Adobe Stock’s 2020 Creative Trends: Challenge the expected

Each year, the Adobe Stock team pores over data and signals from Adobe users, influencers, search, research reports, global news, emerging fine art, and fashion runways so we can report insights of where we see the year ahead unfolding creatively. This year, we’re going further. For 2020, we’re excited to reveal not just four Visual Trends, but accompanying Motion Trends and Design Trends too.

As part of the Adobe family, we know creativity spans many perspectives, mediums, and skills. That’s why we’re so excited to venture with you into this year’s trends, expanding from photography, illustration, and vectors to the worlds of motion graphics, cinematography, graphic design, and the world of 3D renders and immersive experiences.

As culture becomes a globalized space thanks in large part to the common language of internet culture, mainstream visual fluency continues to grow in sophistication. Creative skill sets are keeping pace with the readiness of applications that help us fluently translate our ideas into reality.

Consumers are pushing brands to keep up with an ever-widening world of aesthetic shifts. Beyond trends, there’s a growing need to deeply connect to larger cultural, economic, and social movements through a multitude of industries. No trend exists in a vacuum — every trend is connected with a multitude of references and microcultures, all fostered online.

We present these trends to help you stay ahead of the mainstream, plan your next campaign, or inspire your biggest project yet. Here’s a look at our four top visual trends for 2020.

All Ages Welcome

Image source: Marc Bordons / Stocksy United / Adobe Stock.

Staying relevant at any age is the new normal. By 2020, the number of people aged 60 or older will outnumber children under 5 years old, according to the World Health Organization. Thanks to advances in health and a more interconnected world referencing the same inspiration, mature audiences are not only active but relevant social figures and inspirations, proving age is nothing but a number.

The stock industry sometimes has some catching up to do when it comes to presenting imagery that empowers people on a personal level (as opposed to just checking a “diversity” box). Until recently, older audiences have often been portrayed in terms of “needing help” and “slowing down” — but not anymore. The older, more sophisticated, and financially stable we become, the more we’re exploring and experiencing the world in inspiring ways.

This expansion of focus from youth-centric (18-35) to wider audiences is a positive sign across every major industry, from finance and banking to travel, health, and sports. Those expanding industries have begun to realize the importance of representing mature crowds as relevant figures, full of unique, vibrant, high-energy people.

The new imagery around age aims to construct visual narratives around how vital their lifestyles continue to be. We’re thrilled to see industries that haven’t always spoken to a wide range of ages — like fashion, beauty and wellness — now acknowledging the vibrancy of varying experiences and audiences in those age ranges.

Express Yourself

Image source: (Top) TONL / Adobe Stock; (Bottom) Sarah Alice Rabbit / Adobe Stock.

Thanks to social media, people are more public and open than ever when it comes to expressing their feelings. The human need to share a full, honest range of raw emotions is now mainstream.

In the market, we’ve seen that consumers are eager to see themselves represented authentically. That’s not new this year — it continues a trend we’ve observed for the last several years, and it shows no sign of slowing down. If anything, the demand for imagery that represents all the diverse facets of humanity and the realities of modern life has grown significantly stronger, and mainstream conversations about the meaning of diversity and inclusion that gained a new level of sophistication.

With Express Yourself, we’re focusing on the way people around the world are sharing more of their raw, honest life experiences online and in public — and demanding the same from brands, politicians, and other public figures. This trend is our way of describing the prevalent, new visual form of “inclusivity.”

Makeup is Not a Mask

Image source: Thais Ramos Varela / Stocksy United / Adobe Stock.

Cosmetics have historically been applied as a “mask” in an effort to attain a limited ideal of beauty. Today, people aren’t so interested in that. Instead, contemporary grooming focuses on celebrating a person’s unique looks and style, and color appears in expressive, artistic, and inclusive ways.

Culturally, we’re seeing a new understanding of what it means to be a human being and what it means to connect, not just to other people but to yourself. More than ever, the current generation of consumers is showing an interest in recognizing genuine feelings and celebrating unique personal histories.

In beauty, that extends to cosmetics now being offered in a wider range of shades, with top brands like Glossier, Sephora, and Fenty Beauty embracing all ages, skin types, skin tones, natural eyebrows, and more. Beyond just looking at skin tones, we’re seeing color pop up in new ways. Today’s intrepid makeup artists accept no rules about which color goes where: eyes, lips, brows, body — anything goes.

