Dark Digitalism: The Cyber Aesthetic

Berlin’s history is firmly rooted in rebellion. From the artist’s squats during and after the fall of the wall to the techno & club kid influences in fashion: this creative city has always had an anarchic under current.

In the digital age, Berlin creatives have continued this darker aesthetic, invoking a feeling of digital unrest. Born from the influential tech-start up scene Berlin has become so famous for, these digital designers are looking to the darker side of cyberspace for inspiration to continue to push against the status quo.

See below for some of Berlin’s digital pioneers & their work that’s shaping the future digital x physical design realm.

Dark Digitalism

// physical & digital worlds collide to provide a new creative “Phygital” realm, using realistic rendering, cyber-goth aesthetics, hyper-real colours, sleek otherworldly surfaces & avatar inspired beings //

Digital designers like Tabitha Swanson & Lucas Gutierrez fuse mundane & normalised objects with cyber creativity to create 3D digital escapes, providing an alternative to the everyday. The luxury department store Browns, adopted this dark cyber aesthetic for their Browns Berlin pop up in November, using work from creative agency Selam X to recreate a grungy & anarchic atmosphere.


// hyper-realism explores the use of 3D rendering techniques to heighten natural forms //

Using organisms like plants, flowers & geology to form the base of the artwork, designers like Nina Muro and Foam Studio blend these organic subjects with digital backdrops & colours to create blended and photo-realistic worlds. This technique is also used to create human-like avatars, with a realistic & often unsettling effect, for fashion campaigns, Instagram & even virtual reality runways (see Trashy Muse’s work for more of this look).

Chroma Colour

// colour is influenced by the web, reinventing the way we interpret physical colour //

Chroma visions & colours for the digital realm. Optimistic day-glow brights and neon pops grounded by black or highlighted by white, all in high saturation. Artificial lights & colour psychology influence these colour palettes too, playing into our emotional connection to colour. Our increased need for technology every day inspires illuminated tones, as if lit up with the blue screens we surround ourselves with every day (see Berlin based urban fashion news outlet Highsnobiety for more of these tech-toned influences).

Internet Aesthetics: the Millenium Bug

// As digital designers get ever more sophisticated in their 3D rendering, graphics & patterns take a look back to early internet’s influence, as if nostalgic for a simpler technological time // 

Cyber-fashion designers like Nikita Replyanski & Trashy Muse create avatar fashion campaigns, designed to entice consumers without the need for physical garments and collections. Often designed in a Cyber-punk style, the fashion of these digital beings are inspired by emojis, clip art & other juvenile internet graphics (see also Lucas Gutierrez’s Content Indifference for emoji-inspired art). A sense of humour for the digital age. There is a darker side to this nostalgia too, using ‘ugly’ design attributes like alien-like features, Cyborg inspired beauty, hybrid-human aesthetics and clashing digital colours.

Materials & Finish

// the design of physical objects is increasingly being influenced by digital design, meaning designers should be mindful of the creative boundaries we face when translating these virtual worlds into reality… unless they stay in the digital world? //

Surfaces are glossy, translucent, iridescent & shiny as the limits to fabrication don’t exist in the virtual realm. Designers like Ju Schnee & Tabitha Swanson use plastic-inspired surfaces that bounce and refract light evoke a sense of futurism in their art. Other textures like rubberised & gummy surfaces are influenced by motocross & robot design, using self striped textures & panelling as patterning (see Nikita Replyanski’s futuristic fashion for examples).

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