Last year we spoke to Shutterstock about the big creative trends predicted for 2016. I’ve had the opportunity to chat to Terrence Morash, Creative Director at Shutterstock, about what’s hot and what’s not for this year. And for you instant messaging fans among you, you’ll be pleased to know emojis will continue to have a strong presence in 2017 as well as a few other surprises.
You can listen to my interview with him below, or read on for a summary of our conversation. And be sure to subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.
What does Shutterstock do?
What’s funny is it’s a really interesting company because everybody knows Shutterstock as a stock photography company. However, as we see the industry really start to evolve, including our audience, our customers are no longer just the creatives of the world in agencies. It’s now small business users, it’s people who are managing social media accounts, that we’re really seeing what we can offer our customers as broadening every day. So we’ve actually introduced new tools that can make it really easy for someone who doesn’t have design skills to put together an email template or a social media post.
Tell us about the Creative Trends Research?
So this is the sixth year we’re doing the Creative Trends Report, and essentially what it is is we are predicting through data, are those trends that are going to influence creative direction and design aesthetics in 2017 across the board in images, videos, and music. And the way we go about doing that is by taking our billions of searches that happen on our website every year, all the downloads that happen and really start to crunch that data and understand what it is that is sort of starting to trend.
So we’re not just looking at necessarily what’s the most popular downloads, but we’re looking at the various keywords that are being looked for that are more popular this year than they were last year and dramatically so. And what that is able to do is we’re able to then predict what’s going to become hotter in 2017. So for example, last year, one of our trends was flat lay, which most people can identify. It’s that looking straight down, things organized neatly kind of aesthetic that you see across social media. So we saw that starting to trend even before it got gigantic last year, and actually saw it evolve a little bit even more this year.
What are the four global trends for this year?
- White texture. This is the one that we saw the biggest spike on, and the way that we’re defining that is really adding a three-dimensional feel to imagery. So if you can imagine the texture of paper, or a paper folder, or even white paint on a surface that has these ridges, shadows, etc, which really give things a little bit more dimension than where we’ve come from. And the best way we think about that too is almost an evolution of what we saw last year with material design, which was a term coined by Google, which really looked at that flat interface that had been popular for so many years and starting to give it dimensionality, adding shadows, things that you can almost reach out and touch. And we saw that extend this year with this texture. So these white texture imagery, things that people can then apply to their designs and make them feel a little bit more tactile, really spiked this year.
- Halftone. Any magazine you see or newspaper, what you’re seeing in any image on those various printed pieces are really made up by tiny little dots, sometimes a little bit more evident than others. So that’s called the dot pattern and also a halftone. And that’s what we saw spiking this year too, which was really kind of interesting. It’s again, very much like white texture. It’s almost adding that little bit more of an organic feel to some of the communications that we’re seeing being generated. And perhaps it is reflective of almost nostalgic for a simpler time when printed newspapers and posters were much more important than the 24/7 digital news world that we’re in now.
- Heads-up display, which for those who don’t know what that is, it’s actually really the integration of data into the physical environment in a way. So you may have seen it on race cars where the various instruments on the dashboard, the speedometers, that are projected up on the window itself, on the windshield. So you can actually see all that information and you can see through it as well. So it’s really this integration of digital data into our worlds, which is very interesting. And I think it’s somewhat reflective of how technology has more and more become incorporated into our everyday lives with things like Nest thermostats for example. This integration, I think, is really getting people to really muse about what’s going to be interesting in the future, and where are we going with technology.
- Emojis. I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of them, but this is actually interesting, because emojis was a trend two years ago and then it’s come back this year. And it’s come back big time. So we’re seeing a 328% increase in the number of searches and downloads for emojis this year. It was a couple of years ago when it was starting to trend that it became much more mainstream, where we started seeing huge brands, global brands such as Pepsi starting to use emojis in a really meaningful way, where they had added emojis onto Pepsi cans last summer. And I think because of that, it’s also introduced that idea of emojis into a broader audience. So it’s no longer just the younger generation, but now you’re starting to see their parents and everybody else using emojis and everyone sort of piling on top that. And at the same time, of course, we’re seeing social media channels just really kind of at war with each other as far as who can make their various channels much more interesting. So incorporating into emojis and other augmented reality elements into Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. I think all those things are really driving emojis forward.
What is the past, present and future of cultural trends?
So what we’re seeing this year is a little bit of a shift. Last year we had always connected and unplugged, which was somewhat simplistic. This year it becomes much more nuanced where we kind of organize this past, present, and future, but there’s still very much that thread of being always connected and always unplugged.
