Anxious Gen-Z driving design trends

Gen-Z is behind some of the biggest trends influencing visual design in 2023, including a focus on mental health and the return of retro aesthetics, according to a new report by Adobe.

The Adobe Stock 2023 Annual Creative Trends Forecast predicts four key creative themes that will significantly influence content across photography, videography, creative writing, social media platforms, blogs and more: ‘Psychic Waves,’ ‘Real is Radical,’ ‘Retro Active’ and ‘Animals and Influencers.’

Adobe says these trends will guide how the Creator Economy, which has grown to 303 million creators globally, will create digital content that resonates with their audiences in 2023.

“As we emerge from a time overshadowed by uncertainty related to the global pandemic, people crave content that feels familiar yet fresh, but also evokes feelings through authentic, inclusive and unfiltered experiences,” said Brenda Milis, Principal of Consumer and Creative Insights at Adobe, which is celebrating its 40th year in business.

“These trends are indicative of how creators are envisioning and shaping our world and using their platforms to share content that brings joy and happiness in their own unique styles to people globally.”

The Adobe report explains these trends further:

Psychic Waves

The post-pandemic shift towards prioritising mental health and wellness is driving new ways of exploring spirituality, nature, and wellness, the report says.

“With 46% of Gen Z saying they are anxious and stressed, there is a need for the visual effect of Psychic Waves which includes calming gradients full of vibrant colors.

“This new trend is focused on creative authenticity as an outlet for expression, including escaping reality, through psychedelic gradients, vibrant colors and aesthetics that imply blurred vision.”

Real is Radical

Adobe says the Real is Radical trend is a celebration of “candid, unvarnished moments, experiences and realities” and a response to “perfectionist” content.

“Brands are embracing campaigns featuring all races, genders, ages, abilities, and sizes — swapping out curated for candid moments,” the report says.

“According to recent Pinterest Body Neutrality report there is a 36% “loving myself” searches and 32% “how to become more confident” searches.” 

The report says the trend has major presence across social, brand campaigns, and new apps like BeReal and Locket, createing powerful connections and inspiring a sense of community across media channels and platforms. 

Retro Active

Adobe says the Retro Active trend focuses on exploring vintage styles and modernising them, and was inspired by Gen Z creators evolving and experimenting with the aesthetics popular before they were born.

“Similar to Gen Z, Millennial and Gen X creators are exploring this resurgence, finding comfort and familiarity in the creative styles of the 90s and Y2K, such as retro skateboard scenes to candy-color fashions, boom boxes and classic video game controllers,” the report says.

Though Gen Z creators are influential in developing these trends, the report notes that Millennials still make up 42 percent of the Creator Economy, helping propel these trends.

Animals and Influencers

This ‘whimsical’ theme includes everything from real-life pets to anime characters, who have proven themselves to be “powerful tools” that attract and retain consumer interest and engagement, the report says.

“As a result, they have become a dominating presence in brand messaging, proliferating across sectors in the form of anime, illustrations, photography, and 3D renders.

“The feelings this trend evokes tie back to what consumers and creators alike crave, and that is to feel happiness and positivity.

The report notes that over the past two years, there was a 118 percent rise in global demand for anime.

“Since virtual influencers yield 3 times more engagement than humans (many finding them more trustworthy and relatable), brands are leveraging them in more and more ads.”

This article was originally published in the March/April 2023 issue of NZ MarketingClick here to subscribe.

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