One of the ways we’re seeing people celebrate the genuine is through expressive reimaginings of what “beauty” can be. The use of makeup as a tool for self-exploration and creative experimentation is one facet of that. One spin through Instagram will tell you that today’s makeup is not about “hiding flaws” — it’s about standing out.

In Makeup is Not a Mask, we’re honing in on this trend to describe how today’s personal style is breaking all the established rules of beauty in pursuit of authentic self-expression.

From Me to We

Image source: Adam Perez / Adobe Stock.

The movement toward people coming together to support causes large and small is scaling. The personal is now highly purposeful, and consumers of all ages are exercising their increasing influence. Though this is often referred to in the media as a millennial-to-Generation Z phenomenon, this trend truly has no age limit.

In the market, evidence of this trend is all around us. Brand powerhouse Procter & Gamble (P&G) recently launched a unique new partnership with National Geographic called “ACTIVATE.” The project is a ​six-part documentary series, focused on the work of ​social and environmental activists around the world. P&G describes the series as “highlighting brand citizenship stories” around the world.

Continuing the momentum toward valuing experiences over things, a 2018 Harris study of U.S. millennials found that 78% would rather spend money on a “desirable experience or event over buying something desirable.”

When it comes to visual imagery, brands are finding that images presenting a strong sense of community and meaningful lifestyle choices resonate best, creating a quick connection between companies and conscious customers.

2020 marks our first year releasing trends specifically geared toward the world of design. In partnership with Behance and Adobe Creative Cloud Marketing, we distilled insights from millions of data points to bring you the most relevant design trends. We’ll be releasing a deeper dive into our Design Trends and Motion Trends later this year, but here’s a special preview of what’s to come.

Handmade Humanism

Image source: Lera / Adobe Stock.

Artists craving a natural touch have created an emotionally approachable style that is notable through its simplicity and handcrafted tone. We look to artful and DIY-influenced elements for a fresh and personal touch in a digital world.

Art Deco Updates

Image source: Wacomka / Adobe Stock.

Striking, nostalgic visual elements reminiscent of the bold Art Deco age have been bubbling to the surface. In response to the pervasiveness of sleek, flat, minimal design, vintage styles are being reworked to incorporate futuristic details while retaining their decorative appeal. Geometric patterns, metallic elements, and sleek typography add elegance and elevate brands.


Image source: (Left) Musicman80 / Adobe Stock; (Right) Katia / Adobe Stock._

Fantastical imagery brings a vibrant new perspective across all mediums. 2020 will show us many artists using new tools and techniques to create the impossible and alter our vision. These visuals inspire curiosity across global audiences.

Modern Gothic

Image source: Ae / Adobe Stock.

Artists are creating daring dichotomies between analog and digital elements while experimenting with the dark and dramatic. Futuristic materials, moody lighting, industrial influences, and striking typography make this edgy visual approach seem simultaneously old-world and visionary.

Environmental Documentary

Image source: Nicolasme / Adobe Stock.

The discussion of climate, based on science and real policy ideas, will be a prominent part of many industries’ narratives in 2020. Brands and programs will be using a documentary film style to portray the challenges and possible future the world faces due to climate change.

Movement Response

Image source: Oles_photo / Adobe Stock.

Viewers now expect social media videos with exciting, interactive graphics. This new standard drives increased development of graphics that respond to movement, attracting eyeballs and increasing engagement.

Liquid Abstract

Image source: Lightleak Films / Adobe Stock.

Liquid abstract forms are natural and organic, leading to freely-flowing shapes with powerful curves. This style contrasts with ubiquitous geometric and functional design, creating dynamic and fluid compositions.

Neon Glow

Image source: Synthex / Adobe Stock.

Moving neon elements create a dynamic energy. What began in cinema now appears far beyond the movie screen — today, viewers see these elements in Netflix series, music videos, games, and social videos. Neon in motion assets adds a jolt of energy and glow, creating a retro feel that is simultaneously visionary, fun, and electric.

Don’t miss our in-depth creative trend coverage. We’ll follow up with a deep dive into Design and Motion Trends, and comprehensive explorations into each trend throughout the year. Check back here to be sure you don’t miss a thing.