So let’s start with the past. So the past is really defined by this sense of nostalgia, revisiting, reworking iconography of past decades. So we’re looking at things like interesting patterns, an aesthetic that feels a little bit more analogue than the digital world that we live in. And it’s interesting to see this really start to play out in pop culture, and in some ways less obvious ways. So the one that jumped out to me of course, was Netflix’s series “Stranger Things”. It’s such a great series, but what’s amazing about it is, is not this series that’s just about 1980s American culture, instead it’s about something completely different but it’s sort of brought that aesthetic of that period into the forefront in a much more subtle way. And I think that’s the difference that we’re seeing this year. It’s not nostalgia for the sake of nostalgia, it’s really kind of incorporative or fusing it in a really much more subtle and interesting way.
And then at the same time, we’re seeing that really bounced off by a look at the future, which was similar last year. Certainly looking ahead, people are always thinking about digital and how is technology being incorporated into our lives. What we’re seeing this year is a bit of a dichotomy. So we’re seeing, just like last year, a trend of virtual reality. So everything from the Oculus Rift kind of headsets, how does that incorporate into our world where we can interact with a digital universe that doesn’t actually exist as well as the internet which is really popularized by the Snapchats in the world. So things such as, all of a sudden you’re wearing funny glasses or you’re puking rainbows, that’s what’s coming out of that whole Snapchat kind of phase.
But at the same time, it’s really balanced by this uncertainty about the future with digital technology, so cyber security was actually our biggest trend in that section. Technology is great, but there’s a little bit of a concern about what this means for us. Are we starting to lose some of our privacy? Are those personal details going to be public details? Interesting trend to watch. And then we’re seeing some of the imagery that’s being downloaded that is really representing that part of technology, that sort of the darker side.
— Shutterstock (@Shutterstock) February 20, 2017
What are the biggest design trends of 2017?
There’s a little bit of a dichotomy between these two – nature versus technology. The nature side of things is somewhat expected, I felt like you have the organic texture, which in many ways reflects what we saw on that global trend, with white texture. Organic texture is somewhat of the same thing where we’re seeing things such as floral patterns or marble swirls, tree rings, things that are very beautiful. They feel kind of tactile, something you can reach out and touch, something you can really understand and kind of connect with, as well as tropical, bright colors, which is very much the same thing. These tropical patterns that are very attractive, they feel enticing, something you can relate to. But for me, I think, the one that’s been jumping out on me is the tech side. The entire design team over here at Shutterstock have all been kind of intrigued about is glitch. So this idea, again, of the darker side of technology. So what we’re talking about glitch is, all the parts of technology when it’s not working well. So it’s about banding in a video or white noise, or the static you would see out of an old television. Basically, technology screens really starting to break down. So it’s not about this smooth, polished, everything is perfect, this app works fantastic, no, this is about things crashing, about things not working as they should. And again, it reflects a little bit what we saw in that cultural trend of a fear of what technology is…what’s happening with technology.
And we’re seeing it actually starting to come out again in pop culture, too. So there’s another film coming out soon called “Ghost in the Shell”. And we noticed that their movie poster, it’s all glitch. So it’s Scarlett Johansson, but right in front of her is this sort of very glitch aesthetic. Could be really interesting to see how that really plays out over the course of this year.
What about visual trends around the world?
The one thing with our trends report is we are able to identify trends but we cannot always explain them. So we’re looking at various visual trends around the world where we’re essentially taking that same data but as we start looking at certain regions and what’s working there? Or what are people looking at? What’s really trending? Some of them are obvious. In Canada we see clean energy and that makes sense. You know,’thank you for being responsible, our friends to the North of us here in America.’ Or Brazil with it’s girl power. There’s this sense of some political discourse that’s happening that’s really influencing these downloads that are happening. But then you do see something like jalapeno in the U.S., and we’ve spent a lot of time here, over various lunches and meetings trying to figure out why. Like, why is it jalapeno? And we’ve got nothing. So we can’t necessarily tell you why, but we can say that these are the things that are really trending.
What are we seeing among the video trends?
So what’s interesting with video trends is we actually saw a continuation of a few things from last year. So there’s four different trends.
- Wanderlust. So that sense of really exploring the world, finding new experiences, which we saw last year for sure. Obviously it is sort of dominant trope that you see on Instagram across the world, people showing off other parts of the world and experiences that are out there. We are seeing that on the video side as well.
