Yasmin Arrigo
Jan 17, 2018

'Masculinity undone' and 'conceptual realism': Getty Images' visual trends

Multiculturalism, LGBTQ representation and mental health awareness are the global search terms posting the sharpest increases from brand and agency customers of Getty Images.

'Masculinity undone' and 'conceptual realism': Getty Images' visual trends

Based on Getty Images’ creative research by its visual experts and search and image data, this year’s annual visual trends forecast has identified 'Masculinity Undone', 'Second Renaissance' and 'Conceptual Realism' as the three trends that consumers will be most responsive to in 2018.

The trend data is drawn from 1 billion customer searches and 400 million downloads from the company's website each year.

"The visual trends we anticipate being important to brands and businesses in 2018 behold a sense of optimism: a vision of change, of new heroes and unrelenting creativity," said Andy Saunders, senior vice president of creative content. "For many people who were previously invisible, whose faces or bodies weren’t included in the mainstream media, this is important. These are small steps in making a more culturally rich and interesting world. But small steps can make a big picture." 

The company has been forecasting visual trends for decades, originally as a response to customer queries. Saunders says: "We used to be far too reactive, basing our creative endeavours on what our customers—brands and agencies—asked us for. So instead we began our own research to determine what concepts would become upcoming trends."

This is the fifth iteration of Getty’s Visual Trends in current format, released with the company’s annual creative guidebook, Creative In Focus, which features a deep dive into the search data from regions around the world, revealing rises such as a 258% increase in searches for images relating to mental health awareness, and a steep rise of 385% in images of multi-ethnic families.

With this wealth of data and the company’s access to imagery in advertising and culture, trends can then be forecast. This endeavour is lead by Jacqueline Bourke, senior manager creative insights and her team on data, demographics and cultural trends along with Guy Merrill, head of art, and his team of art directors who are immersed in photography and photographic trends. The 2018 trends are far from micro or country-specific, explains Merrill: "We have tried to focus on macro trends that can resonate with brands across regions."

Masculinity undone

Brands have been refining modern masculinity for the past few years, and stereotypes around men have come under closer scrutiny, with the Advertising Standards Authority recently announcing rules banning gender stereotyping in an effort to help tackle outdated practices. Getty Images’ data shows an increase of 53% in customer searches for "gay dads", "man meditation" is up 126% and customer searches for "single father" have increased by 60%. 


This, combined with the rise in searches for ‘stressed male’ and mental health awareness, highlights a rise in brands looking to break away from the long-established visual stereotypes around male emotions and complexities.

Second Renaissance

The familiar meets the unexpected in the "Second Renaissance" trend, which Merrill describes as "subversive yet beautiful, particularly in the way it can soften and deliver strong messaging", citing the recent Jigsaw Immigration adverts and the "Utopian Fantasy" SS18 campaign for Gucci, where a realist painter created images of paintings with collections of models of different ethnicities for the campaign.

Searches for "luxury abstract" rose by 186% and "Vintage Portrait" was up 94%, which Getty credits as being driven in large part by BAME creators looking for a "more positive, culturally rich visual narrative through the subversion of classic art techniques".

The style includes portraiture from a bygone era and luxury backdrops that resemble paintings and has also been fuelled by professional photographers turning to art history to create more considered images that champion the idea of photographic craft.

Conceptual Realism

"This is the next step for the authenticity story. We have visually savvy consumers who seek real images, a response to all the fake news," explains Bourke.

TKMaxx’s playful yet not contrived style was cited by Bourke as an example of conceptual realism – a combination of new technology, the surge in social media filtering and the public’s current scepticism to take things at their face value, with images executed in a realist style.

Searches for "unexpected concept" were up 116%, while those for ‘reality’ were up 176%, causing content creators to explore these themes and focus on both attainability and relatability.

What the image search data reveals

  • Searches for "Diversity and inclusion" are up 917%
  •  "LGBTQ" search rose 809%.
  •  "Multi-ethnic family" searches went up 385%
  • "Cultural diversity" rose by 252%.
  • "Mental health awareness" rose by 258%.
  • "Emotional stress" up by 263%
  • "Man stressed" up 105% 


Campaign UK

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