As we head to the end of another busy 12 months, we gather expert opinions from industry leaders to give you a sense of where graphic design is heading in the year to come.
The job of the graphic designer may have changed a lot lately, but the good news is that the discipline is still in demand more than ever indeed. As businesses battle to survive the coming recession, good design will help them stand out visually, connect with their audiences, and create the brand loyalty they so desperately need.
That means the best graphic designers should not want for work in 2023, although at the same time, you may be expected to do more than ever. It’s no longer good enough to only design for print or even digital. There’s also motion, AR, VR, mixed reality and more. The good news is that good design is always good, whatever the platform. So as you stick to the same design fundamentals that have carried you so far, you should be in a strong place.
And at Creative Boom, we’ll continue to play our part in bringing you the best graphic design news, resources, interviews and case studies that we always have. So you won’t go short of graphic design inspiration or advice over the next 12 months.
To that end, we thought we’d gather some industry opinion to help you navigate the next year of no-doubt choppy waters. In this article, we bring together experts from across graphic design who share their thoughts, fears and hopes for 2023. After all, forewarned is forearmed!
Trend 1: A revolution in design tools
Arguably the biggest change in graphic design in 2023 won’t be what our designs look like or how they function but how we make them. “If late 2022 was defined by the emergence of AI in art and design, I think we’re really on the edge of a design tool nirvana,” believes Nick Hill of
“Plugins and tools have always been around but stuck behind tricky workflows,” he explains. “Tools like Figma helped democratise the ‘plugin’, and at Re, we now use the software for so much more than what it was clearly originally intended for. Apps like Runway have made inpainting and masking content, which used to take hours of specialised work, available in minutes. There’s been a recent resurgence in parametric type design that I’m really excited about. And tools such as Cavalry are bringing procedural and node-based design, previously only possible in expensive 3D software, into 2D.”
Re Design’s work for G42, a unique technology group that has AI and cloud at its core.
Most importantly, this removes the barrier of entry or the skill threshold to the design profession. “The playground is growing far wider, and it’s becoming easier for creatives to plug in and play,” Nick notes. “Maybe that will mean creatives can focus more on the big ideas and the curation of themes than on a single output.
“The tension is whether we can use this growing space almost ‘invisibly’ or that the tools become too evident and repetitive in work,” he adds. “I’ve got no idea what tool or app might become a ‘can’t live without’ by the end of 2023… and that’s pretty cool.”
Trend 2: Brands look for human connection
In the chaotic, post-pandemic world we’re entering in 2023, people will be craving connection: moments that make us smile, says Kenneth Johnston-Cowley, design director at
He offers Made Brave’s recent
Another example he points to is the recent
Trend 3: Designing for a hyper-reality
Once upon a time, graphic designers created work exclusively for print. Then the rise of personal computing shifted attention to digital. Now, it seems we’re going through a further revolution.
“Today, designers are expected to be multi-specialised in both physical and digital spaces, and the future is a blend between Al, AR, VR, MR and IRL to create fully immersive brand experiences,” explains Holly Karlsson, creative director at
“3D OOH billboards offer hyper-realistic and immersive brand experiences,” says Holly, “blurring the lines between technology and reality. Then there are Al data sculptures, such as the mesmerising work of Refik Anadol and the emergence of Al image generation based on machine learning, such as DALL-E 2. We need not be afraid to educate ourselves. Instead, we should embrace these evolving mediums and use them to our advantage whilst drawing on our more traditional design skills.”
Callum Goodger, senior designer at
Trend 4: Retrofuturism
While new technological possibilities are exciting, how will they actually influence the look of our work? “Design trends are leaning into what can roughly be described as retrofuturism,” believes Andenew Ayele, associate creative director at
He believes the recent rise of ‘Anti-Design’ is a good indicator of retrofuturism and what’s to come. “Designers and non-designers alike have often questioned the relationship between people and brands because of their inability to be relatable, to create compelling ideas and individuality, to foster storytelling, to keep humanity at the forefront through their work and products,” he notes. “Now is not the time for brands to swim in the sea of sameness with a safe, bland brand identity and visuals that appeal to everyone. They must have an opinion on function, impact and value.
