McLaren, GSK and Getty Images' top designers on the next decade's visual trends

With visual references in our sights and at our fingertips 24/7, it can be difficult for marketers to decide what to digest, develop or discard. Rebecca Coleman provides her insights into visual trends and asks top creatives for their design predictions.

We’re now well into 2016 and it’s time to assess what’s hitting the right visual and design notes with consumers and where the marketing and design worlds are heading in the next 12 months to 10 years. 

Under an umbrella of apparently endless everything, from aisles to data, it has never been more important to locate the right inspiration at the right time. 

A personal prediction

One trend that is growing rapidly is the desire to break taboos through design. If the 90s was all about shock factor, the 2010s are set to be emblazoned on the collective memory as the decade when watching porn became acceptable, instead of a seedy, secret act; female body hair made a major and empowering comeback; and menstruation, masturbation and mental health were finally on the mainstream agenda. NSFW content is on the increase across channels, but in the near future the N might well be dropped, as we all become more accepting of our human facets.

This is part of a broader trend that embraces greater realism and frankness. From straight-talking politicians to flawed role models, members of the public are ready for a more raw – and truly authentic – representation of their lives in brand storytelling. 

That is my top prediction for how the visual and design landscape is shifting. Having spoken to creative and marketing leaders in industries ranging from automotive to health, there is so much more to explore – for example, the beauty of nature, wearable wellbeing and a reawakening of teenage thirst for rebellion. 

Automotive  biomimicry

Frank Stephenson

Director of design at high-performance car manufacturer McLaren Automotive, on a future of biomimicking cars.

Over the next decade, there will be major developments in the design both of car interiors and exteriors. The exterior is particularly interesting because you buy a car, in the first instance, based on an emotional reaction to its appearance. 

In the not-too-distant future, I see active aerodynamics as not only bits coming out of the car, but evolving to a point where the car actually changes shape as it drives. That’s quite straightforward to do; form has memory and you can put an electrical charge through the material of the car to initiate a change in shape as the driver speeds up. 

We see this very often in nature. Many organisms change their form to perform different functions more efficiently and effectively. Just like nature has been perfecting itself for millions of years, we can now create cars that have an almost biological response to their environments. 

We’re looking at chameleons and their ability to change colour, and how we can apply that to an automobile.

For example, you could use a colour spectrum wheel to select the colour you want your car to be on any particular day of the week. The car starts to become at one with you; [it] starts to create a bond, and driving becomes much more of a personal experience. 


Human-centric design 

Jamie Stone

Global head of design, category nutrition, at pharmaceuticals and healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline, on human-centric design.

Whether we look at the past or talk about future trends, great designs will always be founded on social, cultural and people perspectives. The big design trends that the curious and courageous among us will drive will be those that connect us to humanity.

The world is not global, it is local. The corporate world is increasingly understanding the importance of cultural and social factors that inform the adoption of global trends to suit local lifestyles. As consumers start asking for more authenticity and exclusivity, the anonymity of global experiences will increasingly move design in a direction that favours local knowledge.

There is a huge increase in appetite for health and fitness information, and design will need
to respond to this rise of personal moments. Tie-ups between smart devices and sensors in wearables will soon start to tell us some really interesting stuff about our bodies. 

Imagine the power of that information to one of the big sports-drink or protein-supplement players. Getting their consumers to refuel correctly based on their personal situation, and targeted to their specific needs, would be huge.

If the sports-nutrition business can ensure consumers take the right products at the right time, there could be an intimate moment between people and brands that could help us live our lives to the full.

At a time when things continue to move faster and consumers are spending more time digesting more media, but spending less time on any one bit of it, brands are working harder than ever to retain loyalty and interest. One initiative we will see a lot more of is the customisation of brand graphics to appeal directly to individual consumers. From personalised Coke to Absolut Unique bottles, brands are tapping into our craving for our individual needs to be met.

Experiential interfaces

Nicole Burrow

Associate experience director at agency Huge, on getting digitally experiential.

Marketers and designers are continually looking to develop content that differentiates them from competitors. In 2016 we’ll see content evolve to be more immersive and interactive. 

One example is the use of live streaming/video. This will be especially relevant for experiential brands, such as those in the travel industry.

Giving users a peek into the actual rooms, the hotel grounds and so on will provide brands with a new sense of openness and credibility.

The use of video and animation will be incorporated into interfaces even more as we look for ways to bring products to life and create depth in our designs.

Rebellion meets divinity 

Andrew Saunders

Senior vice-president, creative content, at photo and multimedia agency Getty Images, on rebellion and spirituality.

We are in the midst of a revolution in the generation and distribution of imagery; it sits squarely at the centre of the way in which we communicate with each other. Our familiarity with social media together with emerging technologies like 360° and virtual reality, which are further stretching the boundaries of image use, mean that we are becoming more sophisticated and demanding as consumers of imagery.

At Getty Images we compile our annual ‘Creative in Focus’ trends, based on insights from popular culture and how those are having an impact on image use. We back this up with hard evidence from search data gathered on our website. From this we’re able to identify the key changes we expect to surface in advertising over the year.

Trends we expect to emerge this year include one we’ve named ‘Outsider In’, reflecting a growing desire to break with tradition. An example of one conservative brand demonstrating this trend would be Bank of America’s use of Billy Idol singing Rebel Yell. Indeed, image searches for the keyword ‘rebellious’ on our site have increased by 300% over the past year.

More than ever before, people are focusing on the brand values of advertisers as a way to filter consumption; we are increasingly purchasing with purpose. As a result, we are expecting to see more visuals that show mindfulness and spirituality, but also an appreciation for the finer things. 

This is a trend that we’re calling ‘Divine Living’. Our data shows visual searches for ‘mindfulness’ have increased by 900%. Soul-searching and contemplation are also key elements of this trend. UBS, for example, connects the concept of wealth with the idea of being a more thoughtful and introspective person in its campaign shot by Annie Leibovitz, which shows people in moments of repose, asking them-selves questions about how to live more meaningful lives. 

Wearable wellness 

Steve Tidball

Founder of adventure-clothing brand Vollebak, on designing for the quantified self.

Over the next 12 months, good design will help make wearable tech increasingly invisible. Instead of putting what look like bits of computer on your head or wrist, we’re going to see an increase in embedded tech. It’s going to be embedded not just in the things you already wear, but also in the way you behave. 

We’re going to see more examples of product design coupled with behavioural design, because an understanding of behaviour is critical in persuading people to do something profoundly new. Halo Neuroscience, which will launch its first product this autumn, is a good example of this.

Its technology delivers pulses of energy directly to the brain to help athletes learn new skills or increase their strength faster while they train. 

Just as clever as the technology of "neuropriming" developed by Halo is the design decision it took to embed it into a pair of regular-looking headphones – an item that’s a natural part of training for a lot of athletes. 

The buying choice becomes simple: do you want to listen to music while you train, or do you want to listen to music and nearly double your performance gains at the same time? This approach is a trend set
to continue.

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