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Giving some time and space to Shutterstock’s six big trends of 2022

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Trends. January is always going to be the month of trends and trend think pieces. It’s inevitable and it makes sense and while some might baulk at the idea of reading yet another thousand words of ponderous prattle, if there’s one company that seems to always get it spot-on when it comes to conjecture, it’s Shutterstock.

This morning, the internet’s stock image repository announced the launch of its annual Creative Trends Report which is based on search data taken from Shutterstock’s millions of global users. This year’s report foresees the themes of time and space dominating creative projects and marketing campaigns in 2022. 

Also new to this year’s report is Shutterstock.ai performance data that (supposedly) more accurately pinpoints the content that will drive the highest click-through rates this year, giving creatives and marketers “valuable insights to create and innovate with confidence.” Or at least it’ll give them a little more idea as to what content is more likely to get people clicking.

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But what do the six big trends this year look like and how do they fit into the thematic umbrella of “time and space” that Shutterstock appears to have (quite literally) pulled out of the cloud?

Give us some time (and space)

The pandemic has arguably dislocated the very concept of time for many of us; as days dissolve together, the passage of time is processed differently. Shutterstock’s data shows that in 2022, creatives are expected to visualise this overarching sensation of losing track of time and space by “entering new realms, eras and possibilities in their marketing materials.

As virtual spaces increase in popularity, this year’s report places users directly into the metaverse through a heightened interactive experience, allowing users to explore the trends via a personalised avatar. But if you don’t have time for all that and just want to know what nice shiny pictures you should be putting in your work this year, then look no further.

1. Fantastic (14th Century)

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Reflecting the global obsession with medieval sagas like Game of Thrones and The Witcher, the popularity of the Middle Ages continues to rise in 2022. 

Keywords such as medieval building (+6496%), vintage shield (+2858%) and templar (+831%) have seen a drastic uptick, as creatives and marketers turn back time to revisit a realm of drama and adventure. According to Shutterstock.ai data, the content receiving the most clicks include towers, goblets, axes and castles.

2. The Macabre (Modern Era)

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Traditionally “spooky” elements like Egyptian mummies (+6923%), beasts (+3623%) and reapers (+388%) aren’t just for Halloween in 2022. Search patterns show that the genres of horror and thriller are making a comeback, with a particular focus on dystopian and post-apocalyptic futures

Given the couple of years we’ve just lived through, is it really any wonder? Here’s hoping this one sees a notable decline as the year progresses and things “start getting back to normal.

3. Way Out West (18th - 19th Century)

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Shutterstock data shows a spike in interest for cowboy culture, wild west environments, and prairie fields, with searches for Wild Horses, for example, rising by 1961%. 

Western-themed images and videos are fast climbing marketing wish lists too, with Navajo patterns having grown in popularity by 225% over the last year. Perhaps this is all something to do with how we romanticise the past in times of great distress? Or maybe it’s just because cowboys are really cool.

4. On The Road Again (Modern Era)

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Staying indoors has sparked the urge to travel for millions around the world. Users are searching for bikes on the road (+14911%), roads to mountain (+5763%) and the badlands (+487%) in an effort to explore unknown territories and paths less frequented from the comforts of their own homes. 

The content receiving the most clicks include luggage and mountain ranges. If this year is finally the year that many of us get to actually go on holiday abroad for the first time since 2019 then expect this particular trend to explode over the summer.

5. Cyberpunk Is Not Dead (2100s)

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While the cataclysmic disappointment that was Cyberpunk 2077 almost put a definitive nail in the coffin of the term, in a world that is constantly innovating and breaking technological barriers, it is no surprise that creatives are turning towards more high-tech aesthetics

The nocturnal cityscapes, fractal backgrounds (+2955%) and avatars (+1503%) that thrift cyberpunk science fiction is set to be incredibly popular this year. The content receiving the most clicks include electrical outlets, webcams and LED lights, neither of which are technically cyberpunk (it’s just electrical equipment) but can be linked at least tangentially.

6. What’s Cookin’ (Modern Era)

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Global lockdowns inspired people to get back in the kitchen in 2020 and 2021. I mean, how many people do you know personally that bragged about their banana bread game at the start of the pandemic? In 2022, expect our taste in food content to grow more exotic

Searches for regional specialities and ingredients such as Porcini (+2566%), Takoyaki (+2024%) and Panna Cotta (+435%) are on the rise, as creatives and marketers look for gastronomical inspiration near and far. The content receiving the most clicks, however, include pretzels and cupcakes, which just so happen to be two of my very favourite things in the world.

Global trends

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In addition to reporting these six global trends, Shutterstock has localised the trends report for the first time for some of their top markets: Brazil, France, Japan, the US and the UK. 

These national reports highlight each of these country's top three upcoming trends, such as “The Art of Living” in Japan and “Dragon (On and On)” in the US by utilising local search and click data. The 2022 report also includes the top local search terms of 26 different countries, from Chile to Norway.

What does it tell us?

So, what do these trends tell us about what kind of year 2022 is going to be? Well, apparently it’s going to be a middle-aged, macabre cyberpunk western with lots of food. I can live with that but what do you all think? Do these trends make sense or is it all just a bit of fun? Sound off in the comments below.

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