2021 Is Going to Be Surreal, at Least When It Comes to Creative Trends

2021 Is Going to Be Surreal, at Least When It Comes to Creative Trends

By  |  January 19, 2021  |  Uncategorized  |  No Comments

Tie-dye, inkscapes, surreal face graphics, candid portraits and authentic human images inclusive of non-binary people are increasingly being searched for and will “define creativity in 2021,” according to Shutterstock.

The stock photo provider analyzed the images, videos and music being searched for most often across its platform to predict which trends would be a mainstay in 2021. The company looked at trends both in photography and graphics for its 10th annual creative trends report.

In photography, Shutterstock reported, it’s been seeing an increasing movement toward presenting the world, and the people who inhabit it, in a more authentic and unfiltered way.

Searches for “nonbinary,” “candid portrait,” and “authentic people” were major trends Shutterstock predicts to endure through the year.

Swirling pastels and translucent hues

In searches for graphics, tie-dye has fast emerged as “the new darling of digital design” thanks to the pattern’s uplifting links with ’70s nostalgia, the company said.

In particular, Shutterstock said search trends pointed to pastel tie-dye, shibori pattern tie-die and pastel swirl designs. This appears in keeping with the company’s color trends report for 2021, released in November, which predicted calm colors would dominate this year.

By contrast, its 2020 color trends report predicted bold “maximalism and saturated hues” would define the year.

Freeflowing “inkscapes” made of translucent hues, snaking metallic swirls, and foamy sprays of color will also make a mark in 2021, Shutterstock predicted based on its analysis of search terms.


Surreal, avant-garde and “Picasso-esque” faces were also picking up steam, Shutterstock said, with “face line art,” “face painting” and “contemporary portrait” in demand.

This year’s trends centered around individuality, imperfection, authenticity, and escapism

Flo Lau, Shutterstock’s head of creative

Reflecting the uncertain realities of 2020 and 2021, Shutterstock also saw a surge in searches for “information overload” and “body and mind” as well as more exploratory terms, such as “biodiversity” and “space HDRI” (high dynamic range image)—which together the company labeled as “The Unexplored.”

Flo Lau, Shutterstock’s head of creative, said the report was intended to “inform and inspire all creators, from creative directors to vloggers, and small business owners” with “data-driven trends.”

“Shutterstock’s users perform billions of searches on our site every year, looking for that perfect image, video or music track for their projects,” she said.

In video, Shutterstock data showed a surge in video searches for eccentric, playful animation styles as well as dramatic natural beauty including stormy beaches and mountains. In music, “uplifting and playful” strings were popular as creators sought to produce ” a distinctive sensorial experience.”

“We see that creators are looking for content that reflects a sense of breaking out from the day-to-day, to gain a greater understanding of the unknown,” Lau said. “This year’s trends centered around individuality, imperfection, authenticity, and escapism—[and] despite the obstacles we were forced to navigate, and the uncertainty we faced, there was no shortage of creativity and innovation.”

About the Author: Sara Spary

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