Adobe’s Annual Creative Trends Report Shares Its Top Four Social Media Trends for 2023

By Sahar Arshad

Photo credit: Huro Olha/Shutterstock Adobe Adobe Systems Incorporated/Wikimedia Commons (Licensed) remix by Caterina Cox

We’re sitting down with leaders on the business side of the creator economy to get their best advice for creators looking to launch and develop their careers. 

This week, we spoke with well-known software company Adobe’s principal of consumer and creative insights Brenda Milis. In an interview with Passionfruit, Milis unpacked Adobe’s recent report on social media trends that rose to prominence in 2022 which Adobe predicts will further grow in 2023.

We also spoke with multiple creators utilizing these trends, who shared actionable tips and tricks for integrating these trends into content, monetization, and fan engagement strategy.

2022 had some unforgettable moments that made their way to the social media landscape. Shows like Euphoria, the Y2K [year 2000] aesthetic, and the social media app BeReal are just a few viral moments that took this year by storm.

Adobe’s annual Creative Trends Report, released on Dec. 6, 2022, touts itself as an instrumental resource for creators everywhere to gain an understanding of the trends in their industry this year and in 2023. The report highlights four main trends that rose to prominence this year and might be big in 2023: “psychic waves,” “real is radical,” “animals and influencers,” and “retro active.”

Adobe deems “psychic waves” a trend of calming color gradients, similar to the popular drama series Euphoria’s aesthetic. Heavily influenced by the show’s blue and lavender color scheme, it’s a trend where creators play with color theory, leading people to view creators’ content to feel the “vibes” they are trying to portray. There was a hot moment this year when many people had concentric color gradient circles as their profile pictures.

Next is “real is radical,” a trend that highlights authenticity, inclusivity, and sustainability. This trend indicates content consumers are interested in diverse representation, and they want to hear and see no “facades.” It’s an interesting trend to report, especially because so much of social media is a facade. But the trend’s success can be noted in how storytelling videos on platforms like TikTok are huge, and how unfiltered photo dumps had a huge comeback this year.

The third trend highlighted is “animals and influencers.” This trend concludes pets and animals gained influencer stardom status this year. Think of Boobie Billie, the dog-fluencer who has over 250,000 followers on Instagram and just wrote a book.

The final trend is one you couldn’t have missed, “retro active,” the renaissance of the 1990s and Y2K everything. Gen Z’s fascination with the vintage past is probably been one of the most constant themes of the year, showing up in the comeback of disposable film cameras, vintage fashion, and more.

Brenda Milis, Adobe’s principal of consumer and creative insights, told Passionfruit she led research to identify the patterns of these trends by going through all media platforms.

“I look at commercial projects, campaigns that are very similar either visually, aesthetically, or thematically across very, very different business types and industries,” Milis said. “We’re looking for patterns and demands that are evolving and how those things are related.”

How can content creators use this report to increase their engagement and boost their platforms? Milis advised identifying what makes your content unique before incorporating these trends into your content.

“It’s very important for a content creator to understand their own interests, their own message, their own style, and then see where one or two where of the trends might be relevant in their work,” Milis said.

Milis recommended customizing templates available on Adobe Express for content. Adobe Express, a template-based design software for content creators, allows creators to make social media posts, stories, banners, and more. Users can access templates of color schemes, fonts, and designs specific to social media.

Adobe’s tools work under a subscription model. As of Dec. 7, 2022, Adobe Express has a free option available with templates, design assets, fonts, and basic editing features. It also offers a premium subscription which costs $9.99 per month and provides additional features like content scheduling, “premium” templates and design assets, and more advanced editing features.

The paid premium Adobe Express tool is on the lower end of the price range for Adobe’s suite of content creation tools, known as its Creative Cloud bundle. Its well-known photo-editing software Photoshop and video-editing software Premiere Pro both cost $20.99 per month.

Along with the release of its latest report, Adobe Express opened up a myriad of trend-themed templates for content on social channels or marketing materials.

“We can help you choose your background, and we have font packages for every single one of these trends,” Milis said. “People can use Adobe Express to pick a font or typography to represent and convey the vibe, the mood, the meaning for the content they’re trying to create.”

