Learn about the Top 4 Visual Trends that will shape your work this year with Brenda Milis from Adobe Stock.

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Brenda Milis is the Principle of Creative and Consumer Insights at Adobe, she leads trend research for Adobe Stock. In this interview, we will talk with her about the Top 4 Visual Trends that set the stage for your creative work this year!

Brenda Milis photographed by Reed Young
1. Brenda, it is a pleasure to chat with you! To begin with, could you briefly introduce yourself to our community?

Of course! I am the Principal of Consumer and Creative Insights at Adobe Stock. I lead research that identifies creative trends as well as customer stock content needs to create contemporary, realistic, and engaging commercial projects.

2. Adobe Stock launches a thorough Trends Report every year and you’re behind the process. So there is something we’re curious about! What is a trend? How do you recognize it?

That’s a great question, particularly because the word “trend” can have several meanings.

The visual trends presented in our annual Trends Report as well as coverage throughout the year reflect styles, techniques and topics that began as niche cultural and artistic practices but have gained momentum across multiple sectors, reaching mainstream interest for consumers and therefore having strong commercial appeal.

Once we see a visual style, topic, or technique hitting that tipping point and scaling in terms of viewer engagement and marketplace longevity we can define it as a trend.

3. Why are visual trends so important for today’s creatives?

With visuals constantly disseminated on multiple channels and platforms 24/7, many of us have been keenly aware for some years that we live and work in a quickly changing culture which speeds up shifts across both our creative landscape and consumer engagement with content. The dramatic events across 2020 have only increased this velocity.

With the rapid changes in visual interest around the world — both locally and globally — the importance for creatives to be consistently aware of which types of imagery interests and engages viewers’ attention, to be “visually fluent,” has therefore never been more important to ensure that their work is and remains appealing and relevant to viewers.

4. In your opinion, how have the unprecedented events that we’ve experienced worldwide over the past year contributed to shaping this year’s Visual Trends?

Unsurprisingly, the past year’s events have had a major impact on 2021’s visual trends. From the global health pandemic to the protests around the world against systemic racism, this year’s visual trends reflect the rapid shift of consumers’ priorities and lifestyles as well as restrictions imposed on creatives’ own abilities to produce work due to the widespread need to quarantine, work from home, and stay socially distanced.

5. How do you weigh in the fact that such events might occur and change the direction of the industry and its trends for the year?

The difference for our 2021 visual trends research was simply the speed and dramatic nature of these shifts, the research process remained consistent: social and cultural shifts directly affect visual trends every year, so a regular part of my research includes the study of how the year’s events drive the industry and shape the trends.

They provide context for creatives to understand not just what the trends are, but why they have a strong appeal for consumers and businesses.

We never begin deep research for the next years’ trends until H2 (second half of the year), understanding that the year may end up being lived and look very differently from the way it began.


6. One of the trends emerging from Adobe this year is called “Compassionate Collective.” We’ve seen this trend begin in recent years through different shapes, what would you say that defines it this year?

“Compassionate Collective” is a visual trend with roots in growing consumer interest around social and environmental issues. We have tracked this steadily growing consumer priority at Adobe Stock in our Trends forecasts for 2019’s “Brand Stand” — companies messaging their participation in sustainable and ethical practices —  then 2020’s “From Me to We” — visuals reflecting increasing consumer identification with the greater good.

The widespread impact of Covid-19 and activism calling for change to systemic racism and social inequalities this year made a profound mark on the already steadily scaling prioritization around civic responsibility.

What is new here in The Compassionate Collective is the stress on community — a major theme throughout 2020 as quarantine and social distancing mandates gave birth to a collective yearning for connection and support. Rapidly, we saw a sense of compassion and acts of kindness for those we love and for those who we may not even know but want to help in a variety of ways as we began to understand the diverse range of challenges faced during this turbulent time.

And brands communicated and supported these new values in their messaging, presenting diverse and inclusive experiences, identities and situations in their projects during the pandemic.

7. Hoping that conditions are improving rapidly regarding the pandemic, what advice would you give to creatives who want to produce around this trend?

The need to connect has been and remains a high priority for all of us, so visuals that show ways we connect in person, virtually, one on one, or in groups are all relevant here. Representing acts of personal and/or community support will continue to be extremely popular. Support can come in many shapes and visuals — from group volunteering to simply visiting an elderly neighbor.

8. One of the other Adobe Creative trends this year is “Mood Boosting Colors”, can you describe the reasons for this trend to emerge?

Mood-Boosting color presents the soaring popularity of a spectrum of vivid color in single images. While creatives have had major restrictions imposed on their production schedule and setups, color is a simple and powerful choice in visual production.

Colors have an immediate and emotional impact on viewers, thus the bright array of colors we see in so many commercial visuals this last year was a  powerful way to engage and inspire viewers. This trend brings vibrant spirit to our monochrome days.

9. Most of us today are still experiencing home as the backdrop of our daily lives. Do you think the notion of home has taken on a whole new meaning? Does the trend Comfort Zone illustrate this relationship with our home?

The distance between individuals’ social and private lives has been decreasing for years, yet the sudden spread of Covid-19 in 2020 made homes the singular space for all activities, creating a flurry of products, services and brand messaging that focus on creating balance across personal and professional pursuits. 

The use of the home as a site of personal, professional, and educational activities has created a demand for representations of home life as a 360-degree location of daily life.
Even when and while we resume more outside activities and travel, so many of us will continue to work from home, continue with digital interactions and transactions.

The habits, routines and rituals established with home as a base will continue for the long-term and brand messaging across all sectors — whether for cleaning products, entertainment, fashion, food, fitness, and beyond can and will be portrayed where we dwell.

10. Does the “Breath of fresh air” trend come to counterbalance the previous one by illustrating the desire and need to change the scenery, to get out and feel free again?

Absolutely. I often refer to the “Breath of Fresh Air” visual trend as the flip side of the coin to “Comfort Zone.” This trend presents imagery that reflects our increased desire to be or even just ‘see’ elements of outdoor living and experiences. 

While we have been forced to remain indoors for so many months, our desire to go outside or have experiences that refresh and regenerate us in nature and the outdoors have only increased.

Many brands have been using visuals of local travel and outdoor exploration as well as visuals representing immersion in and cultivation of nature in the country, suburb or urban center to bring the outdoors to consumers, to deliver a sense of revitalization and regeneration so important to maintain a sense of balance and wellbeing.

In addition, imagery related to this trend also address evolving responses around climate change, the environment and sustainability which continue to be of utmost importance across many sectors’ business practices and brand messaging.

11. What advice would you give to creatives so that their creations best meet the needs of today’s consumers and businesses?

Be aware of shifts in social and cultural events and how they affect consumer priorities. What consumers value is an indication of the kinds of visuals they will be interested in viewing. And because all consumers want to see not just their interests, but their lives, and identities represented, diversity in terms of casting is more important than ever before.

These elements determine consumer engagement with contemporary visuals and businesses now prioritize these expectations in their own brand messaging.

Join Adobe Stock as a leading creative brand that values artists and puts your needs first. License your work to millions of buyers and get inspiration, market research, and strategic insights from Adobe Stock’s thought leaders to help plan your projects and guide your success.

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Posted by:Cherrydeck Editorial

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