Consumer Trends of 2022
If you’re launching a new brand this year or considering a rebrand and want to gain insights into current brand aesthetics, you’re in the right place.
While there are many research methods to cover in the branding process, we’re focusing on brand perception. How your customers initially respond to your brand is mostly an emotional response to how your brand is conveyed visually. This all happens in a matter of milliseconds. So what impression does your brand give off in those micro-moments? Brands that want to be positioned as leaders in their industries lean on aesthetics to help drive positive brand perception.
If you want your brand to be well positioned, it's essential to be well-versed in current aesthetics, so your brand visually reflects your positioning. Not doing so can make a brand look stale, outdated, or even tone-deaf. When this happens, customers may form a false perception that the brand itself is outdated. Meanwhile, the competition races ahead.
Let’s evaluate this from another angle. If a tech company like Apple had an outdated look, would you trust them to deliver cutting-edge innovation that will enhance your life? Probably not. Keeping a pulse on current brand aesthetics and putting them into practice elevates the perception that a brand is keeping up with the times. This garners more trust from your customers, which translates to loyalty and ends with an overall positive brand perception.
So now that we’ve identified the benefits, let’s explore what brand aesthetics are currently on the rise.
In order to understand what will rise and what will fall away—and to get a sense of the trajectory we’re currently on—it’s important to take a look at where we are now. Then ask,how is this shaping brand design? Let’s debrief on the state of U.S. consumers and what brands should be paying attention to in 2023.
Fatigued with the noise. Just two years after the height of the pandemic, we’re seeing consumers becoming fatigued with the social justice noise and wanting to see action—not just talk. Impacts on the environment are still important and are deepening, seeing an evolution of putting ideals into practice—the movement called conscious consumerism.
Exploring the metaverse. On the topic of web3 and metaverse, if 2022 was a toe dip into the water, then 2023 is anticipated to be a full foot in. Many brands have already rushed to the marketplace in hopes of being early adopters—but will this trend stick?
Mental Health. Self-development in the area of mental health and spirituality is trending among Americans. Recent declines in watching the news and current events suggest people are tuning out to tune in.
Inside the workplace, nearly a third of workers surveyed said their mental health has declined over the past year—up from 24% at the end of 2020.
Comprehensive mental health benefits are fast becoming a requirement for employees—not a perk. Employers are taking notice by starting or increasing mental health initiatives to support employees’ well-being.
A rising interest in astrology has been steadily climbing, following what astrologers called the astrological dawn of the Age in Aquarius in 2021.
What is interesting is while we’re advancing on the technology front at an exponential rate to pioneer virtual reality worlds—there is simultaneously a resistance and longing for a deeper connection with the natural world. Strange dichotomy, wouldn’t you agree?
This push for new-age technology with virtual reality, while simultaneously being pulled back to simpler times with old-world sensibilities, seems to be the overarching theme brands can anchor to for 2023.
How will this define 2023?
Cue the brand archetype—The Innocent.
In an increasingly digital world, there is a longing for simpler times.
The Innocent brand archetype yearns for simplicity, values purity, and believes the perfect utopia can be created. In branding, this archetype is associated with colors like white, muted pastels, light blue, and green. Optimism, faith, hope, and desire for happiness are the main hallmarks of this archetype. All of these are closely related to the international art movement Art Nouveau which was popular in the late 1800s into the early 1900s.
Art, what? Is that French? Nouveau (pronounced “new-voh”) implies a new or iteration upon a previous state.
The unmistakable signature look that defines this movement is characterized by organic lines, intricate patterns, and earthy colors. Art Nouveau spawned during a high time of French and European culture rooted in optimism, regional peace, and innovation, to name a few. Fast forward to our present modern day. The eerie apprehension of virtual worlds and even more time spent online is pulling us back to the very opposite of that—back to the beauty of the natural world. It’s no wonder why this movement is having a resurgence and is resonating with today’s consumers.
In this age of technology, we look to draw inspiration from nature and what is real...
Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director, Pantone Color Institute
The push-and-pull dynamic we’ve covered earlier is the perfect breeding ground for three prominent aesthetics: retro resurgence, punk-influenced design, and even more refined minimalism. Here’s a brief look into three salient sectors.
01—Technology. On the technology side of things, we’re seeing a harkening back to retro user interfaces of the ’90s with inspiration taken from Microsoft Windows bitmap and icons (think DOS and Mac OS 8). In one word—Y2K.
Seen in the Wild
02—Consumer Products. On the consumer products side of things, we continue to see an evolution in conscious consumerism and giving minimalism an even more minimal look (if that is even imaginable). We can expect a continuation of this new wave of trends to further cement themselves in 2023.
Seen in the Wild
03—Wellness. Rising interest in mental health, mindfulness, astrology, and spiritual practices is expressed in design. Content on these topics are taking over the social feeds of Instagram and Tiktok in tandem with the boom of coaches and practitioners offering support in these areas––it’s clear this is only the beginning of a long progression. “Spiritual design” initially started with script lettering, but now we’re seeing a font swap from script to a more stylistic Art Nouveau alternative. We will continue to see this new staple anchoring into 2023 prolifically.
Seen in the Wild
A resurgence of Art Nouveau typography that is often mixed with elements from other decades.
The arch, another relic from Art Nouveau, is shaping up to stick around for years to come.
In illustration—disproportionate human figures will continue to rise as a nod to the flowy and fluid dynamic movement of Art Nouveau lines.
