Remember the 2010s? The last decade wasn’t that long ago, 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 streamlined geometry of the iPhone and iPad interfaces pervading the digital design and analog arena as well.
By contrast, the early 2020s were characterized by upheaval and uncertainty. And so we are not at all surprised that the vaporwave aesthetic, which is much more random, varied and chaotic, is rapidly gaining ground within graphic design and looks set to become a big trend in 2023.
So what is vaporwave and how can you start using it in your 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 within the art, design, fashion and entertainment arenas. It’s visually chaotic, but it’s not entirely random. The overall approach is to blend various neo-vintage elements together in a dynamic and modern way, evoking nostalgia while breathing new life into the past. In other words, it’s techno, retro and futuristic at the same time.
The vaporwave trend combines retro visuals from the 80s and 90s: things like VHS tapes, 16-bit game graphics, pixelated text, classic clothing brands like Nike and Adidas, old school logos like Adidas, Pepsi and PlayStation, vintage anime and cartoons like Sailor Moon and The Simpsons, and 1990s computers and electronics.
But rather than wallowing in nostalgia for its own sake, these disparate elements are combined with other visuals to create something vibrant, exciting, and new.
Other elements of vaporwave design can include things like video glitches, cyberpunk themes, Chinese and Japanese characters, Greek and Roman busts, streets, skylines and city panoramas, and larger geometric grids, lines and shapes. All of this is brought together through a distinctive palette, usually based on pastel colors like pink and teal or bright and eye-catching neon.
Vaporwave in popular culture
This scattered approach could be confusing for older people. But for a generation accustomed to technologies like Snapchat filters, which layer digital elements over often discordant real-world scenes, that’s already water they’re swimming in. So now we’re seeing vaporwave’s influence spread throughout the creative industries.
The fashion world, of course, never misses a trick, so the vaporwave aesthetic is quickly gaining traction here. Street-level, vaporwave startup brands like Vapor 95 have caused a stir. And that prompted bigger names to come on board. Nike has released a vaporwave collection, including the men’s Zoom Streak Spectrum Plus shoes and the Nike Vaporwave Woven Half Zip Jacket. JW Anderson’s London Fashion Week show this year showed a clear vaporwave influence. And Louis Vuitton’s limited-edition Monogram Christopher PVC backpack was a riot of vaporwave color.
Vaporwave is also well suited to the rise of virtual reality, which Facebook, now renamed Meta, is currently popularizing through its Oculus 2 headset and Horizon Workrooms meeting app. The virtual environments in Horizon Workrooms are heavily influenced by vaporwave color palettes, and if you want to go further, there are VR games on Steam like Vaporwave Road VR that allow you to fully immerse yourself in a vaporwave world.
The gaming world, in general, has also caught on to the vaporwave bug. Games inspired by Vaporwave include the walking simulator Sunset Mall (see below), the neon racing adventure Data Wing and the interactive art game ISLANDS: Non-Places.
Vaporwave in the video
And as you might expect, Vaporwave is becoming increasingly popular in the world of motion graphics and video. After all, if you want to appeal to an audience, this offbeat, eye-catching, and extraordinarily vibrant style is sure to attract immediate attention.
If you’re looking for Mograf inspiration, your first place to start is motion designer Kid MoGraph’s vaporwave loops. There’s a huge gallery of loops on his website, so you can quickly see how versatile and enticing the vaporwave style can be. Meanwhile, for examples of vaporwave in a music video, check out Ed Sheeran’s Cross Me, Drake’s Hotline Bling, and this official lyric video from 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 movies, such as Blade Runner 2049 and Robert Pattinson’s thriller Good Time.
And the best news is that it’s easy to incorporate the vaporwave trend into your video editing projects. Because Wondershare Filmora, the powerful and easy-to-use video editor, has great resources for you to get started.
Get started with vaporwave with Wondershare
More than 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 line of trendy and aesthetically pleasing video effects. So it’s a great choice for anyone who wants to create impressive and professional-looking videos.
Now, to help you further, Wondershare has gathered a collection of creative items based on the vaporwave trend.
The company just launched its first Wondershare Visual Trendbook: a quarterly collection of creative elements 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 lets you fully explore vaporwave through carefully curated design assets that evoke a retro-futuristic feel in your work. The collection consists of:
- Images and animations
- Sound effects
Free to download, these elements allow you to instantly add a vaporwave aesthetic to your designs by combining vibrant pastels, neon lights, glitchy fonts, and geometric shapes to breathe new life into classic images.
And that’s not all. If you’re willing to share what you’ve created online, you could win a fantastic prize to help advance your career!
Wondershare invites creatives to share the projects they’ve created with these vaporwave elements on social media, using the hashtag “CreatewithWondershare” and tagging @Wondershare. The 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 earn 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.