Dear Copywriter: Are These Culture-Shaping Visual Trends On Your Radar?

Estimated reading time: 17 minute(s)

Does your copy reflect the world as your reader sees it?

Although copywriters are word people in general, the good ones also keep an eagle eye on the images appearing in our culture—and what they reveal about our evolving wants and needs. In this post, we’ll do just that, with a bit of help from Adobe. 

Each year, Adobe comes out with a hit list of visual trends all of us marketers, copywriters, creatives, and brand ambassadors need to watch. In one fell swoop, it provides a crystal clear and comprehensive view into the looks that have dominated shows and galleries, brand campaigns, and even Adobe’s own stock image collection over the past year. Considering Adobe works with some of the most influential image makers in the world, their annual list is an excellent way for marketers, artists, and brands to learn more about what’s currently drawing consumer’s attention—and why.

Trends offer confidence, data and understanding about what’s resonating at the moment—and based on Adobe’s list it seems authenticity, intimacy and tactility are chief among our current unconscious wants and desires.

Without further adieu, let’s dig further into five themes inspiring consumer’s imaginations in 2019:

1. Isolation in Nature

Stark, rugged images of the natural world. You see this visual trend everywhere in media these days—it’s about as pervasive as the flannel shirts and man-buns featured within them. These visuals showcase places of deep silence and solitude: mountain landscapes, green filtered forests, hazy fog hanging over frozen ponds….a loon. You get the idea.

Images like these are like a Xanax for the stressed out soul; they offer a brief moment of relief for us hordes of information-age worker-drones who spend our days withering under fluorescent lighting instead of breathing Mother Nature’s fresh wintergreen air. We long for places like this. It makes sense we’d want to pepper all our creative work with them.

2. Fluid Intersections  

There are a lot of new ways to think about the modern “self”—like, what does an ‘identity’ even mean anymore? Gender, age, race, circle, circumstance: aren’t we often many things at once? Different personas swapped out like hats, a melange of traits, preferences, and intersections?

 

Our culture is clearly making a titanic shift, and those on the creative edge of our visual world are seeking powerful, fluid, non-conforming images that celebrate differences instead of hiding them. Beauty brands started the trend in 2017 and then 2018 saw a wave of industries and larger luxury brands like Absolute, Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz, Verizon and FedEx reaching for non-traditional stories featuring vivid, non-binary, panracial, LGBTQ-friendly visual content.

 

While past creative impulses might have been more about stereotype-busting (i.e. showing manly men with a feminine side or vice versa), this year’s tactic is more about taking constructs like race and gender, and then pulverizing them until they’re a fine, indistinguishable dust (…and then maybe shooting lasers through them and throwing a warehouse party?? I dunno. Something bold, mind-bending, and beautiful).

3. Authenticity

Broadening globalism, and a parallel focus on localism has made our small world even smaller, with travel, telecommuting, and technology driving a shift in what it means to be both citizens of work, and of the world.  

As a result, images that speak to authentic experiences, and gritty realism are emerging as popular—presumably to appeal to the specifically-millennial preference for stories over material things, exploration over manufactured experiences, and immersion over cultural appropriation.

 

Therefore, what we see emerging are real backdrops, authentic locations, and less filters. All those perfectly imperfect details you can’t fake are now left within frame instead of cropped out. If this visual trend is to be believed, it’s the world and all its Truth we’re interested in—NOT the glossy centerfolds of yore. 

4. Creative Reality

Paradoxically, just as a trend for authenticity emerges, so too does a preference for escapism—especially during what has been last year’s particularly chaotic, unsettling, and politically-trying times. As democracy around the globe is threatened and our culture-wars rage on, it seems this striking shift in visual media is about opening windows into otherworldly scenes of fantasy, playfulness, idealism, or serenity.  

Featuring humans in strange spaces, objects and details that border on the psychedelic, and our natural world blended with eccentric colors, textures, and filters, this is a visual trend all about stretching the human imagination with a hyper-sensory exploration of an enhanced or altered reality. Similar to our trend #1, Isolation in Nature, this visual style is less a Xanax for the stressed out soul—and probably more like a hit of purple acid.

5. Touch & Connection  

Also on the sensorial spectrum, is a noticeable push by artists (of other disciplines in the last year too, like fashion, beauty, design, etc) to evoke the tactile. As we spend more and more time in alternate, online realities—over face-to-face time with actual people and real objects—our increasingly digital lives are starved for analog contact.

As a counterbalance, 2019 will see a glut of work fostering a closer connection to the physical world. Visuals that engage your senses, and subjects that look you directly in the eye to make a personal or unexpected association. These are images that have a weight, a smell, and a texture—they practically demand that you enter that space and live there for a moment.

Trends, just like yearly hit lists, come and go but the information marketers and influencers can gain from tracking them is far from fleeting. Not only are they a snapshot of what’s going on in our culture at any given moment—in my opinion, they’re the best lens through which to view our values, aspirations, and unconscious desires.

Writing from the top of 2019, I’d say Adobe’s summation of our past year—through art, media, and world events—feels pretty dead on. Let us know if you agree, in the comments below.

Want your brand’s copy and content to stay both current, and enduring? Contact our marketing trendspotters and we’ll make it happen.

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Sarah Lybrand

Sarah is a writer, producer, and mom, not in that order, and thinks these pursuits may have a few things in common: not sleeping, heavy drinking, and flying by the seat of some probably-stained pants. But her love for cracking open a new topic and swimming in it means she’s had the pleasure of learning about, and writing content as varied as personal finance, corporate learning, non-traditional relationships, orgasmic births, and, what it means to be person who is both a mom and a lover of coffee. You can find her work in trade magazines, corporate websites, feminist rags, parenting blogs, and just maybe, in a page-turning, tell-all memoir one day.

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