Updated: Adobe predicts 2021 creative trends and highlights A/NZ creative aptitude

Vendor's two latest creativity-related reports look at the key visual, design, motion and audio media trends for this year, as well as explores the creative aptitude of A/NZ leaders

Adobe Stock’s visual and creative forecast for 2021 has predicted several trends around the theme of resilience rising.

Every year, Adobe Stock combines sources, consumer signals and the experience of its creative team to release the annual trend forecast. Last year, Adobe expanded its forecast from photography, illustration and vectors to include motion graphics, graphic design, 3D renders and immersive experiences. This year, it is introducing audio trends into the mix.

Insights from stock users uncovered the habits formed by creatives over the past year as a result of the pandemic. And in 2020 stock imagery saw an uptick, according to Stock’s State of Creativity Survey, with 91 per cent of creatives seeking content that depicts real-world issues, encompassing more diverse, inclusive and relatable imagery. 

For this year, Adobe is predicting that across all creative mediums, trends will feel especially meaningful—reflecting a range of reactions to the past year, and the hopeful, regenerative spirit with which to face the year ahead.

For example, Adobe's report identified four key visual trends. The first is ‘compassionate collective’ to support, represent and empower all voices and identities through compassion; while the second sees 'mood-boosting colour' enabling consumers to express their beliefs, cultures and values. The 'comfort zone’ theme expresses how the distance between individuals' social and private lives has changed due to COVID-19; while the ‘breath of fresh air’ recognises the cultivation of nature, whether in the country, suburb or urban centre, and provides relief from the restrictions of indoor living and evolving responses around climate change, the environment and sustainability.

Adobe's 2021 design trends, meanwhile, encompass ‘austere Romanticism' where designs offer a Victorian-tinged take on the beauty of nature with a minimal, modern edge and a visual love letter to 1990s Internet. The report highlighted ‘vintage vapourware’ as mixing pop art and outlined sticker graphics, bright pastels matched with neutral tones, and lo-fi design elements. Bauhaus design provides inspiration for an updated return to form and craft; and with design roots in the psychedelic 1970s and the Art Nouveau movement, the ‘psych out' design trend is funky, escapist and bold, the report stated.

Adobe's report noted motion trends such as handheld footage and the user-generated content (UGC) aesthetic have been dominant across industries in 2020, and are expected to be seen everywhere in 2021. Swappable elements means creatives are now creating professional-quality videos by inserting photos and videos into motion templates, while transformative transitions are allowing videos to powerfully move from one scene to the next, or reveal titles and logos within a commercial. The report also noted gradients and the blending of vibrant colours can grab attention and, at the same time, offer a calming presence in turbulent times.

This year marks the first time Adobe Stock also included audio trends in its creative trend forecast. It predicted an appetite for audio tracks that help create a global, modern feel to branded content; music to create podcast stories and ads; and a rise in the demand for all types of electronic music.

Our creative aptitude

Adobe this week also released the latest results from its Adobe CQ (creativity quotient) evaluation tool looking at the creative aptitude of teams and organisations globally by focusing on culture, data, skills, technology and experiences. The results incorporated 2500 leaders across Asia-Pacific including 578 Australian and New Zealand professionals.

The vendor found the majority of A/NZ leaders are performing well, with 60 per cent making into the ‘leader’ ranks. Adobe’s CQ tool groups respondents into visionary, leader, assembler or challenger categories.

Yet just 13 per cent made it to the ‘visionary’ echelons of the list. Adobe also found A/NZ leaders to be strongest in the ‘experience’ category, with 45 per cent excelling in this space. In addition, 58 per cent of respondents saw creativity as a fundamental tool of innovation and evolution and are striving to incorporate it into all aspects of work.

A further 41 per cent were found to be excelling in fostering a creative culture, and 54 per cent said their teams are most creative when there is a problem to be solve.

One area for improvement was use of technology as a creative tool. Compared to the rest of APAC, A/NZ leaders were found to be trailing behind in terms of data and technology, with fewer than one-third excelling in data or technology, compared to 35 per cent and 37 per cent respectively regionally.

“We need to continue to prioritise the development of creative skills, explore ways to upskill teams and invest in new technology to facilitate creativity,” Adobe vice-president Australia and New Zealand, Suzanne Steele.

“Leaders in A/NZ are providing their teams with an environment that celebrates change, and encourages a ‘fail fast’ attitude, allowing brands to challenge the status quo and unlock new endeavours.”

But the largest challenge is fostering these skills. According to the report, 22 per cent of A/NZ leaders excelled in helping their teams develop creative skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration.

“The greatest area of opportunity for A/NZ leaders is to better foster and leverage creative skills within their teams,” said Steele. “We need to see greater focus on upskilling in these skills crucial to the future of work.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.


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