we are looking for a wildly alternative view of the world, but how will creators, designers, photographers and artists translate this feeling? Design leaders each have their own ideas, but below we’ve filtered a raft of concepts down to three core approaches – each able to visually transport us, but in very different ways.

Spirituality and Magic

Why? In times of difficulty, people can often turn to spiritual thinking as a way to find meaning and answers. After World War 1, for example, interest in spirituality surged as people sought comfort and solace from their emotional trauma. Today, uncertainty takes many forms, as we have a multiplicity of troubles to contend with – from economic strife, war and political turmoil to culture wars, mental health issues and societal pressure. Ironically, this retreat into non-technological traditions can be traced back to social media, where there has been a marked rise in alternative religions, as well as renewed connection and pride around cultural heritage and traditions and their spiritual roots.

What does this look like? Expect to see symbols, such as the All-Seeing Eye, Hand of Fatima and Tree of Life filtering in. Moods of spirituality may manifest itself through clean geometrical lines (sacred geometry) and representations of nature and natural spaces. However, 2023 will see a twist on the natural, with a tech-stylised eye that adds neon colours and curves.

A pair of open hands, side by side. On them are five three dimensional geometric objects formed by connecting small rods. The background is a blurred uranium blue.

99 Designs call it “Mysticism, experimental escapism”.

Dreams of escape

Why? While it would be easy to attribute this simply to the fact that we all desire a break from the stresses of life, it’s a little bit more complicated than that. The last twelve months have been a lot in terms of advances in the world and this, while exciting, can also be really overwhelming. Technological advances can raise important questions about what it means to be human, our place in the world and how we connect with both technology and the natural world. Take, for example, the breakthrough of both Generative AI and the images received from the James Webb telescope. Both have inspired and troubled us in equal measure. They represent something so far from what we recognise as human and yet simultaneously inspire us to dream even further beyond what we know of our place in the cosmos.

What does this look like? The imagination is the limit when it comes to the sheer fantasy that will begin to filter into the images, illustrations and designs in this space. Expect rules to be broken, impossible landscapes and otherworldly images that tap into a sense of adventure and push the boundaries of the real.

A concrete road is split in two, with both left and right sides curling and shedding debris as though to make way for a man who cycles through them, heading towards a desert landscape. He is wearing the lycra shorts, shirt and helmet of a professional cyclist.

Adobe calls it “Expanding awareness and bold journeys”.

Nostalgia and Retro

Why? Every generation looks to the past for inspiration, but we are in an interesting period in time where the recent past is a different world. We’ve already seen a kind of idealising of the nineties and Y2K by Generation Z, as they dive into internet-free technologies, such as flip-phones and vintage digital cameras. The idea of being able to have carefree fun with friends and feel in the moment without the constant presence of social media is intoxicating. Equally, older generations participating in activities that were popular in the past can be a way to hold on to a piece of that world, while experiencing a sense of childlike joy.

What does this look like? Candy colours and lo-fi finishes give an authentic feel, but of course the nineties/Y2K encompassed a lot of different styles and feels. Skater, grunge and looks from the retro gaming scene will all represent. Either way, expect plenty of movement and textures.

Two long-haired young women sit on the front of a jeep, smiling. They wear brightly coloured nineties-style shell suit jackets with bright leggings, one in bright acid orange and another in primary-coloured geometric shapes. They wear bright make up to match. The sky is bright clue and clear, and there are trees behind them. To their right, on the roof of the jeep is another person, but only their legs can be seen and are clad in bright red tights and black brogues.

Depositphotos calls it “Nostalgia, conscious experiences and dream-like aesthetics”.

Three clear visual trends that are designed for distance, however that needs to feel. We’re looking forward to exciting months of experimentation ahead, with artists of all disciplines making bold moves into the unknown, crossing the streams of traditions and taking a zero-consequence approach to creative fun. As always, artists reliably take find a glow in the gloom.

Discover a world of new photography and ideas at our Canon Ambassador’s Hub.

Marie-Anne Leonard Writer & Editor – Canon VIEW

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