Creative Democracy: A Vote for Brilliant Colors and Pure Joy

For our third visual trend of 2019 — Creative Democracy — we’re watching a swing of the pendulum when it comes to color and mood. While the early 2000s were all about getting outdoors for back-to-nature selfies or channeling your inner lumberjack at a rustic, nature’s natural monotoned dinner party, we’re now returning to fun, saturated color, vibrancy, and joy. It’s a rebirth of the neon hues of the ’80s and ’90s, paired with the bold color-blocking aesthetic of the ’60s.

Image source: Pixel Stories / Stocksy / Adobe Stock (left), milamila / Stocksy / Adobe Stock (right).

This return to color comes as we all grapple with weighty cultural, environmental, and political issues. In response, the Creative Democracy trend is a sanity-preserving space where we can get playful. To see the trend at work, visit our curated gallery of Adobe Artists to bring a little visual joy your way and inspire your next design.

Swinging back to joy and color

After years of neutral shades of the Pacific Northwest and Brooklyn aesthetic, we experienced a little homogeny (so much so that hipsters may not even be able to recognize themselves anymore). In contrast, the Creative Democracy trend traces its roots to Piet Mondrian’s turn-of-the-century explorations of primary colors and geometric shapes, and later the Mod craze of the 1960s, with today’s version bringing its own 2019 personality.

Color blocking is all about joyful exploration with palettes of contrasting, saturated colors. It’s also an invitation to set aside technically perfect design and palettes. Creatives are embracing offbeat colors like mustard yellow, clashing shades, and a notably anti-design approach.

Image source: yahya / Adobe Stock.

We’re also seeing a return to the photography studio. Creatives are moving away from found colors, in favor of planned, crisper shades and controlled studio lighting.

Exuberance in design, experiences, and beyond

Design studios are embracing the Creative Democracy trend. For example, Atlanta-based Tropico Photo is garnering attention with its strong lines, unexpected color combinations, and decisively fun attitude. Similarly, creative studio JUCO is bringing bold color and irreverent looks to their global client roster, from Coca-Cola and Teen Vogue to Apple and Lexus.

Brands are adopting this bold approach to color as a way to connect with consumers who are weary of the too cool, monotone aesthetic. Take, whose product line includes a rainbow of brilliantly colored planners, shoes, clothes, and even retro pink roller skates. The company proudly proclaims, “We encourage joy.” Fast-growing beauty brand is winning over customers with deep pigments and cosmetics — including their Neon Lights collection — that let consumers transform themselves with color. Even WeTransfer, a company that allows users to send large digital files, is using simple, bold color to add joy to everyday tasks.

Image source: Stefanie / Adobe Stock (left), Addictive Stock / Adobe Stock (right).

But Creative Democracy isn’t just reshaping brands and studio shoots. People are collecting color and pleasure in all sorts of places. Consider, for example, wildly popular participatory installations such as Color Factory and 29ROOMS. They’re designed to engage visitors’ senses, surround them with color, and invite them to play.

Camp, color, and laughing our way through

While every year’s Met Gala is extravagant, this year’s theme Camp: Notes on Fashion, described by RuPaul as a place for “The people who can break the fourth wall, who can see beyond the façade of life — and that’s really where life begins — when you can see it as a construct and then have fun with it and laugh at it.”

Like camp, Creative Democracy is all about reframing reality — those complicated conversations and conflicts that surround us — so we can find the philosophical space for joy.

The takeaway for brands and designers

There’s simplicity in Creative Democracy’s fun, and brands can extend the trend with large fonts, simple type, get-to-the-point messaging, and models with unique, fresh looks that help us celebrate individuality beyond stereotypes.

By tapping into the Creative Democracy trend, brands can offer a much-longed-for invitation to use the expression of creativity to create something to the point, and on point.

For more on the Creative Democracy trend, check out our gallery of Adobe Stock and stay tuned as we talk to artists whose work pops with color and joy.