The visual trends we predicted are showing up everywhere – but the examples may surprise you.
Back in 2015, our team of experts predicted the visual trends that would take 2016 by storm,referring to them as: Outsider In, Extended Human, Divine Living, Messthetics, Silence vs. Noise and Surreality. Together, they represent the overarching direction in which global visual culture is currently headed. Apart, they encompass the concepts that are shaping how we view and understand the world today. And they’ve been cropping up across all kinds of media since the start of the year.
1. Outsider In
2015 prediction: “People who push the envelope and visuals that break with tradition will be widely embraced as taste becomes more daring.”
We’re seeing representations of all kinds of outsiders this year, from unexpected role reversals to the rise of the rebel and underdog.
While Mini Cooper and Android explore the realm of the reject, Secret Deodorant‘s latest installment of #StressTest ads – which notably aired during last month’s season premiere of The Bachelorette – sees one courageous woman through an unconventional proposal. The spot quickly sent social media abuzz, but whatever the reaction, one thing’s for sure: It’s not something we get to see everyday.
With the “Be together. Not the same,” campaign, Google’s Android operating system celebrates difference and the power that comes from joining together in spite of it. Its newest spot draws on your typical schoolyard bully trope, honing in on a lone, rejected rock, scissor, and piece of paper that band together in outcast solidarity.
Meanwhile, MINI ups its outsider status with #DefyLabels, launched in anticipation of this year’s Superbowl. The ad features celebrity athletes, actors and musicians (who’ve had to endure their own share of labels and name-calling), reciting a slew of MINI monikers before Harvey Keitel finally lets us know: “This car doesn’t care what you call it.”
2. Extended Human
2015 prediction: “Our notion of personhood is expanding as we harness the power of technology in all areas of our lives. The parameters of man and machine are starting to blur, and the results are riveting.”
As technology continues to surpass the furthest reaches of the average person’s imagination, so do the visuals that materialize alongside. Unprecedented innovations in wearable tech and a steady stream of new inventions are transforming the way we – and our bodies – function.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society released a spot this spring highlighting the life and career of surf legend Steve Bettis, who was diagnosed with MS at the age of 57 and is now confined to a wheelchair. Thanks to new technologies, he’s able to virtually experience the thrill of riding a wave while seated in his own home. The visual and auditory results are astounding: 360-degree views, streaming sun over lapping waves, and exchanges with fellow surfers sitting on the sea.
In another breakthrough, Puma has introduced the BeatBot, a literal racing machine, built by MIT engineers to empower and encourage professional runners to push their limits and improve their performances. And this only scratches the surface of what the future has in store for man’s meeting with machines.
Speaking of which, Manus X Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology happens to be this year’s exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s famed Costume Institute. The exhibit explores the ways in which technology is transforming fashion, a theme many of the star-studded Met Gala guests experimented with in their fashion choices. The result? Something a bit beyond human, for sure.
3. Divine Living
2015 prediction: “As brands focus on values, reflection and revelation become front and center, with consumers shifting their focus to more meaningful consumption.”
An array of rising awareness and concerns regarding topics like health care, climate change, conscious consumerism, and politics at home and abroad has pushed us toward a desire to pare down, refocus, and strive for something better. People are valuing quality over quantity and experience over possession – and increasingly, memory over material.
Tourisme Quebec paints a particularly poignant picture in a three-and-half-minute video called “Blind Love.” The clip follows American musician Danny Kean, blind since birth, as he discovers the Canadian region through a series of incredible sights and activities set against beautiful natural backdrops of forests, rivers, fields and beaches, vibrant city scenes, small-town life, and more.
The experiences are so extraordinary, so fully enthralling and sensory-driven, that even without the gift of vision, Kean is able to live them to the fullest. As he says: “There’s a reason why people close their eyes when they kiss, when they cry, and when they pray: because the most essential things in life must be felt with our hearts.”
2015 prediction: “Brands will harness the power of the ugly, messy, sweaty, visceral aesthetic. It’s a rebellion against the order of everyday life that revels in the physicality and soul of human nature.”
Making a bit of a mess is proving to be a great way to get noticed this year, likely because any state of disarray is bound to be distinct from any other. Whether in concept or aesthetic, brands, creatives, and cultural institutions are using chaos to stand out.
Take Megacities Asia, for instance, currently on view at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. The show is scattered across several museum floors and galleries and explores the realities of living in metropolises that house over 10 million inhabitants. The installations reflect the pandemonium of such places, their repetitious and seemingly frenzied multitudes of objects certainly creating an intense impression.
Getty Images’ own spring campaign touches on this trend with an inspiring example of the “Endless Possibilities” our stock-art image libraries are capable of producing. In an effort that took four months to realize, AlmapBBDO’s team was able to assemble four easily identifiable portraits using nothing but photographs from our creative database. The result is a hodgepodge effect that makes for quite the memorable snapshot.
5. Silence vs. Noise
2015 prediction: “This trend focuses on making space for consumers to breathe and reconnect in a cluttered marketplace, engaging our emotions and spirits with visual haikus.”
Graphic minimalism abounds in recent marketing campaigns as well as creative and editorial efforts. British electronica trio Years & Years released their music video for “Desire ft. Tove Lo” this winter. Garnering 18.5 million views on YouTube in the three months since its debut, the video paints a beautiful picture in straight lines and muted colors, punctuated with swirls of bodies and brighter hues. Similarly, in April, the Harper’s Bazaar cover story featured Jennifer Aniston in a series of striking yet subdued portraits that play with contrasts, negative space, and simple silhouettes.
Then there’s Swedish e-payment brand Klarna, which launched a campaign called Smoooth this March, emphasizing just how hiccup-free their services are. According to the Perlorian Brothers, who directed the spots and are known for their eccentric leanings, “The creative approach was to keep them minimal, to keep them graphic, to keep them intriguing, and to keep them smooth. We wanted them to feel a little strange and arty.” Hushed tones, unembellished settings, and unexpected focal points accomplish just that.
2015 prediction: “As we look to visually represent the multifaceted lives we experience in the digital age, the opportunities for creativity are endless. This trend focuses on surreal graphic imagery and plays with ideas of infinity, duality and multiplicity.”
This final dream-like trend is another that keeps coming up lately. An apt atmospheric tool for fashion ads and editorial, Surreality strikes a potent pose in Stella McCartney’s Summer 2016 campaign. The ads feature supermodels Natalia Vodianova and Mariaclara Boscono intertwined and duplicated, leaving the viewer guessing as to where one of them ends and the other begins as they float above their grassy background.
The aesthetic serves as powerful force across the globe as well. Earlier this year, Japanese miso soup brand Marukome released “Kawaii,” an art piece of an advertisement exploring the depths of Japanese cultural identity through psychedelic, pop-art imagery, clever editing, and a killer soundtrack. In short, the stuff of dreams.