I stumbled across the meaning of life tonight and I was only looking for some home decoration tips.

I’d typed “interior design trends” into YouTube. A video called “NCS Colour Trends 2023+” popped up. The channel had over a hundred thousand subscribers. In the 43-minute video essay that followed I got more than a glimpse into the future of colour combinations.

I got a take on the First World’s current pandemic zeitgeist.

Earlier today, Australia’s National Cabinet shortened asymptomatic Covid isolation to five days. It also deemed domestic air travel safe without masks.

It didn’t break new ground here. The USA had already cut its isolation period from seven days to five, the United Kingdom had ended Covid isolation altogether and while both were facing the collapse of their health systems as the pandemic still raged, Australian media barons pushed the same tropes of “post-pandemic” and “personal responsibility”. It wasn’t just the USA, UK and Australia either. Canada, Western Europe and Scandinavia were doing it too.

Soon into the video I discovered that NCS Colour, the Natural Colour System, was Scandinavian: the product of an organisation called the Swedish Colour Centre Foundation. Sweden was notorious for letting Covid-19 rip way back in 2020.

The video’s narrator was Karl Johan Bertilsson, creative director for NCS Colour, a guy who with grey hair, scruffy face and casual wear looked every part the calm academic Bohemian.

In subsequent research I learned that NCS Colour sets the annual colour conversation globally for industry, architects and designers. Indeed, its colour system is physiological and psychological at its core.

Well, the browns of 2022 were out, Bertilsson said. As were the greys that grace nearly every furniture and home advert today. The world of human perception moved in phases, Bertilsson said and 2023 would be a transition from darkness to pastel before cycling to the safety of neutrality again.

With that, a story started to spin in my head.

“Mega global drivers” steered society’s perception. In 2023 these would produce four colour trends NCS labelled in order: Comforting, Exploring, Radical and Joyful.

Each trend would attach to an individual’s “mood” at a given time. The whole would form a societal journey that NCS deliberately misspelled “Re-Nual” to suggest a time of discovery and surprise.

Re-Nual meant the dawn of “things we’ve never seen before” and NCS believed that Gen Z would drive it. Gen Z would thereby define the “New Normal” in 2023 throwing off the shackles of climate change, geopolitical strife and Covid-19.

The trends were Gen Z’s way.

Comfort meant “cocooning” where people would emerge from their isolation seeking intimacy and a re-charging of their batteries for the New Normal to come. They would seek light, warm and soft colours to nurture them.

Exploring would next take people through “passages” seeking a better life. Gen Z wants new things, Bertilsson said. Gen Z also headed industry’s “Big Quit” or “Big Resignation”. Bold reds and blues spoke their message and brands would throw these colours at them.

The Radical trend welcomed those who’d made this passage and were now socially reborn. This cohort sought a “re-genesis” of purples and yellows with clear contrasts between “dark and light” defining their boldness in the world.

The Joyful then were Gen Zers actualising their New Normal in two worlds. The physical and that of the Metaverse. Trend 4 announced the birth of the adult-as-kid. It was a world of “individuals” whom NCS branded “KidultZ”. Their 2023 colours were “playful and happy”, garish pink, orange, and medium blue. Theirs was a Gen Z world of LEDs with “one foot in the real and the other in the digital”.

At this point I realised that NCS had laid out a blueprint explaining the “Big Quit” that’s been sabotaging the West’s Covid fight this year.

Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials were brought up in a world of medicine and science, of big governments and social safety nets, of jobs for life—at least until the 1990s.

Gen Z, however, grew up in a world of unbridled greed, war and exclusion. Was it any wonder then that Gen Zers sought the individuality and escape that NCS spoke of? A world of social media anonymity and virtual online worlds?

Now we see why Covid-19 third boosters have languished in Australia, and why masks are shunned against an airborne virus. Now we see why narcissism has overtaken altruism as a social tendency even as Covid deaths tally in the hundreds a day. And why the concept of the elderly being expendable is so blasé when the meaning of life for so many is living for today.

So, 2020 was a comforting cocoon of isolation.

2021 was a passage to exploring living with a new Covid Normal.

2022 was the escapist re-genesis of Covid denial.

And 2023 promises the acceptance of repeated Covid reinfection so long as the individual can live with joy.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. This logic is completely screwed and Gen Z will be quickly replaced by a new human cohort re-embracing the Scientific Enlightenment that placed medicine, compassion and life expectancy at the forefront of societal achievement.

But as laboratories try to find new therapeutics and preventatives for Covid-19, and as the pandemic’s corruption is brought into light, the denial of those leaving their cocoons for false pastures will indeed define 2023—if not due solely to politicians seeking the votes that Gen Z sways.

NCS Colour pinpointed it precisely in a video where I only hoped to learn the virtues of beige and grey.

If we start seeing pink and blue popping up in KidultZ-retail we’ll know one thing is true. By the end of 2023, the next step in Covid denial will be calling Covid-19 the common cold.

It will indeed be Gen Z’s egotistical suicide without a medical breakthrough rendering it benign.

Long Covid is trending too.

© 2022 Adam Parker.

Picture Credit: © 2022 NCS Colour, YouTube.