The Creative Trends of a New Decade — and of a New World

Large group of people wearing masks.

Image source: Angelina Bambina / Adobe Stock.

Back in February, I joined Adobe on The Drum’s latest webinar for one of the most exciting and informative panels I’ve participated on in a while. Our exam question: What do we feel would be the key creative trends of 2020?

To help the discussion, we referenced the key Creative Trends report which the Adobe Stock team pulled together each year, leveraging their enormously rich user data in addition to signals from influencers, search volumes, research and news, as well as the fine art and fashion worlds. This year, their trends fell into three key categories: visual, motion, and design.

Of course, it goes without saying that since March, we have seen a dramatic shift in our way of life as our societies and economies rapidly adapt to a world of self-isolation, social distancing, and a renewed focus on physical and mental health in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. While I don’t believe we will necessarily see all of the trends already identified dissipate, I would be remiss not to acknowledge the impact of these drastic behavioral shifts on the key visual trends that will ultimately emerge in 2020.

So, I thought I would share my renewed thoughts on what I believe some of the top trends will now be in light of what brands and influencers are beginning to adopt.

1. Health and wellness

We are undoubtedly facing one of the greatest threats to both our physical and mental health, with COVID-19 forcing nationwide lockdowns and a heightened level of awareness when it comes to personal hygiene. It goes without saying, then, that health and wellness are top of mind for people all around the world.

What’s interesting is that Adobe had originally identified the “Express Yourself” trend in their 2020 Visual Trends report at the start of the year, reflecting how we see the world moving into a new era of authenticity in expression along with a palpable increase in mental health awareness and initiatives. Managing depression, grief, loneliness, and cyberbullying are only further inflated as key issues that our society now faces.

We’re also facing a time when demand for personal protective equipment has never been higher, with governments increasingly mandating the wearing of face masks post-lockdown. You can therefore expect to see a lot more imagery this year reflecting this “new normal.”

Image source: Vogue magazine Instagram.

Physical health is equally top of mind, as we suddenly find ourselves without a commute or a gym. Increasingly, we’re seeing influencers share the various ways they stay healthy with their followers. Of course, I couldn’t not mention Joe Wicks’ daily PE classes, the entire proceeds of which he is donating to the NHS. What a hero.

Image source: (left) Alp Pecker / Adobe Stock.

For more creative inspiration, you can check our Adobe Stock galleries, “Health” and “Wellness.”

Image source: The Body Coach Instagram.

2. Community and connection

By far the most common trend we’re seeing in marketing today is a new wave of localism, community and kindness. I recently hosted a podcast with Carat’s Global Head of Media Futures, Dan Calladine, on this phenomenon which is encouraging brands to consider how they are driving real value for their customers and society, showing empathy, and participating on local and global levels.

“Crises can bring out the best in people and, so far, it seems that the biggest crisis of recent years is making people feel more neighborly and more generous,” Dan said. “This trend has even spawned a new word: ‘caremongering’ — the generosity-based antidote to a climate of fear.”

What’s also interesting is that the trend of “From Me to We” highlighted key social signals of “getting back to the roots” with the healing power of local communities, digital detox, and meaningful, eco-friendly living. Again, this is only enhanced now as we see communities connect in ways they never have before, from socially distanced cups of tea to ensuring your self-isolating neighbor has enough groceries for the week.

Image source: Jesse Morrow/Stocksy / Adobe Stock.

With more people working from home, schools closed down, and entertainment essentially confined to the home, we’re also seeing families connect on a deeper level — both physically and virtually, as identified by Adobe’s new “Home as a Hub” collection. From virtual hangouts with family and friends to balancing work with homeschooling, we’re seeing a new era of connection, cherishing of the home, and an increased sense of local belonging.

3. All ages welcome

A trend that is undoubtedly growing in consumer brands, primarily retail and beauty, is an increase in diverse age representation. Check out the Adobe Stock gallery, “All Ages Welcome.” What’s exciting to see is brands quietly embracing this approach without agenda, such as Aussie, Dove, Trinny London, TENA and L’Oreal. But one of the most powerful examples recently has to be Pantene’s #PowerofGrey campaign, featuring a series of interviews with women of all ages challenging perceptions of ageing, confidence and beauty.