“If this surge of tech and resources continue to blossom, the near future will be marked by a non-linear approach to time, inspiration, process and creativity as a whole,” Andenew adds. “Without the constraints of rigid guidelines and limited resources, we foresee individuality and emotive work to be on the rise.”
Trend 5: A fallback to the comforting past
In the 2020s, it seems like the world is changing faster than most of us can cope with. And so Greg Gibson, chief creative officer at
“Designers, fatigued by bright/squishy/meta/etc., will embrace familiar and even historical design over the trends we saw this year,” he predicts. “Baroque influence on typography and art, the ’60s or ’70s influence on identity, even ’00s influence on digital experiences will be prevalent.
“There’s comfort in old forms and norms, especially when we’re searching for something different,” he adds. “During times of great change, we often find that we can create the future by reinterpreting the past through new mediums. I believe we’ll see this over the next several years.”
Trend 6: Emulating Gen Z apps
Nostalgia doesn’t work on younger audiences, of course. And so Ben Constable, motion designer at
“Influenced by the rise of apps like BeReal and the dominance of TikTok, brands will look for an aesthetic that can relate and resonate with how audiences communicate on social media,” he predicts. “TikTok is a fine example of how sound can increase emotional engagement with an audience with its renowned ‘reels’; a combination of sound and media which, in turn, delivers endless amounts of viral content.
“The impact of this is exemplified through Instagram and Facebook, both of which have been following this path in a bid to regain control of the social world,” he adds. “From a design perspective, sonic branding can push our work into a multidimensional space, making our screens more engaging and, perhaps, hinting at what’s to come beyond them.”
Sonic branding, as part of
Trend 7: Chaotic maximalism
The shift from Gen Y (aka Millennials) to Gen Z has made a big impact on design as a whole, says Katie Klencheski, founder and creative director of
The past year has seen brands across the spectrum adopt this design style in campaigns and branding. “And what we’re seeing next is the version of this that reinterprets visual history, with flourishes of nostalgia-laced maximalism,” she predicts.
“From the genesis of 1990s digital design backwards to remixed designs inspired by folk art and ancestral heritage, this trend involves a more-is-more approach to integrating multiple design styles together in a way that acknowledges the past by yanking it forward.”
Trend 8: Beyond environmental lip service
Every year, creative leaders predict the need for sustainability will be a big trend in the year ahead. But in 2023, it seems there’s a new urgency and a desire to follow through with practical solutions rather than greenwashing.
“One thing we are very much in favour of trending in 2023 is brands and designers taking more consideration towards their physical brand experience as part of their overall brand identity,” says Danny Miller, founder and creative director at
So what does that look like in practice? Brands like Seed are setting a good example by using mycelium – mushroom fungus – for their packaging in place of paper or plastic,” says Danny. “Haeckels is another brand that’s recently partnered with Shellworks, a company we’ve recently been working with on their brand identity for their new skincare line. Shellworks is a company that creates fully biodegradable plastic alternatives. The vessels they developed for Haeckels’ new skincare line are called Vivomer, made entirely out of a bacterial polymer, which is 100% compostable in under a year, no matter where the material ends up. It’s also lighter than glass, so it will further reduce the carbon footprint when shipped.”
Trend 9: Suspicion of branding
One of the biggest challenges facing graphic designers in 2023, believes Philip Koh, director of strategy at
Of course, Philip disagrees. “Branding is not frivolous,” he argues. “Design solves problems, and the work we do can have a fundamental impact, making lived experiences tastier, healthier, and more rewarding.
“Case in point, a project we’re doing on school food that is just coming to fruition. Of course, the visuals are graphic, the copywriting is compelling, and the photography is, dare I say it, enticing. But the key foundation of the brand is the proposition we’ve created with our client, schools and their students: a modular, scalable approach to menus, service and applications that not only cuts waste and saves costs but provides nutritious food in a way that kids will choose to eat.”
The lesson? “Far from being dispensable, brand design, and the ideas that underpin it, can be the solution. Just don’t call it branding.”
Ogilvy’s brand overhaul for the