Using custom-designed forecasting methods, search data and data generated from the Getty platform, Grossman and her team identify patterns in the use of visual images around the world as well as conduct “old-fashioned” qualitative research.
The trends to emerge from 2014 included:
- ‘Gender-blend’: Images highlighting the new boundaries of gender roles
- ‘Wonderlust’: Images reflecting the fact that travel is increasingly a journey taken to challenge inherited expectations; and
- ‘Vanguardian’: Images that show businesses and individuals stepping up to contribute to society beyond profits.
“On a practical level, marketers and advertisers should think about how to leverage these trends in their communications,” said Grossman. “In Asia for instance, Wonderlust was a particularly strong trend. People are longing for sensory experiences and treating travel as a pilgrimage. They’re sharing these heightened, almost spiritual images online and in their communities.”
According to Grossman, across all devices and platforms, images that are “sensorial” and “stimulate the five senses” tend to engage well. “If you think about opening your iPad, there are these sweeping landscapes,” she said. “These are visual cues that make you feel that your device is a portal into the world.”
Grossman noted, however, that “wide-angle images with busy details” are less effective on smaller screens, stressing the importance of the context in which images are used. “The key point though is that we’re all at risk of being screen zombies, and people are seeking to have their senses awakened,” she said.
In terms of future trends and a new language for aesthetics, Grossman believes it comes back to “differentiation” because with any trend, there’s a tendency for people to copy. “You need to work with real vision,” she said. “Get on something as early as possible.”
For example, she pointed to the nostalgia trend that spawned heavy use of filters that made images look like old Polaroids. “But then everything started looking the same, and people got over it,” said Grossman. “The same thing happens when emerging talent pioneers a new style of creative, film or photography. People start copying them. But it’s also how visuals evolve.”
The risk of replication and “looking the same” is real for marketers and advertisers, and Grossman acknowledged the particular challenges with stock imagery. “It’s important to do due diligence and look at image history when you’re considering using a creative in your communication or campaign,” said Grossman.
Part of the Getty creative research team’s responsibility is to use its findings to produce “pioneering visual work for the creative community. “We function as our own agency and we use our global network of photographers, videographers and image partners to create new content,” said Grossman. “The research we do allows us to brief our teams and produce creative work that is ahead of the curve and what is already out there."