What Creative Trends Will Take Off in 2021?

A trend forecast tries to predict the future of a market. Every year, Adobe and Shutterstock release their own creative trend reports that predict what colors, designs, themes, etc., will spark consumer demand in design, illustration, photography, videography, and music. The 2021 creative trend reports from both companies have arrived, […]

A trend forecast tries to predict the future of a market. Every year, Adobe and Shutterstock release their own creative trend reports that predict what colors, designs, themes, etc., will spark consumer demand in design, illustration, photography, videography, and music.

The 2021 creative trend reports from both companies have arrived, and we’ve summarized the predictions of both for you in one place. What should creatives expect to see in the art world this year?

1. Themes of Compassion and Comfort

A man and woman hugging very tightly

It’s no secret that 2020 was a very difficult year for everyone. That’s why unity, family, and community are more important now than ever. You don’t want to go through these hard times alone, and that’s why Adobe’s first 2021 trend prediction is something the company calls the “Compassionate Collective.”

Over the past several years, the collective drive to associate with brands that share and demonstrate our values has continued to gain momentum. Compassionate Collective is a visual trend that expresses that craving, along with the desire to connect with strength and empathy.

Art is a powerful thing that can comfort both the creator and the viewer. For a lot of artists, art is catharsis—a way to convey emotions and thoughts that can’t be expressed through words. At the same time, simply taking art in can be comforting, because it’s a visual or auditory piece that confirms that there’s someone else out there that understands how you feel.

We should strive to keep such phenomena in motion, and keep using art as a reminder that we’re all in this together.

2. Authenticity and Inner/Everyday Life Settings

A study room with a work desk, entertainment unit, and guitar

Two of Shutterstock’s photography trend predictions are “candid portraits” and “authentic people.” Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s harder to spend time with folks outside your household. It seems people are searching for photos of real-life instead of picture-perfect settings.

One of the negative effects of social media is that it causes its users to form unrealistic expectations. Open the Instagram account of your favorite celebrity, influencer, or even friend, and you’ll likely find a feed of flawless images. It creates the illusion that this is what their everyday life looks like.

So we now have this desire to find content that displays someone being their most authentic self. YouTube, for instance, has seen increased popularity in vlogs (video blogs) for that reason. Adobe believes that handheld devices will remain trendy this year, as true user-generated content (UGC) and content with the “DIY look” has been on the rise.

Related: How to Discover New YouTube Channels or Users You Might Like

3. Surrealism, Eccentricity, and Vintage Vaporwave

Portrait artwork with color splotches and free-flowing lines

In almost total contrast to the two previous items on this list, we’re seeing some art on the opposite side of the spectrum, too. While it’s always endearing to see something “real,” part of the fun of taking up a creative endeavor is having the power to breathe life into an idea that doesn’t really exist in the natural world.

Shutterstock claims that avant-garde and Picasso-inspired looks are leading the charge. The company expects designers this year to embrace “surreal faces” that focus on flowy linework and other abstract attributes.

Meanwhile, Adobe believes that since more people are online these days, artists will lean more towards vintage vaporwave—an aesthetic that mixes tech-inspired graphics with bright pastels, lo-fi design elements, and checkered/grid patterns.

4. Bright Colors and Wild Patterns

A crumped up tie dyed t-shirt

This next trend group plays heavily into the concepts of color theory. Different colors are widely believed to have varying psychological effects on those who look at them, which is why both companies hope to see more vibrant hues in art and photography.

It’s all rooted in the psychedelic 1970s and the Art Nouveau movement: outstretched shapes, curvy forms and fonts, and colorful gradients.

Shutterstock places huge spotlights on inkscapes and tie-dye patterns, citing “beautiful imperfections amidst the chaos” and “70s nostalgia with a distinctive flair” as two of three of the company’s design trends for 2021.

On the subject of motion graphics trends, Adobe sees creators using more transformative transitions this year.

5. The Great Outdoors

Some boats at the dock by a mountain range

Perhaps this is the most obvious of the visual trends because many of us experience it. Being indoors all the time just makes you want to be outdoors more often. So it’s expected that photography that showcases the beauty of nature—in places we wish to go—will undoubtedly flourish.

After all, when you spend every single day within the same walls and talking to the same people (if there are others in your household), it makes sense that one desperately wishes for the polar opposite. Just for a change of pace.

But perhaps it isn’t enough to simply get a breath of fresh air. Shutterstock anticipates growth in “The Sublime” as a footage trend: raw videos of Mother Nature’s best work. For instance, ocean waves crashing into the edge of a cliff, or mountains appearing and disappearing behind a cloud of fog.

6. Global and Uplifting Rhythms

A woman singing with a band

Music, particularly over the past year or so, has acted as a bridge between different cultures. As other social issues pop up on top of everything that has contributed to “the new normal,” some folks have started to try and better understand one another.

What’s more, audiences now search for the same diversity and inclusiveness in music that they find in other expressive mediums. In fact, Adobe claims that video editors and producers are actively seeking to build a more global and modern feel to their content.

Shutterstock wants 2021 music to be confident and uplifting, just as it says it was last year:

We are seeing some interesting changes this time around [in 2021]. We’re moving full speed ahead to the sounds of brisk BPM, plucky instruments, and sweeping crescendos. It’s playful, it’s uplifting, and it’s here to inspire all the feels.

7. Podcasts

Two women recording a podcast

Similar to the sudden resurgence in the mainstream love for vinyl, podcasts have become an incredibly popular medium out of nowhere. Perhaps the main cause for growth can be attributed to the growing reach of YouTube influencers, but the pandemic definitely contributed to it as well.

Some podcasts are theatrical or informative, but there are also some that simply feel like a casual conversation. It feels friendly, perhaps even familiar, which is exactly the vibe that draws in such big audiences at this point in time.

2021: A Year for Creative Rejuvenation

All of the visual and auditory trends for 2021 are at least partially fueled by the pandemic. Art gives people a creative avenue to express their emotions, and with the way the world stands right now, there is no shortage of intense feelings.

With everything that unfolded in 2020, it’s not surprising to see the creative world in 2021 forecasted as a year full of art centered on healing and getting back into the swing of things. We’ve all been through a lot, and it’d be wonderful to use the power of art to help everyone feel empowered and motivated again.

If you want to read both trend reports in full, Adobe and Shutterstock have them on their respective websites.

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Robert G. Mull

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