Anna-Alexia Basile (@annaalexia), a photographer and Adobe Express ambassador with over 13,200 followers on Instagram, said she is incorporating the “psychic waves” trend into her work. 

“Adding calming gradients to photos or backgrounds [is] a way of tapping into the emotional response we have to seamless color transitions. Utilizing calming colors in these gradients like lavenders, purples, blues, and pinks not only makes content pop but also adds a psychedelic and other-worldly feel to your content,” Basile said.

Basile shared a few “beginner-friendly” photography tips and tricks for diving into psychedelic aesthetics.

“Place a crystal in front of the camera lens and rotate the crystal. This will create a kaleidoscope-like effect and is a fantastic tool for creating interesting images and videos. The added bonus is that you’ll likely achieve some surprise dreamy colors in the image from the prism, further contributing to the embodiment of this trend,” Basile said.

Basile recommended using reflection in your photography to create the illusion of portals into another world, like photographing a subject’s reflection in a mirror.

“For example, I can photograph a simple circular mirror with nothing but a stunning sunset gradient behind it, but the reflection within the mirror shows a sunlit hand emerging from a fan of banana leaves,” Basile said. 

Basile said utilizing blurred vision is another way to dive into the trend, adding, “Adjusting the shutter speed on your camera or using a wider lens to capture a larger range of movement are simple ways to experiment with it. It may take some practice to achieve a blur to your liking, so try different techniques in low light—handheld, on a tripod, et cetera—to discover what best suits your style.”

Basile said she believes thinking outside the box to show everyday moments in a unique way creates more interesting and sought-after content. The idea of remaining relevant by staying on trend and adding your unique spin is impactful.

“As creatives, small business owners, and image makers we have to constantly find ways of creating a product that provides value and meaning to our consumers. By paying attention to current trends and making them relevant to your audience, you merge the current visual dialogue with the desire of your consumers. That is the secret sauce,” Basile said.

Courtney Quinn (@colormecourtney), a blogger and Adobe Express ambassador with over 730,000 followers on Instagram, told Passionfruit she is leaning into the “real is radical” trend. She shared tips for balancing sharing both the good and bad parts of life with followers.

“I live in physical pain from an invisible chronic illness. So when I have a bad pain day or a flare-up, I share that. It might just be a quick selfie to stories, unfiltered, and looking as bad as I feel with text saying, ‘Having a bad pain day today.’ … When it’s too hard to discuss, I don’t, but I do respect my community to almost share an OOO [out-of-the-office] message, like, ‘Going through something, hope you’re okay, see you soon.’ …  This sets a boundary that I don’t want to share whatever is going on, but also says, ‘Hey, I’m human.’”

Quinn also recommended creators show the behind-the-scenes process—for example, through project recaps or before and after photos—with their followers to create extra content and show people an authentic side of themselves.

“You can apply it from a monetization [point of view.] For instance, if you’re working on one project for a brand, you can pitch a second video, carousel set, or behind-the-scenes look at the end result, and see if they want to buy both. Now one project and scope of work has become two, still from the same general concept and set of ideas,” Quinn said.

Quinn said she hopes trends in “authenticity” stick around to help prevent burnout and promote career longevity for creators.

“As a professional content creator, you have to consistently publish content to engage and connect with your audiences. Trying to do that while being someone else won’t work, trust me. For me, the only way to make it work is to be unapologetically yourself along the way, because it’s too exhausting to do anything else,” Quinn said.

While saying understanding trends is helpful for creators’ work, Quinn urged creators to not over-attach to trends.

“No matter where you are on your creator journey, trends are just that, trends. Things that can come and go. You shouldn’t create your whole identity around them,” Quinn said.

Still, Milis said all four trends highlighted by Adobe’s report are relevant to the times we live in, saying 24/7 social media access makes the visual landscape more fascinating than ever before.

“We live in a visual culture that’s not just local, but global. And just like the world, [the] visual and creative landscape is changing very, very quickly,” Milis said.

This article was updated to reflect Adobe Express’s free product offering.

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