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2020 Design Trends - Getting under the skin of Adobe Stock’s outlook for 2020

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This week, Adobe offered a free 2-month membership to its creative cloud platform to existing subscribers in order to help soften the blow felt by the creative industries (and the working world in general) after the Covid-19 outbreak. 

This is just one of many small gestures that have been made by the community in recent days and is a story that broke just as I was about to speak to Brenda Milis, Principal of Creative Services and Visual Trends for Adobe Stock.

It’s worth noting that these trends predate the outbreak by a solid month and thusly, predate the moment where 2020 began to dovetail into pure unadulterated chaos. However, there is certainly a tinge of the chaotic about Adobe Stock’s first-ever dedicated design trends outlook.

The trends were first announced in the second week of February and celebrated the fact that creatives of all types are finding ways to work more fluidly between design mediums, channels, and tools to effectively communicate with a multitude of audiences. Adobe Stock has long used its broad perspective and data access rooted in creative applications to offer deep insights about the visual trends ahead and this year it decided to push the boundaries a little. 

Expanding from photography, illustration and vectors to the world of motion graphics, cinematography, graphic design, and the world of 3D rendering and immersive experiences, these trends predict a year where modern gothic and art deco meet surreal and organic shapes. 

I was able to quiz Brenda on her role at Adobe, the trends themselves and how she feels the industry will respond to these trends going forward. And not a mention solitary mention of that bloody virus!

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Art Deco Updates

Can you start by telling us a little about your role at Adobe?

I lead Adobe Stock's research to identify growing interest in specific types of visuals that are scaling in marketplace appeal. We work with data and signals from Adobe users in addition to researching reports, global news, social media, fashion, the arts and more

We study all sectors to find and confirm emerging patterns across industries to develop and report our insights on where we see the year ahead unfolding creatively.

Could you take us through some of this year’s chosen Adobe Stock Design Trends and explain what you think it is that has catalysed them?

Absolutely. Three of the trends, Semi-Surreal, Art-Deco Updates and Neo-Gothic have been gaining huge traction by working with well-known styles using cutting-edge creative techniques made possible through advances in software technology. The combination of combining elements of established styles with futuristic elements attracts and retains viewer attention.

Handmade Humanism is a design trend that emphasises elements that look handmade or crafted, reflecting a growing desire on the part of the viewer or consumer for signs of the personal and authentic in a highly digitised and templated visual culture. Organic illustrations, natural textures, and folksy fonts are some of the key elements of this trend which offers seemingly spontaneous and untutored styles, and is known for its simplicity and authentic tone.

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Handmade Humanism

Can you take us through the process of selecting and narrowing down your trend selections?

We work with a vast array of sources – both internal and proprietary, as well as external, to Adobe:-

Externally, we partner particularly closely and on a daily basis, with WGSN, a global forecasting company, and Edelman Intelligence. In addition, we work with a large number of futurists and forecasting companies around the world throughout the year.

Internally, we review top searches, colours, fonts, designs, and projects that artists have made and shared on Creative Cloud, Adobe Stock, and Behance. Our seasoned teams of curators at Adobe Stock and Behance, led by the Creative Department’s trend forecasters, have added their wealth of experience in trend analysis and reporting to distil this year's top design trends.

How large a part does AI and technology, in general, have to play?

Technology plays a particularly large part for the 2020 Design Trends in making many advanced creative and design techniques very accessible to many creatives. One of the reasons you are seeing Semi-Surreal, Neo-Gothic and Art-Deco Updates styles scale in production and popularity is because software now makes the execution of many shapes, surface effects, textures and the like easier to execute. So, more designers are able and eager to work in what were formerly extremely advanced design styles.

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Modern Gothic

To what extent do you feel social media affects visual trends (Instagram particularly) and do you see it as a good or bad thing? 

Social Media is one of the major drivers of visual trends because of both its continuous content distribution and global reach. I don't consider this as 'good' or 'bad', rather I think it is a sign of how rapidly an incredible amount of content is being pushed out to all of us every day and a major element in the need to stay aware of what viewers are connecting or responding to and how and why that is shifting.

Finally, how important do you feel that trends are to the creative industries? 

I think that visual and creative trend analysis is a critical component for creative industries to ensure that their projects are timely, relevant and visually resonant. We live in a visual culture in which imagery is pushed out to consumers 24/7. Because of this, one of the major creative challenges facing companies is how to attract and retain viewer attention as visual tastes and styles shift more quickly than ever before. 

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Semi-Surreal

Staying on top of which kinds of visual styles are growing in popularity and why is of vital importance for all creatives: We now need to be “visually fluent” to make sure our creative projects connect to viewers and maximise the impact of our work.

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