After nearly two years living under the shadow of a global pandemic, many elements of our lives have changed. And as we begin a new year, so much remains uncertain.
While a year or two ago, brands reacted to the pandemic and its associated social distancing, mask requirements, and other behavior changes with cautious, subdued messaging, things have evolved. Key themes like comfort, connection, and self-care in the face of mounting global challenges continue to appear. However, there is also a growing confidence and acceptance of our new reality — with companies in nearly every sector embracing remote or hybrid work and the digital transformation that only accelerates with each passing season.
As more of us live more of our lives online — through video meetings, asynchronous and remote digitally-enabled work, social media networks, massive online gaming communities, and now the rising metaverse — two major themes stand out. First, people are hungry for optimism, and that unquenchable thirst for fun, whimsy, and play is evident across ages, industries, and brand categories. And second, we are all even hungrier for authentic, meaningful connection, determined to protect the wellbeing of ourselves and loved ones.
These two central drivers are deeply felt and deeply human, and they complement each other, in the ideas they spark and the visuals needed to express them. We’ve seen variations on these themes throughout Adobe Stock research requests, customer data, and across a multitude of major industry campaigns. This year’s forecast synthesizes what we have learned from the stock industry, customer signals, and our own research to bring you the most important trends to know across photography, illustration, vector graphics, design templates, motion graphics, 3D and immersive experiences.
Welcome to the 2022 Creative Trends forecast from Adobe Stock.
It’s almost overwhelming how many brands and commercial campaigns are offering themes of optimism and playfulness. Powerfully Playful delights with bright, bold colors, games and dancing, animated elements, and a big dash of nostalgia. For weary consumers across sectors from fashion and beauty, food and beverage, and other major product segments, this trend focuses on a sense of laughter, enthusiasm, and hope. Underneath the whimsy, at the core of this trend is grit: the determination to keep going and keep smiling in the face of mounting challenges, no matter how steep.
The Centered Self
With the effects of the coronavirus pandemic still reverberating throughout the world and the bumpy, uneven return to public life for many introducing new stresses, we are all battling with some degree of burnout and self-doubt. In uncertain and challenging moments, people are turning en masse to the value of prioritizing and sustaining their mental health. With even world-famous elite athletes like Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles protecting themselves by withdrawing from high profile sporting events, there is growing mainstream acknowledgement of the right we all have — to exercise strong boundaries in service to our mental wellbeing.
Prioritize Our Planet
Public concerns about the environment and climate change are at an all-time high. 2021 brought one natural disaster after another from floods to fires, continually bringing the reality of climate change into the headlines. The visual trend we have dubbed Prioritize Our Planet is more than just a continuation of the move toward greater sustainability, however; it captures an accelerating mainstream hunger for regeneration and reversal of our course towards environmental devastation. As consumers gain greater awareness and sophistication around environmental topics, major brands continue to emphasize their alignment with those values.
In the Groove
Mainstream campaigns are packed with dynamic movement. Even in still advertisements, visuals depicting the swirls of clothing and hair or the graceful lines of dancing bodies in motion are having more than a moment. Movement as a central subject in brand campaigns is not only beautiful and visually inspiring — it is also a way for us to experience physicality without needing to touch. Even though we may be alone, working remotely, socially distanced from one another, these visuals allow us to stay sensually connected, at least in our minds.
Soft Pop is a trend defined by fun, pliable forms. These visuals are largely characterized by 3D cartooning, character narrative, and squishy appearances. A design-centric relative of the Powerfully Playful visual trend, Soft Pop oozes with playful optimism and sweet colors. Recurring elements of this trend include emojis, cartoons, and symbols loaded with personality; soft, rounded, curved, or exaggerated shapes and forms. Type is a huge part of this trend, with dimensional, bubble, or other statement typefaces springing off the screen in advertising, lettering, identity and character design.
New Naturalism aesthetics are defined by their clean modernism and almost-clinical elevation of the organic. These visuals are inspired by process art, post-minimalism, and clean living. Most prominently appearing in fresh, contemporary designs that highlight compositional elements to make a statement, we are seeing New Naturalism emerge in many industries, most notably in fashion, beauty, and interior design. Black, white, and terracotta color palettes mix in earth tones like mossy, deep greens, anchoring this trend back to the soil.
Celebrating creative craft and heritage with handmade illustration and design elements, Heritage Craft explodes with a layered and joyful maximalism from all over the world by examining local folk art, patterns, illustration, and design. The trend presents different hyperlocal and regional art and design elements, mixing the colorful, hand-drawn, and chaotic with both organic and geometric shapes. Beyond geometry, we see an abundance of figures and nature themes, as well as decorative serif or hand-drawn type. This trend is especially strong in textile and pattern design, packaging and identity design, illustration, and seasonal stationery and layouts.
Otherworldly Visions draws from a slightly cynical yet imaginative and progressive alternative reality. Melding influences and elements from Afrofuturism, solarpunk, and vaporwave aesthetics, these designs can include softened color gradients, ethereal illustrations, optical illusions, and wild design combinations exploring dreamy contrasts. Highly sophisticated and intellectually informed, this trend inherits high-tech elements from cyberpunk and sci-fi aesthetics, yet takes them to an entirely new place with lush, surreal gradients, 3D surfaces and textures, and out of this world fashion and set design, on- and off-screen.
What is the metaverse? To sum up the indescribable, it’s a world of virtual spaces, where users can interact, connect, and explore online. More and more brands are getting into the game, which is now seeping out of the internet and into our physical reality with a deluge of visuals incorporating digital effects, grids, and graphics to enhance campaigns. As the metaverse emerges as a mainstream concept and destination, its foundational aesthetic is evolving, creating a bridge between the digital and physical worlds.
The motion trend companion to our visual trend In the Groove, this trend tracks the huge popularity of movement, dance, and rhythm across every mainstream sector. From brands like Apple to Adidas to Toyota to Bud Light, everyone seems to not just want but need to get moving.
Hyperrealism meets a sense of sweetness and whimsy — using cutting edge advanced technology to enact surreal levels of fun. This trend in motion is popping up everywhere online and especially out-of-home advertising, with campaign visuals playing with scale, optical illusions, and cartoon effects to express a sense of depth. As the software powering visual effects and animation gets more affordable and ubiquitous, artists are creating new animation styles in response, and we’re seeing this all over our collection of backgrounds, 3D renders, and motion graphics templates.
Copy and Captions
Text, captions, subtitles — however you do it, text elements are an absolute must for social content in 2022. Since the vast majority of social video is being consumed without sound on (either by viewer choice, or because videos in social feeds play on mute by default) adding text overlays have become an essential part of creating successful video campaigns for channels like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. In addition, accessibility for deaf people has become a higher mainstream priority, as brands and consumers alike gain sophistication in their understanding of how to create inclusive content. Unapologetically unpretentious, these captions are not especially artful or “designed” — instead, they aim to communicate clearly and immediately.
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