Our 2023 Trend Forecast is robust—so, we’re presenting it in two sections. Every detail presented by our Brand Strategist and Creative Team is crucial to helping us dive deep into trends, rather than only spotting them.
Part 1: Brand Strategy and Consumer Trends
by Emma Spear, Brand Strategist
Prediction: Value, value, value
Many consumers are heading into 2023 with uncertainty surrounding their finances and purchasing. Inflation and an impending recession have people budgeting more and decreasing their nonessential spending. But what exactly makes a purchase nonessential? In the past, some would say their gym membership, their clothing, shoes or streaming services would be the first to go. This year, we think that list may change, depending on one thing: VALUE.
Emotional value, financial value, sentimental value…all things to be considered when deciding what is most important to us as individuals. In 2023, value will be driving the purchasing decisions of consumers. Since people are hypersensitive to spending and highly selective with their purchases, they are only buying what they consider to be worth it to them. And that’s different for everyone.
So while in the past, people may have immediately dropped their gym membership, or eliminated all but one of their many streaming service subscriptions, that may not be the case this year. Exercising increases confidence and your favorite show delivers comfort. These emotions are valuable, making the purchase worth it to the consumer.
Brands need to be prepared for value-driven purchases. Brand loyalty is important now more than ever, with consumers choosing products and services that deliver them high value and are quick to abandon the ones that don’t. Brands need to find ways to reward their loyal customers and fans, so that when it comes time to make a decision between one brand or the other, the choice is in their favor.
Prediction: Romanticize your life. All of it.
It’s 2023 and it’s time to ✨romanticize your life.✨ No, seriously, this is the year to romanticize every single moment of your life. People are looking for joy in the little things and striving to live life to the fullest.
No more living for the weekend—we’re enjoying our Monday morning commute, drinking our sparkling water out of fancy glasses and finding ways to elevate the everyday with things that feel energizing and new.
In a world where scrolling on your phone can make you lose an hour before you even realize it, we’re all just trying to slow down and take notice of the everyday things that can truly bring us joy. So, it’s time to romanticize your life—because even doing the laundry or emptying the dishwasher can be exciting and fulfilling with the right mindset.
Prediction: Having a hair care routine is as important as a skin care routine.
Every year, Pinterest releases their trend predictions for the upcoming year, and for the past couple years we’ve been discussing which trends we agree will come to fruition. This year, one of those trends is Crown Care.
You’ve heard of the regimented skin care routine—we raise you to: the hair care routine. People are investing in a product line-up for their hair, from scalp oils to hair masks and more. “Hair wash day” is a dedicated day (or two) of the week for many and heatless legging curls have taken the world by storm. There’s an “everything shower” dedicated to all the things: shaving, exfoliating, scalp scrubs, shampoo, conditioner, hair masks…rinse and repeat.
So this year, we agree with our friends at Pinterest—having a hair care routine is as important as a skin care routine.
Part 2: Into the Fugue
by Nolen Strals and Kyle DeMarco, Associate Creative Directors
\ fyüg \
1. (psychiatry) a state or period of loss of awareness of one’s identity
Welcome to The Fugue, everyone and every brand. How did we get here and what caused this state of confusion about …everything? Put simply: there’s too much of everything right now. Too many options, too many trends, too many micro-definitions and micro-divisions, too many contradictions (see each trend below), too many conflicts, too many emotions, too many reasons, too many of anything you can name. And all of these too many’s are being streamed to us constantly through a device that’s always close at hand.
Within this reality, it’s easy to understand why everywhere you look, people and brands seem to be overwhelmed, confused, and in a fugue. So if you’re wondering how a universal fugue comes to life in trends, read our Forecast below.
- No Trends
After times of great social upheaval, cultures often enter low periods of recovery and reassessment. Much like in the years immediately after World War II, we’re collectively coming down from a global upheaval. The adrenaline is crashing, and we need to recover, to regain our confidence, and to figure out what’s next. While we get our bearings, the last thing on many people’s minds will be keeping up with the latest trend—we’re too exhausted.It seemed to take America 4-5 years post-war until we got Beatniks, rock’n’roll, car culture, and the rise of teen culture. Things happen much faster now, so we won’t have to wait several years to see a resurgence of major trends, but we might see 12–18 months of trendless culture.
