hello@mietistudio.co.ke | +254 777 124780

The Look of 2020: This year’s big visual trends – according to stock libraries

By | on December 19, 2019

Art and design predictions that’ll define your client work in the new decade.

We all know what the colour of 2020 is – Classic Blue, according to Pantone – but what about visual trends in general? How will visual culture look in 2020, and in what ways will it impact on your art and design work?

The brands who always have an answer for this are the stock image brigade; we’re talking Adobe Stock, Shutterstock, Storyblocks, Depositphotos and their like, who this time of year come around with their big forecasts for the year ahead.

Below you’ll find their predictions, as calculated by what sort of images customer are gravitating towards on their sites – and which hopefully they’ll sell more of in the months to come! As such, take a pinch of salt with these guesses, much like you would with any flowery Pantone announcement.

Design Trends 2020


Creatives everywhere should be looking out for a return to Bauhaus aesthetics. According to Depositphotos, it’s all about ‘less is more.’

Martin Holoubek, CEO at PIXIT explains: “Flat or semi-flat design, minimalism and smooth motion driven experiences will continue gaining popularity, but will definitely be taken to the next level with more intense interactivity, even more complex transitions and the use of 3D elements.

“Furthermore we’ll experience new, unconventional layouts, custom typography and illustrations, which visually transform to a real image.”

Bounding from Bauhaus to another B word, Brutalism will also bounce back, symbolising an “evolving, rebellious trend” according to Depositphotos that urges both designers and viewers to step outside their comfort zone.

“We see too many cases of ‘good design’ that is borderline boring. Enter brutalism. Despite the seemingly simple execution and freedom from rules, it’s far from being an easy stylistic to achieve,” says Evgeny Vetrov, art Director at BBDO Warsaw

“Not every skewed layout with odd typography and distorted proportions becomes ‘stylish’. The key is to be unconventional, attract attention, but avoid looking tacky to stay in line with the aesthetics.”

Such a raw, ‘digital decay’ aesthetic results in an overall stylistic that commands attention. It’s may not be pretty, but it’ll certainly make your work stand out in a pool of perfectionism.

Image by gauthierdan courtesy of Depositphotos.

Confusing viewers with distorted type and designs is a sure way to get them to pause, appreciate, and understand the message. As such, playing around with optical perceptions will also be big next decade.


Adobe Stock’s recent trend findings included a sneak preview of their design predictions, from which we learnt of something they’re calling ‘Handmade Humanism’, where hand-drawn and DIY-inspired elements are offered by brands to give more of a personal touch in our virtual age. This ties in with how we’re seeing a lot more watercolour illustrators blowing up on social media these days.

Two old art styles will be returning, with futuristic updates on Art Deco on the horizon and the style of Semi Surreal, with new tools and techniques bringing fantastical imagery to life. For the latter, think Grimes and her more recent cover artwork.

Art Deco updated
Semi Surreal

Another old look is coming, but one more from the music scene than the art world: the Goth aesthetic, imbuing dark and edgy visuals with analogue and digital elements to make what they’re calling Modern Goth.

Colour Trends 2020

Classic Blue isn’t the be all and end all next year, as is clear from Shutterstock’s recent Colour Trends report.

The stock giant is saying that next year is all about sensational shades. Screw subtlety, in other words, even if Pantone is saying the opposite with their rather conservative choice this year.

Lush Lava (hex #ff4500, below)  heads Shutterstock’s three top colour tips for 2020, a bold and fiery orange-red that definitely turns heads. Think sunsets or the burning embers of a roaring Christmas fireplace.

Aqua Menthe (hex #7FFFD4) is more closer to Pantone’s pick, and chimes with the big P’s aquatic-themed Colour Planner from spring.

The colour is a mix of cyan and mint, bright and serene and evocative of a “playful, modern, and outgoing personality”, to quote Shutterstock.

Shutterstock’s final choice Phantom Blue (hex #191970) may not be ‘classic’ but does have that same sophisticated allure.

Used in van Gogh’s Starry Night, this deep saturated indigo-navy perfectly illustrated the dramatic skies around a glowing moon. Darker tones communicate stability and trustworthiness to customers, but Phantom Blue can also be used as a companion for pops of bright, contrasting colours like Lush Lava.

Depositphotos round out the forecasts with a tip that 2020 will be all about palettes that are soothing, gentle, and communicative.

Creative Trends 2020


The next decade will be all about AI and Extended Reality (XR), according to the forecast from Depositphotos.

Facebook’s Horizon and updates with Oculus Quest aim to integrate VR into our daily lives, and it’s not just going to influence the way we spend our leisure time, but the way we shop and communicate as well.

Businesses have to find meaningful ways to leverage the latest tech, and creatives should be ready with visuals takes on the latest tech and its use and applications.

“With the latest developments in AI, the Internet of Things, and XR, we’re seeing the emergence of a ‘global digitalisation’ trend,” says Tatiana Boksha, content curator at Depositphotos.

“Visual content has to adapt, especially for web and mobile interfaces. We’re seeing a growing demand for vertical photographs, designs, and videos that has to be adapted for VR and AR. The technology of tomorrow is going to be possible with design and illustrations which will have to work hand in hand with photos and videos.”

Image by barselona_dreams courtesy of Depositphotos

Speaking of vertical, be read adapt to the new standard of a vertical format, not just in photos but art, video and animation.

Adobe Stock

Back to Adobe, who are indicating that if brands want to get their message out there then, they better speak to not just the young but the old.

For the latter, expect to be creating work that portrays the ageing population as active, healthy and productive members of society.

That spirit of inclusion extends to how brand will be talking to Millennials and Generation Z, remembering that consumers have a stronger sense of community these days and actively seek more purpose-driven lifestyle choices.


Brands will also be expected to show some ’emotional authenticity’, or what stock brand Storyblocks calls ‘Real and Raw’, so expect ads with emotional reactions like tears and jubilation. Public figures may start be being more honest and open to connect with their audiences, too. Depositphotos are claiming the same, recommending creatives go more for honest close-ups focusing on the quality of their work, and underlining the importance of being open with clients.

Storyblocks is also calling 2020 to be the year of more videos where the viewer plays a role in shaping the story.

Early adopters of this visual format have made experiences ranging from customisable cooking lessons to choose-your-narrative ads. Creators implementing this trend will need to be both storytellers and technically-savvy.

Motion Trends 2020


Think organic with motion graphics next year, as used sparingly to intrigue audiences with soothing movement, fluid shapes, and deconstructed forms in animation.

The result is hypnotising works with vibrant, gravity-defying 3D elements that draw the eye and add mystery to dynamic online projects.

Adobe Stock

Adobe’s motion forthcoming trend report suggests some interesting tidbits for digital artists and designers, such as creating more interactive graphics that respond to movement and grab attention.    

Liquid Abstract is the name of another trend, the use of freely flowing shapes and curves to create dynamic and fluid compositions.

Finally, nu-rave is back in the form of Neon Glow, putting neon in motion assets to create a retro, cyberpunkish feel that’s visionary, fun and electric. This ties in with predictions from Depositphotos that the cyberpunk aesthetic is on its way back.

Image by grandfailure courtesy of Depositphotos

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *