Do you remember the 2010s? The last decade wasn’t that long, but in many ways it feels like a lifetime. In a pre-pandemic world, things seemed a little more orderly, predictable and structured. And this has been reflected in contemporary design, with the clean lines, simple colors and simplified geometry of iPhone and iPad interfaces spilling over into digital design and the analog arena as well.
In contrast, the early years of the 2020s were characterized by upheaval and uncertainty. And so we’re not at all surprised that the vaporwave aesthetic, which is much more random, diverse and chaotic, is rapidly gaining traction in graphic design and looks set to become a huge trend in 2023.
So what is vaporwave and how can you start using it in your own work? Read on as we explain everything you need to know.
What is the vapor wave?
Vaporwave was born out of the electronic music scene, but has since become primarily a visual movement in art, design, fashion, and entertainment. It’s visually chaotic, but it’s not totally random. The overall approach is to mix various neo-vintage elements in a dynamic and modern way, evoking nostalgia while breathing new life into the past. In other words, it’s techno, retro and futuristic all at the same time.
The vaporwave trend combines retro visual elements from the 1980s and 1990s: elements such as VHS tapes, 16-bit game graphics, pixelated text, classic clothing brands such as Nike and Adidas, old school logos such as ‘Adidas, Pepsi and PlayStation, vintage cartoons and cartoons such as Sailor Moon and The Simpsons, and computers and electronics from the 90s.
But rather than wallowing in nostalgia for the sake of it, these disparate elements are combined with other visual elements to create something vibrant, exciting, and new.
Other vaporwave design elements may include things like video glitches, cyberpunk themes, Chinese and Japanese characters, Greek and Roman busts, roads, city skylines and panoramas, as well as grids, lines and larger geometric shapes. All of this is brought together via a distinctive palette, usually based on pastel colors such as pink and teal or bright, eye-catching neons.
Vaporwave in popular culture
This dispersal approach may seem confusing to older people. But for a generation accustomed to technology like Snapchat filters, which overlay digital elements over often jarring real-world scenes, this is the water they are already swimming in. So now we see the influence of vaporwave spreading in the creative industries.
The fashion world, of course, is never one to miss a trick, so the vaporwave aesthetic is quickly gaining traction here. At street level, vaporwave startups such as Vapor 95 have caused a stir. And that has prompted bigger names to come on board. Nike has released a vaporwave collection, including the Zoom Streak Spectrum Plus Men’s Shoes and the Nike Vaporwave Woven Half Zip Jacket. JW Anderson’s London Fashion Week show this year showed off a distinct vaporwave influence. And Louis Vuitton’s limited-edition Monogram Christopher PVC backpack was a riot of vaporwave color.
Vaporwave also fits right in with the rise of virtual reality, which Facebook, now renamed Meta, is currently popularizing through its Oculus 2 headset and Horizon Workrooms meeting app. Horizon Workrooms virtual environments are heavily influenced by vaporwave color palettes, and if you want to take things a step further, there are VR games on Steam such as Vaporwave Road VR that allow you to fully immerse yourself in a vaporwave world.
The gaming world, in general, has also caught the vaporwave bug. Vaporwave-inspired games include walking sim Sunset Mall (see below), neon racing adventure Data Wing, and interactive art game ISLANDS: Non-Places.
Vaporwave on video
And as you’d expect, Vaporwave is becoming increasingly popular in the world of motion graphics and video. After all, if you want to attract an audience, this unusual, eye-catching and extremely dynamic style will certainly attract attention instantly.
If you’re looking for Mograf inspiration, the first place to start is motion designer Kid MoGraph’s vaporwave loops. There’s a huge gallery of curls on her website, so you can quickly see how versatile and attractive the vaporwave style can be. In the meantime, for examples of vaporwave in a music video, check out Ed Sheeran’s Cross Me, Drake’s Hotline Bling, and this official lyric video for Dua Lipa’s Cool (below).
The influence of the vaporwave trend can also be seen in popular TV shows such as Black Mirror, Maniac and Love, Death & Robots, and films such as Blade Runner 2049 and Robert Pattinson’s thriller Good Time.
And the best news is that it’s easy to follow the vaporwave trend in your own video editing projects. Because Wondershare Filmora, the powerful and easy-to-use video editor, has great resources to help you get started.
Get started with vaporwave with Wondershare
Over 100 million video creators around the world use Wondershare Filmora, and for good reason. Its intuitive software offers a wide range of easy-to-use features and functions, regardless of your skill level and experience. And they also make an impressive range of trendy and aesthetic video effects. So it’s a great choice for anyone looking to create impressive professional-looking videos.
Now, to help you further, Wondershare has gathered a collection of creative elements based on the vaporwave trend.
The company has just launched its first Wondershare Visual Trendbook: a quarterly collection of creative assets to use in your next video project, including effect packs, visual effects, filters, transitions, and more.
This first edition focuses on the vaporwave design trend and allows you to fully explore vaporwave through carefully selected design elements that evoke a sense of retro-futurism in your work. The collection consists of the following elements:
- Pictures and animations
- Sound effects
Free to download, these elements allow you to instantly add a vaporwave aesthetic to your designs by combining bright pastel colors, neons, glitchy fonts, and geometric shapes to breathe new life into classic imagery.
And that’s not all. If you’re willing to share what you’ve created online, you could win a great prize to help boost your career!
Wondershare invites creatives to share the designs they’ve created with these vaporwave elements on social media, using the hashtag “CreatewithWondershare” and tagging @Wondershare. Top entries will receive a $200 creative fund for their next project, have their content and channel featured on Wondershare’s social media and website, and have the opportunity to work with Wondershare as an ambassador or freelancer.
To get started with vaporwave designs, head over to The Wondershare Visual Trendbook today.