For many of us, 2022 has been a tumultuous year. We’re yearning for escapism, fun and the space to celebrate our individuality. More of us than ever are scrolling through the hours on our mobile phones. As a result, app designers are marking out the future for digital design by prioritizing mobile-first design over other devices. Using voice-first AI, AR and neon mists to light up the way, let’s see how the latest app design trends for 2023 prioritize memorable, positive experiences over speed-of-use and offer their users an escape from reality.
8 app design trends to anticipate in 2023:
- Text overlay
- Voice-first AI app design
- Simple designs, smarter responsivity
- Neon mist
- Type takes center stage… again
- The rise of alternate realities
- Nostalgic isometric illustrations
We saw the brash rebellion of brutalism hit last year’s app design trends. This year, designers tone it down for a more palatable look. The anti-design aesthetic is trickling steadily into the mainstream, as more brands mix elements of brutalism with minimalism.
Neo-brutalism still places heavy emphasis on flat, overlaid imagery and grotesque typefaces. It flouts traditional design rules, but only a little. It favors a minimalist aesthetic with a touch of anti-establishment spice. It’s the small things that can go a long way—and neo-brutalism champions this.
If you want to add a hint of rebellion to your designs, strip back color schemes to monochrome. Distort layouts by carefully placing elements to appear slightly haphazardly to the user. Subvert a “clean” aesthetic by removing any stylized features that look overly polished.
While many brutalist apps avoid traditional hierarchy and so risk being confusing to navigate, neo-brutalism aims to fix those issues by organizing and simplifying composition and layout. Therefore, neo-brutalist websites are easier to use. It’s the best of both worlds—the brashness of brutalism combined with a simpler, better user experience.
Our next app design trend for 2023 flouts standardized design rules in a similar mood to neo-brutalism. As avant-garde designers look for unconventionality, layering type over imagery and other elements has become increasingly popular. It’s playful, mischievous and non-conformist, highlighting the current collective mood.
In many ways, app and web design has been chasing graphic design’s tail for years having to work within a very different set of constraints. It’s now really exciting to be seeing designers reimagine typography in new ways to engage with audiences and express a brand’s personality.
Be aware that experimenting with text overlay might negatively affect the readability of your design, but this can be improved through effective typeface contrasting. And, like any rule breaker, it rises against standardized forms. So don’t expect to see it too often in symmetrical designs. Irregularity pulls in audience attention, so use it carefully to lead audiences toward your CTA and to add hierarchy to designs. What’s more, sitting animated visuals partially under text overlay emphasizes the contrast between elements.
91% of people spend most of their time locked into their mobile phones. With this shift toward the digital, we are in a sense losing our physical realities. Many of us no longer even move our fingers to type when contacting friends, we simply speak into our devices, which is why voice-first AI app designs are surging in popularity. We don’t turn off our stereos or alarm clocks, we now ask Siri or Alexa to do it. Voice-to-text technology is a type of artificial intelligence that is expected to triple in market value by 2027.
As screen space is limited, especially on wearables, each design element is paramount to conveying the right information to the user. Basic shapes and bright iconography will eliminate clutter and keep the message sharp. So use either luminous text on dark backgrounds or vice versa to promote easy readability via color contrast. Visual cues such as audio playback buttons (that indicate when a sound is playing) go a long way toward improving user experience.
As the number of smartwatches and wearable devices skyrocket, app designs must adapt to fit on a bigger range of screen sizes. ‘Responsive design’ adjusts your apps and sites according to the size of the device it’s being used on. It creates a unified experience of the app, whether it’s on a desktop, mobile or smartwatch.
App design by Desire Creative Agency via Dribbble
If you’re designing a multi-platform app, first consider adopting a mobile-first design mindset. If you are designing an app for a wearable device, start designing for the smallest device and incrementally work your way to the largest one. To do this, you’ll need to have a strong design system to create a reference library. This gives your design consistency when running across multiple platforms—every pixel counts!
Designing for smartwatches means using elegant, simple typefaces, basic shapes, animations, and flat icons. Bold color contrasts are a must in order for the tiny smartwatch screens to be readable.
Consider how we use our wearable devices: usually it’s a quick glance at the time, weather, or messages. So, information should be readily available. User flows should be direct and take as few steps as needed for users to accomplish tasks. Think of it as normcore for digital design and use fluid animation to provide visual indicators of feedback and progress.
Surrounded by outrageous world events, we could all use a dose of sunny positivity. Enter the experimentally ethereal, neon mist design trend. Blissful pastels blend into neons in homage to the buzzy Y2K period. Channeling hope and light through color, this trend is particularly appealing to gen-Zs. In an increasingly uncertain world, they seek hope and comfort in such vibrant tones.
Yet, unlike the early noughties, when Y2K was in full swing, the internet has long been integrated into our daily lives. Our techno-optimism has faded into another mood entirely, much like a neon mist. We no longer feel innocent and naive when it comes to exploring the ever-increasing digital world. There’s an undercurrent of dystopia to how we are living, and this moody, somber tone lowlights much of this app design trend.
A reflection of the flourishing digital publishing market, 2023 foresees the rise of increasingly text-heavy app designs. The rising costs of print, for both brand and consumer, means that many publishing brands that were traditionally print are now digital-first—and they’ve taken their ‘editorial’ aesthetic with them. In many new app designs, we’re witnessing long-form text stand-alone, taking precedence over loud imagery or animation.
Many of our current clients prefer strong typographic layouts in digital design. The idea is that when bold fonts are used as primary elements in designs, they capture the viewer’s attention quickly to make them stay on the page.
Interestingly, before HTML websites, internet users would chat and obtain information through text-heavy bulletin board systems. Computers didn’t have the processing power to handle high-resolution images and large file sizes; dial-up modems weren’t quick enough to.
As these technologies have developed, we’ve seen webpages balloon up in size, even within the past decade. This is due to the frequent use of large-resolution images on many modern sites, which negatively impacts page load times. Text-heavy designs reduce page load time and help make websites more accessible for those who have limited internet bandwidth and speed.
Escapism has been a recurring theme across our 2023 trends as we see significant growth in brands offering alternate realities. Now, more than ever before, we’re increasingly turning to the digital world to lose ourselves somewhere magical.
Brands create rich interactive experiences to showcase a product or service. Or, they may engage users through a gamified app experience, offering incentives as the user navigates through the app. Some use augmented reality to soften real-world elements with digital animations. These all-encompassing realities help visitors escape reality, which in this day and age, seems pretty idyllic.
Nostalgic isometric illustrations make a triumphant return for 2023. Similar to text-heavy websites, this style of illustration wears rose-tinted glasses. Rejecting the modernity of traditional app design, the trend draws parallels to how brands and media are capitalizing off nostalgia. Many cartoons, comics, movies, and television shows from decades ago are being adapted and rebooted for today’s audiences.
This genre of digital design echoes design themes reminiscent of blunt graphical interfaces and icons of the 1990s and early 2000s. It mimics antiquated operating systems, doing away with modern web browsing techniques such as scrolling and zooming. It is escapism through nostalgia. You might see these illustrations used in simple, responsive designs, as they use rudimentary shapes. It’s a wholesome trip down memory lane for those who are old enough to remember. For Gen-Zs, on the other hand, it’s a leap into fantasy.
Onwards and app-wards
Escapism and nostalgia call for a return to less complicated times. These 2023 app design trends echo this sentiment, embracing simple designs with a flair of personality. If you feel your brand or product is looking bleak, like much of today’s news, don’t fret. These trends can guide you towards revitalizing your design world, even if it takes place in the Metaverse!