- Top view. So this felt like an extension of flat lay, which was popularized last year, although the difference is, this is sort of the camera looking straight down, somebody who’s actually manipulating objects on camera, very much a flat lay image, but a little bit more of a DIY focus or a POV focus. So it’s introducing that little bit more of a sense of a human aspect of that kind of imagery where somebody’s doing something in there. It’s really about handcrafting and being artisanal, really kind of interesting. And again, that extension of the trend last year, which I think probably influenced a lot of our contributors to generate some of this content as well.
- Mobile office, which I think actually could be really interesting when you start looking at HR industry. So mobile office is hitting this point now where technology is enabling people to work wherever they are. So it’s almost the responsible version of wanderlust, where you no longer have to be bound to your cubicle at work or a single office where you don’t see anybody all day, now you can go to the coffee shop, you can be travelling the world. You could be somewhere in the UK speaking to someone in New York City. That’s what we’re seeing really trending with some of the video content that we’re having downloaded.
- Immersive technology – this is going back to that idea of virtual reality. These are images of people with augmented reality glasses on, or you can imagine experiences where augmented reality is really incorporated in people playing “Pokemon Go”, for example, which is huge, of course. But those are some of the video trends that we have been seeing. And for me, I think what’s interesting too is starting to see that creative twist of that immersing technology. So for example, Apple come out with a EarPods commercial recently where it’s a dancer who’s walking down a busy street, urban street, puts in his EarPods and then starts dancing up walls to find gravity. It’s the sense of technology allowing you to escape the confines of our everyday lives. And of course, it’s also showing off that the EarPods won’t fall out. But for me, it was a really interesting reflection of some of the trends.
What are the music trends this year?
There three big trends this year, and all representing different beats per minute almost, it goes from slow to fast. Chill hop, atmospheric and high octane.
Chill hop, it’s very much a slow kind of atmospheric kind of feel as opposed to going all the way to high octane, which almost sounds like something very foreboding, something that’s just high energy, it’s exciting, it’s like what you play before the big boxing much, if you will. What’s interesting though, it’s a very big change from what we’re seeing last year, even the year before. They feel a little less pop, a little less happy, and again, may be influenced by some of what’s been going on in the world where people don’t feel like frivolities there as much. So we’re not seeing as much as those ubiquitous Apple-esque tracks with ukuleles and xylophones. Instead we are getting these tracks that are much more kind of moody and serious, energetic.
What social trends are we seeing?
A little bit of a continuation of what we were seeing in the past, where we’re still seeing this aesthetic that is dominated by really beautiful light, breathtaking composition. A lot of nature imagery that’s being downloaded because it feels like you’re sort of away from it all, kind of out in the world. What we’re seeing different this year though, and maybe it is a little bit of that sense of pessimism creeping in, is extreme weather. So not just the beauty of nature, but also the power of nature. So we’re talking imagery of tornadoes, gigantic waves crashing against a lighthouse, earthquakes. These are also kind of getting pulled into the trends that sell, which I think is really interesting. So it’s this sense of respect for nature, but a much more dynamic one, where it’s not just about how beautiful nature can be and we have to protect it, but it’s also how nature can impact us.
Which one brand inspires you in terms of creativity and why?
The one that really keeps jumping out to me is Airbnb, actually. I really enjoy what they’ve been doing. In fact, they, to some extent, reflect some of our trends that we’ve been having going on, especially that sense of wanderlust. They’re just really smart about how they’re using social media. I noticed that a few years ago where they have a very simple approach to Instagram, where they’re just showing off some of these beautiful places that you can go to, that you can actually rent, but then at the same time, they’re taking those Instagram’s and linking people off to those properties. So they’re kind of incorporating a little bit of commerce into Instagram. And then at the same time, they actually have a really interesting social campaign right now called “Live There”, which we were feeling was a bit of a reflection of that wanderlust trend that we’re seeing.
— Airbnb (@Airbnb) April 24, 2016
So “Live There” is essentially looking at this world right now where people are valuing experiences more than ever, and that’s what people want to get. It’s great to have all the technology, but we also want to see the world. And not just see it as a tourist, this isn’t just about going to some resort and having your cocktails delivered to you on the beach, people are really valuing going to different places. Don’t just go to Paris – live there. What is it like to live in a neighborhood of Paris and be able to shop at the little local market? That’s what Airbnb is really trying to promote with their “Live There” campaign. I just think it’s so smart, the way that they’re going about doing it.