What do leopard print, kawaii and icing letters have in common?
According to Shutterstock’s 2019 Creative Trends Report, they have all seen significant uplift in image searches year on year.
The annual report highlighted the rise of "zine culture" as the core mainstream trend for creatives. There was a 1,376% year-on-year increase in search for contemporary art collage images as the raw, homemade aesthetic got a digital update.
Robyn Lange, curator at Shutterstock, said: "Overall, when you look at the trends across the year, they reflect the fact that people feel like they are in a tumultous time. People are tired, worn out and – although it is a cliché to say it – they are looking back to simplier, fun times."
Lange suggested that the evolution of fanzine culture reflects the need for people to seek out communities of like-minded thinkers in times of stress. "I grew up in the era of early zines. We used to have to gather around photocopier shops to power our self-expression. As it grew, it became more political and represented communities that didn’t feel represented."
Today’s creators of zine culture – whether brands or individual curators – have no need to stand in line at a copy shop. According to Lange, influencers can be seen as an evolution of this culture. "Instagram has allowed people to create their own cultures. Being able to take all these different pieces of media and play with them has always been core to zine culture; but before Instagram, people didn’t have ready-made communities to plug into."
Leopard print is officially 'neutral'
"1980s opulence" is another trend, with a 168% year-on-year increase in searches for leopard-print patterns. This suggests playfulness is a key focus – a shift that means leopard print can now, according to Shutterstock, officially be considered a "neutral". Snakeskin and chain print also saw significant increases in searches.
Escapism is a key trend and the interest in kitsch shows no signs of abating. Kawaii, the Japanese culture of cuteness, is on the verge of becoming mainstream, with a 911% year-on-year increase for kawaii searches.
Digital nostalgia is another trend, reflected in the rise in image downloads for old-school video games, brash neons and futuristic landscapes. "This year, we’ve seen such a diversity of nostalgia, from the Rococo era and its focus on decadence, excess, happiness and indulgence to a broader focus on excess and 80s opulence. At its heart lies an embrace of fun, colour and light."
One rising trend is identified as "beyond plastic", with 729% growth in searches for plastic-free, and hemp and bamboo are also fast becoming popular search terms.
UK leads diversity drive
The increasing awareness in diversity continues to fuel a flight from outdated stereotypes. In Shutterstock's study, 60% of marketers agree that gender is no longer as important a factor when it comes to targeting in marketing campaigns. Globally, UK marketers are leading the way in using more images that feature non-professional models and gender-fluid, non-binary or androgynous people in their campaigns.
"Whether they feel they should take it on themselves or they feel they have no choice, brands are becoming more inclusive. It's a great opportunity for brands to connect with new audiences. There is no downside to kindess and brands are starting to grip that," Lange added.
The report comes from Shutterstock’s global customer base of more than 1.9 million creatives, including designers, art directors, marketers and film-makers.