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Shutterstock’s Mike McCabe on the design trends of the ‘Roaring 2020s’

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This afternoon, Shutterstock announced its ninth annual Creative Trends Report, which uses the billions of image, video and music searches and downloads made on the platform in the last 12 months to show us what’s trending around the globe. By identifying both global and local trends, they hope to offer some insight into what will be influencing design aesthetics and visual culture in 2020.

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The three major trends this year are “The Roaring 2020s”, which transplants the aesthetics of the 1920s to our current decade, “Occulture,” which explores alternative faiths and beliefs, and “In Full Bloom,” which relates to bright, bold floral visuals. In addition to these major trends, the report outlines local favourites in 25 countries around the world, as well as, five rising trends that promise to gain traction in 2020. Rising trends range from design mainstays like “minimalistic black” and traditional arts including “Chinese ink painting” to elegant photography and modernised visuals such as “wildlife” and sports photography.

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That’s only scraping the surface though, and if you want to explore these trends in more detail you can access a nifty interactive infographic right here

It’s not only data that’s used to pinpoint these trends though. An expert panel also confers to determine the trends they expect to command creative projects in 2020. To delver further into those conversations, I spoke to Mike McCabe, VP of Creative at Shutterstock. Mike explained his own thoughts on the major trends and how he feels they will shape the next 12 months of design.

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Could you take us through some of this year’s trends and explain what you think it is that has catalysed them?

OCCULTURE - The Occulture trend is a collective reaction to technology overload and related social detachment. Intangibles like spirituality, magic, astrology and the occult are poles apart from the logic-based machines that surround us. These ancient practices have gone mainstream and become accessible through their popularity with Millennials and Gen Z, who tend to broadcast their findings on social media. 

PROTEST ART - In an increasingly turbulent world, dissent and civil unrest are on the rise. More and more, bold and creative protest art is helping activists and new social movements get their messages out and their voices heard. Ephemeral, portable and disposable, these styles and methods aren't limited to one region but are used worldwide to help citizens express their anxieties, resilience, and demands for change.

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How do you think these trends will be utilised over the next 12 months?

One of the most exciting things about our Creative Trends report is seeing how each of the trends play out in real-world design throughout the year. Sometimes it’s in the form of branding, digital billboards, movie or tv credits. We’ve also seen our trends reflected in packaging design, fashion, ad campaigns or in surprising places on social media. We’ve already started to see trends pop up in the latest spring runway shows and can’t wait to see what other interpretations show up in the wild.

With the growth of the cannabis industry, you can expect to see the reach of CBD culture to go beyond a niche market and have more of a mainstream presence that will likely look a lot like luxury cosmetics - upscale and polished. 

The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo are going to be huge, so you can expect to see our Game On trend really take off as brands will use the Olympics as a way to put themselves out there and connect with consumers.

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

Our annual report comes to life by analysing the data gathered over a 12-month period from the billions of searches for images, footage, and musical content. That is a lot of data, and what makes our report really stand out is Shutterstock’s customer base of nearly 1.9 million creatives, designers, marketers, and advertisers around the world whose search behaviour helps determine the trends for the year ahead.

By taking a deeper look at the search behaviours of designers, art directors, marketers, filmmakers, and other creatives, and then combining that data with analysis from our internal visual intelligence panel, we see themes start to emerge. As they bubble up, our panel gets together to determine the trends they expect to shape the creative landscape in 2020.

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

Shutterstock is a tech company at its core and we’ve been committed to experimenting with cutting-edge technologies for over fifteen years now. This has allowed us to enhance our customer’s experience and search capabilities, helping them find the content they’re looking for faster than ever. We can expect AI innovations to continue to play a leading role in how our customers search for content in the years to come.

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Do you think there are any trends singled out this year that are genuinely 'new' or are we all simply rehashing old ideas?

We’re living in shifting, uncertain times. A response to these changes can show up in different ways, but what we do see is a consistent theme of escapism. You can see that in the rise of our Wild Life and Occulture trends, for those who crave a different sort of perspective. We also see it in the popularity of the Roaring 2020s, where others want to go back to a different, simpler time, marked by the loud and lavish way of life.

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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 has completely changed our visual language with consumers scrolling through miles of content every day. This has become a challenge for brands to stand out but also an opportunity to experiment and try new things without putting big-spending behind it.

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What do you feel the local trends tell us about their respective countries? "Tropical Leaves" in the UK, for example?

Technology has made our world smaller and that’s reflective in our local and global creative trends. For example, “Tropical Leaves” is popular in the UK but this keyword is closely associated with our major trend “Full Bloom” which is clearly defined by the many brands and artists currently experimenting with loud, colourful florals.

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Can you tell us a little about the hand-curated collections that have been put together as part of the report?

Our curated collections provide a window into the many different ways these trends can be interpreted. You’ll find vectors, illustrations, photos, videos and music related to these themes, which also sets the table for where else we might be seeing these trends show up in 2020.

This year's report really shows what Shutterstock can offer creatives with hand-picked collections from Shutterstock images, videos and music along with high-quality images from Offset and Shutterstock Editorial.

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

If you’re in the creative business, you need to know what’s happening in the world and what trends are rising in popularity. Not only for inspiration but also to give your brand opportunities to feel fresh and relevant. One of the benefits of Creative Trends is enabling our customers to leverage this information to make a connection with their audiences in ways that are relevant to them.

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