Meanwhile, we’re seeing celebrities who emerged in the ’90s still very much in the spotlight, helping fuel and glamourize this trend of age representation. One can only admire Jennifer Aniston (who recently celebrated her 51st birthday) being nominated for two Golden Globes for “The Morning Show,” while Gwyneth Paltrow has stolen headlines with her provocative Netflix series “Goop Lab,” and Jennifer Lopez recently starred in the award-winning film “Hustlers.”

Then we have the fabulous #InstaGrannies and “Germaine Greer generation” completely redefining what it means to be a woman over 60. Idols like Iris Apfel, Lyn Slater (Accidental Icon), Jenny Kee, Jan Correll (Silver is the new Blonde), Sarah Jane Adams, and Maye Musk are confidently and graciously subverting traditional notions of what “old” looks like — and gradually shifting perception with a focus on health, fashion, and style. Genuine #LifeGoals here.

Image source: Icon Accidental Instagram.

4. Semi-surreal / oddly satisfying

This might seem like a left-field trend, but “Semi-Surreal” and #oddlysatisfying content are on the rise along with the broader ASMR genre. Why? Multiple studies have reported a myriad of therapeutic benefits including improving mood and alleviating pain, causing similar responses to meditation and mindfulness.

So, with stress levels around the world only increasing in light of the current challenges we all face, semi-surreal and oddly satisfying content provide a welcome sensory release.

While fashion brands have been using surreal elements in marketing for a while (see Kenzo, Moschino, and Gucci), other brands are starting to play catch up and even embrace this new trend. Van Cleef & Arpels is a great example of a brand that has cleverly emulated the highly popular Instagram videos of Andreas Wannerstedt and Oliver Latta.

Image source: Van Cleef & Arpels Instagram.

5. Handmade humanism

What was also interesting to see in Adobe’s trends report was the revival of old styles with a modernist spin, in particular, “Handmade Humanism.” I think we’re definitely seeing more creators pushing organic design, which is probably partly driven by the access to better tools (e.g., Adobe Fresco, iPad Pro).

Digital sketching is much more common than it used to be — you only need to look at some of the latest branding work by Mailchimp, WeTransfer, Slack, Intercom, Notion, and Coca-Cola to see this is being adopted as an increasingly popular creative medium.

There’s also a real freshness emerging with organic design and materials increasingly being adopted by designers. Take geometric art deco, which has been trending for a few years now. What we’re now starting to see is a trend toward more wholesome design with natural applications and materials being woven in — for example, paper, wood, and collage. You can already see examples of this emerging with the likes of, Glossier, and Zendesk.

Image source: Zendesk.

6. Environmental documentary

The final trend builds on Adobe’s first motion trend of 2020: “Environmental Documentary.” From the horrific brush fires in Australia and the floods in the U.K. to the immensely powerful messages of warning of “Planet Earth II,” Greta Thunberg, and Extinction Rebellion, we have been witnessing an unprecedented ramp-up in awareness and activism regarding our carbon footprint and impact on climate change.

As we move further into the lockdown, we’re slowly starting to witness silent skies, clearer waters, and fresher air. Understanding our material impact on the environment will undoubtedly stay with us beyond 2020. We can, therefore, expect to see significant usage of environmental footage showing both the negative and positive impacts we’re having on our planet.

Image source: Redbred / Adobe Stock.

With nations currently on lockdown, we’re also seeing a steady increase of drone footage showing empty cities and streets as populations are ordered to self-isolate in their homes. This video of an eerily empty San Francisco in quarantine is such a powerful piece of footage, and I don’t doubt that there will be plenty of footage of other empty cities, towns, and streets to follow in step this year.

See the Adobe Stock Aerial Footage and COVID-19 Aerial Assets collections.

Image source: Adobe Stock.

Hope these insights give you inspiration

While the 2020 Creative Trends branch in many directions, one thing is consistent — the trends provide inspiration. As marketers and brand stewards, it’s important for us to stay in touch with what’s happening in the world and check ourselves as we plan our campaigns and inspire the best in our creative work. It’s worth it to take the time to ask, is this genuine? Is this the right experience?

Knowing what content resonates with your audience is one of the most crucial aspects of marketing.

Sabrina Rodriguez is Global Head of Digital Marketing at Dentsu Aegis Network. Keep up with our creative trend coverage throughout 2020. We’ll explore more Design and Motion Trends throughout the year. Check back here to be sure you don’t miss a thing.