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What are the Top Creative Trends of 2016? [Podcast]

As digital marketing becomes ever more visual, how can we make sure we stay ahead of the trend? One way is to analyze the data on creative trends taking off around the world.

To tap into this, I recently had a chat with Jordan Roland of Shutterstock. You can listen to the interview on iTunesSoundCloud or keep reading for a summary of our conversation. 

What Visual Trends Should We Look Out For?

"The top four global trends right now are “flat lay”, “boho”, “sacred geometry,” and “metallics.” 

Flat lay, for example, is a visual style where you basically envision a camera overhead at a whole bunch of objects laid out and organized. Squarespace, the template and website company had a commercial come out two years ago, two or three years ago, where they used an overhead camera with hands preparing stuff, and the hands were preparing different things, and then the next year, fashion designers were laying out their clothes in that same style, and then the foodies were laying out their ingredients in similar styles. So you saw a trend start with the commercial, and then through the next few years it started seeping its way into almost every single type of industry it could. 

Sacred geometry is really interesting because it’s thousands of years old. The whole idea is rooted in religious thinking, that all the elements in the natural world - like a flower, or a rock, or a mountain - have actual mathematical qualities and shapes to them. And basically, what they were doing is drawing these geometric shapes and combining them with natural imagery. A good example of how sacred geometry is used in contemporary art and design is the new cover for the Coldplay album, for example - the symbol on that cover is sacred geometry. 

And then metallics, we saw a spike this year in terms of the fact that wearable tech was really, really big in 2015. And then in 2016, the aesthetics of wearable tech are starting to kind of bleed into the art and design and fashion world. So there’s a lot of organic fabrics, but they’ll have a more metallic or metal feel. And we’ve noticed that that was inspired by a lot of the wearable tech of 2015."

What are the Two Major Cultural Trends?

"For culture trends this year, one thing that we saw was that there’s a big push and pull of always being connected, and that’s always being connected to our technology, whether it’s always checking our emails in our phones, or wearable technology like the Apple Watch.

But then we saw the counter to that starting to pop up a lot, too, with popular search terms like 'wanderlust' - which is the desire to want to travel - and 'mindfulness' and 'wellness'. And so we’re seeing people embrace technology because it’s really hard to live in this world and society without having some sort of tech on you. But at the same time, people are really trying to get back to nature, and trying to figure out ways that they can have their technology, but then also figure out how to have a better, healthier lifestyle or travel more, and try to disconnect themselves."

What Design Trends Do You See Evolving?

"For me, the one thing that stood out for design trends that I find incredibly fascinating - because, in the report, it’s a 909% increase from last year to this year - is this term called 'material design'. And what’s fascinating to me about this, and even in being a designer, where I find a lot of interest in this is material design is a term coined literally last year by Google on how their UX and UI team was going to start to approach how they designed apps within the Google infrastructure. And what they did is, if we think of your Gmail app on your phone, for example, they took the way Gmail looks and they printed it out on pieces of paper, and they recreated the app in a physical environment. And then what they did is they shined an overhead light on that paper structure they built, and they saw where the shadows were hitting. And they used that as a reference to redesign a lot of their apps."

What are the Video Trends of 2016?

"It goes back to nature. Video trends this year, all the key terms either had something to do with elements or something to do with nature itself. So “nature” is one of the most searched for terms. “Fire” is one, “water” is another, and then “beach” is the final one. It goes back to like we were talking about with that dichotomy in the cultural trends of connected versus unplugged. In video, a lot of times, we noticed this year, people were searching for video terms and clips of the natural environment, of overhead shots of giant sweeping landscapes. And you can even tie that back into how drone photography is huge this year. So people have access to be able to shoot in areas that they wouldn’t normally have been able to."

What are the Key Takeaways for Marketers?

"I think it’s all about getting back to being personal. I think that a lot of what we’re noticing in these trends comes back to how people have a lot more access to technology. Brands are very aware of that, and even on social networks, if you have a bad experience with a brand, you’ll be able to say that to your friends on Twitter very quickly. And so brands are starting to try to go back to having a lot more of a human face. You’ll see brands and companies really start emphasizing a lot of these natural popping colors. And if you look at something like boho, for example, which is taking a 60s hippie, flower-child aesthetic, companies and brands are starting to try to use visual cues for nostalgia, but then mix it with contemporary technology. So I think you’re going to really start to notice contrast. You’re going to start to see a lot of things like “always connected but unplugged”, but it’s all going to be housed within a very personable casing as brands try to connect with their customers."

Follow Jordan on Twitter @DrawJordan and check out the Shutterstock blog.

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