Shutterstock 2017 Creative Trends

From emojis to laser cutting, what will be hot in the coming year

It’s that time of year again! Our friends at Shutterstock have released their 2017 Creative Trends Report, a highly detailed annual look at what is going to be big in the world of design, photography and other creative disciplines. From moods to materials to media, Shutterstock has been meticulously cataloging creative and cultural touchpoints, and have been using them to make some bold and even unusual predictions.

We wanted to learn a little more about the process behind the report, and so we sat down with Shutterstock Creative Director Terrence Morash and copywriters Graeme Allister and Eleanor Innis to find out how they arrive to the conclusions they do, and more importantly, how do they share that with the world.

Playing devil’s advocate for a second, how is it that Shutterstock knows what’s hot and what’s not in terms of cultural trends? Aren’t you a ‘stock photography company’?

Terrence: (laughs) It’s interesting because at one point you would say that we were a stock photography company, but as the industry has shifted, so have we. Yes, we still provide fresh images, footage and music to everyone from advertising creatives to small businesses. But another thing we’ve it important to provide is intelligence — actionable advice. And the easiest way for us to do this is to analyze over a decade’s worth of data, seeing what impacts the choices that people are making.

That’s really how our Creative Trends report began. The design team here at Shutterstock started to notice certain trends that would then surface through the searches that people would make on our channels. Now this was just anecdotal, but when they partnered with our analysts, they started to get real numbers behind theses searches, month after month and year after year. This allowed them to anticipate what would be popular in the near future.

Now for our customers, that’s really important. It helps them identify what that next cool thing will be. But it’s equally important for our contributors, the people producing content. If they know what’s going to be hot, they know what to create to add to our collection so that it will be ready by the time our customers start actively looking for it.

Let’s cut to the chase. What’s going to be hot for 2017?

Terrence: If you look across all of our trends, I believe the one commonality I see is a return to physicality, to things that are more tangible. We saw a little of that last year, when one of our trends was ‘Material Design’, a term that Google used to represent a new way of developing user interfaces that allowed the use of shadows once again. But now I feel we are seeing the next evolution of this. For instance, ‘white texture’ is coming back into the work we’ve seen creatives doing.

Graeme: For me this coming year is summed up by opposites. You have the precise capabilities of machines versus the messy, unpredictable side of nature.

Eleanor: One of my favorite upcoming design trends is ‘Glitch.’ This represents a dark side of tech. The technology that surrounds us is very ambitious, but what are some of the scarier implications of this? Very much a Black Mirror sense of things.

Graeme: Most people would recognize these trends, but not necessarily know what to call it. These trend reports give them a name.

"Glitch", distorted images that represent the darker side of technology.

“Glitch”, distorted images that represent the darker side of technology.

When designing these trend reports, how influenced are you by the trends themselves?

Terrence: That’s half the fun of creating these! When the information for these reports is given to us, we recognize how many elements we had already began incorporating into our work. For instance, a poster we had worked on for Creative Mornings already had signs of these trends before we actually even looked at the data. That said, once we have the trends, it really informs how we move forward in designing the report. You’ll note that this year, our report is more playful and emoji-driven, but at the same time incorporating some of that darkness.

Eleanor: As writers, the report is always challenging, as we have to give just enough information to provide the context to the images, but at the same time, it must be clear across 20 different languages.

As creatives, what are your tips for making infographics such as the ones in your reports sexy?

Terrence: I think infographics can be sexy when there’s a great story behind them. If you’re just juggling statistics, there’s only so much you can do to make things resonate. In this case, there’s so much information to convey. We’re not just regurgitating data, we’re trying to understand that data ourselves, in order to be able to present it in a way that people can take action on it.

Sometimes, we simply don’t understand things, but are still tasked with making that information appealing. In Canada, the trend is towards clean, renewable energy, while here in the US, the trend is towards ‘jalapeno’. Who knows why? (laughs)


Do the art directors and designers you deal with take bets on what the trends are going to be before you release your report?

Terrence: (laughs) I think they’re more likely to be debating the merits of the trends.

It is interesting though; for years the creative industry has relied on the art directors to be the tastemakers, the ones setting the trends. But what these reports do is fill in the gaps for those companies who don’t have people looking into the future for what’s going to be cool.

Having preparing these reports for some time, can you make any predictions with how this year will end? What will be hot going into 2018?

Terrence: Well it’s a very political time here in the US, as well as in other places over the world, and we’ve seen a shift from bright, friendly images to much darker vibes. It will be interesting to see if that will continue throughout the year and into the next.

I do believe we will be seeing shift in people’s fascination with ‘shiny objects’. Things that seemed like darlings — think Snapchat filters and the like — will get more scrutiny the more they are expected to perform and effectively drive business. I think that by the end of the year we will see a return to big ideas and creativity, not just throwing things against a wall and scrambling towards whatever sticks.