Fugue Counter-Trend: TikTok seems to be making, breaking, and forsaking new trends at a breakneck speed with no signs of stopping or giving us time to catch up.
- All Cut Up and Everywhere to Go
Collage has been gaining steam as a popular look for a while now and we can expect it to pop up everywhere this year. Brands are making it their official style and young adults are using it in a way akin to teenaged “vision boards” made from magazine clippings. Our office manager had the astute observation that the popular Instagram “photo dump” is itself a collage of sorts: a group of unrelated images that tell some sort of story when arranged together.A little over a century ago, the Dadaists utilized collage to capture the chaos and noise of a changing Europe. It makes sense then that in our own tumultuous time, where we’re constantly bombarded by so much that we only seem to catch bits and pieces of any of it, the medium is resonating again. Perhaps more than any other trend we’ll see this year, collage most embodies the fugue as it attempts to create beauty from broken fragments.
Fugue Counter-Trend: This might just be a mini-trend to kick off the year, but extreme close-ups on single faces are being used to convey extreme emotions right now. See: James Jean’s poster for The Whale and the count-every-hair-in-the-beard portrait of Bryan Cranston in promo images for Your Honor.
- Puff It Out
We predicted this coming with our mid-2021 Tele Forecast and it is now a full-blown trend that shows no signs of stopping. Thanks in large part to Adobe Illustrator’s “Inflate” function arriving last year, text, characters, and objects are all bursting at the seams these days. When trend-defining studio Young Jerks recently revealed their Camp X Nike collab, it cemented this super soft look as a permanent fixture for the foreseeable future. In this campaign, even the famous Swoosh got bloated (and creased!) and the puffy stuff came off the screen and into real activations of over-stuffed figures and fixtures in Camp stores.
Fugue Counter-Trend: Stencil type is quietly sneaking back into the spotlight, and with its requisite sharp corners at the cuts, the style is the opposite of bouncy buoyancy. Maybe we need to embrace the conflict and design a puffed-out stencil logo?
- Proof: Zero. Feel: 100.
The dawn has come after many long nights of alcoholic drinks. With a rise in the “sober curious” and the quest for a night out without a hangover, Gen X has been driving a trend that’s alcohol-free. Consumers are increasingly approaching alcohol on their own terms which is leading to brands striving to deliver better non-alcoholic products. With this, we’ve also seen multiple “mocktail menus,” Sober bars, and even a Non-Alcoholic Cocktail Competition here in Birmingham. Whether the reason is avoiding a hangover, being the designated driver, or simply being mindful of the effects of alcohol, people are offering a refreshing perspective on drinking.
Fugue Counter Trend: Weed culture remains strong, and the deeper psychedelic boom we predicted last year continues to bloom in new ways and new markets.
- The Harder the Flash, the Harder the Fad.
Since last year, the light has been getting harsher. In photography, especially consumer products, we are now being shown every little detail. Every crumb on the burger, every pore of skin, every shimmery drop, and every crinkle of paper is presented in crispy high contrast. The hi-def details are imparting a hyperreal effect to products and people that, when accompanied by hard-edged shadows, can at times make in-situ compositions look like post-production collages. See Collage trend above for more on that.
Fugue Counter Trend: We should also point out that airy, romantic, soft-focused photography is also trending. Confused? So are we.
- All Aboard Alternatives
Air travel? That’s so 2022. This year we are going to see consumers increasingly hopping aboard alternative methods of travel, particularly trains. Recently there’s been a quantifiable uptick in searches for train travel (mostly in Europe—the US is still trying to catch up in this area). Lower prices, quicker boarding, and scenic views are offering travelers a renewed appreciation for this mode of transportation. Could it be that languorously lingering vistas are just the ticket for recovering from doomscrolling? And of course for some there’s the peace of mind in knowing there’s a lower carbon footprint on rails. New Buzzword: Train Bragging
Fugue Counter Trend: While some are all in on nostalgic pleasures, others aggressively look to the future, wrapping themselves in sci-fi fashions and embracing the revival no one saw coming: the return of techno.