The sun is finally beginning to set on the geometric sans that hailed supreme as the ubiquitous Webfont of the decade. We’re talking about the usual suspects, Proxima Nova, and the likeness thereof. Is it dead? No, we wouldn’t say that. It simply won’t be the font that comprises the large majority of websites as we turn a page in 2023.
Meanwhile, ‘70s retro is taking a backstage for ‘60s retro to take center stage. As this happens, we’ll likely see a decline in what some may fondly refer to as ‘The OG Sesame Street font.’ Namely, Cooper Black.
Fading out into the background are also those monoline-style illustrations of the 2010s that were so uber clean. Evolving out of it are many variations branching out in style, thickness, scale, dimension, or solid shapes.
Now for a more in-depth look—we’ve identified eight aesthetics brands should pay attention to in 2023. These were curated based on observation, alignment with the state of consumers today, and the volume of examples seen ‘in the wild.’ We’ve created labels for each for our discussion in this post.
The poster child of ‘The Innocent’ archetype, we have what we call the “un-design”––not to suggest a lack of thought put into it. In fact, just the opposite is true. It’s almost a creed to anti-design. Lightweight, minimal, yet complex, soothing colors and clean, uncluttered designs make this less about a marketing gimmick and more about the product. No more. No less. Stripped down to purity, this aesthetic celebrates The Innocent in all of us. This aesthetic delivers to the conscious consumers what they want—pure and simple. Essence. Simple ingredients. No excess. No gimmicks. With the conscious consumerism movement on the rise, brands in this space should definitely latch onto this one.
With a pull into the Metaverse, gaming, and other VR environments, it only makes sense this trend is popping up and will likely stick around for a while. From the likeness of avatars to cartoonish characters with Gumby-like bendy arms, this aesthetic brings the viewer into a whole new world. Set in a 3D landscape or flat 2D environment, we get a sense of mixed worlds in these frames. Sort of a reverse Roger Rabbit movie effect.
Moving on from its predecessor, the “spiritual design” trend that sparked up in 2019, the Neo Art Nouveau steps in. Taking on the same overall look with a few modifications, this leans heavily on Art Nouveau-inspired typography as the display font. The unmistakable whiplash line style born out of the original art movement is prevalent in the “A” and “E” letterforms. Accompanying elements include the arch or round pill frames, star accents, and arched text that comprise this aesthetic's core formula.
Space vibes. Abstract gradients. Futuristic. Minimalist sans serif typography. That’s the basis for Futuristic Minimalism. Although this style is relatively new, originating just a few years ago, in 2023, we’re seeing it take a cyber twist. It almost has a glassmorphism feel, yet it’s flatter in this iteration. Ambient gradient blurred backgrounds, and solid pastels made up the backdrop. Overlaying black or white typography and line work define the next iteration of minimalism with a strong pull into a futuristic vignette.
NFTs, Space X, cryptocurrency, and web3. IBM DOS, collage art, and neon colors. What do all of these things have in common? Besides nothing, they artfully mash together in this aesthetic called Cyberpunk. It’s where cyber and found media meet. Here’s where we see influence from a fresh, new generation of designers—Gen Z.
The “digital native” generation is showing a strong liking to ‘90s grunge, which shows through in this trend. As we covered earlier, these unwavering times are fertile ground for punk attitudes to clash with mainstream momentum, leaning full tilt into virtual realities and identities. We see the future conveyed along with an attempt to hold onto the past. An expression that takes on textures and symbols with retro wingdings and dingbats—and of course, that slinky pattern—all framed in retro UI elements. It’s about embracing technology while at the same time rejecting it. Kinda brilliant if you think about it.
Photography is often droid-like or with disdained expressions. A regular dystopian vibe that is ironic in and of itself. This style features neon colors, wireframes, and wide sans-serif fonts to give it an edge. It has a lot of potential for expression and disruption.
A stark contrast from bleak futurism, we have a happy dose of good times. With fat bottom typography, smiley daisies, and good vibes, there’s no wonder why a nation focused on mental health in the aftermath of a pandemic is obsessed with this era. And we mean obsessed. It was hard to pull out clear examples because this influence was so mixed and had been incorporated with a wide variety of styles—it’s taking over. We see the essence of happy-go-lucky attitudes of ‘60s pop, cheery colors, starbursts, and groovy pattern backdrops. This pop art trend is one to keep tabs on if your brand targets Millenials and Gen Z. It’s nuclear hot right now.
AKA “Gen Z Grunge,” as we like to refer to it. This generation brings a fondness for a time that came before them. Perhaps not out of nostalgia, but out of irony. Yearning for simpler times when personal computers were just breaking ground in the consumer market. Bitmap icons, dialog boxes with cursors, and other techy relics found within the ‘90s computer mainframe celebrate the simpler times when technology was only occasionally used as a tool, not our entire world. Interlacing this trend is the '60s Pop Culture style we looked at previously, which fits like a glove in this aesthetic. Much like how we saw a retro revival of '60s fashion in the '90s (did anyone else own a pair of corduroy flare pants?), these two eras collide once again in design.
Finally, we have a category that grabs from two or three different trends and mashes them all together to create something new. Even though we like to categorize styles into different buckets, it’s human nature to be innovative and creative. There’s no end to the iterations these trends can create. So, what will you create in 2023?
We have our fingers on the pulse of current trends that help shape brands today. Staying in lockstep with your customers is essential so your brand isn’t perceived as irrelevant. That's why we use brand strategy and consumer research to stay ahead of market trends to deliver insights that drive positive brand experiences. Are you interested in getting ahead? Let's talk.