Halfway through one of the most unpredictable years in history, we chat to our experts about the trends they expected, the ones they didn’t, and the trends that no one could have anticipated.
While none of us had 2020 vision for what this year would bring, there’s no denying that – even in the face of a global crisis – creativity always prevails.
In fact, many creative and digital trends didn’t just survive as the world went into lockdown, they actually thrived as an increase in user demand drove and expedited unforseen growth.
In lockdown, all we had to distract and entertain ourselves were our social media feeds, streaming services, online shopping, gaming and video calls and conferences. Apps like Houseparty snuck onto the scene, the US Election campaign was forced online, movies were released straight to iTunes, and Amazon reported North American sales were up 29%.
But has anything really changed in terms of the types of items users are searching for on Envato? At the beginning of the year, we predicted where trends would go across Design, Video, Audio and more. Now – halfway through one of the most unpredictable years in history – we thought it was about time to check in with our predictions at the beginning of 2020 to see how they’ve played out.
In this piece, we touch base with our Envato experts to talk about the trends they expected, the ones they didn’t, and the trends that no one could have ever anticipated…
Last year, Envato’s Graphics Specialist Kate McInnes predicted that we’d see a resurgence of retro styles, particularly the bold colors, shapes and patterns that defined the decade of the 1970s.
And she was right! Since originally making a comeback in 2019, we’ve spotted more and more retro designs dominating the design space. Many brands, artists and designers have embraced the resurgence of retro with open arms, combining the nostalgic familiarity of the old with the modern edge of the new.
“After adopting subtle retro influences in 2019, creatives have been diving head first into the psychedelic 70’s this year,” says Kate. “The style is bright and cheerful. I love it.”
“It’s 2020 and Cyberpunk is still going strong,” confirms Kate. “Personally I’m looking forward to playing the upcoming video game Cyberpunk 2077. The retro future aesthetic is everything I wished for and more. I’m ready to experience and be inspired by Night City!”
Vintage palettes and logos are also on the rise. Going back a full century, searches for the ‘1920s’ and ‘1930s’ are up by 230% and 75% respectively since last year. And gold – a colour closely associated with art-deco and the 1920s – is the most popular colour searched across Market and Elements over the last 12 months.
As environmental issues and awareness continue to influence and impact our everyday lives, terms relating to nature and the environment are fast becoming an ‘evergreen’ content area for stock photos.
“During these challenging economic times, many are still very preoccupied by environmental issues and raise valid questions around the importance the environment should have in the global economic recovery (renewable energy, air quality, natural resources, etc),” says Envato Photos Specialist, Gaby Jalbert.
Searches for ‘environment’ for graphics and photos are up 50% and 60% respectively since last year, and terms such as ‘nature’, ‘recycle’ and ‘sustainable’ are growing even faster! Sustainability is becoming an increasingly pressing topic for brands too – and it’s not just lip service.
“Over the past year I’ve seen a shift in thinking from reduce, reuse, recycle to adopting a low carbon, plastic free lifestyle,” says Kate. “It’s great to see more and more people make sustainable lifestyle choices and use graphic design to share the message with others.“
While “authenticity” has been a hot topic over the last few years, particularly in the worlds of marketing and advertising, it’s clear that this trend isn’t going anywhere. Authenticity is still absolutely dominating the visual space as people crave more real, raw and unfiltered content.
Hyper-real, candid moments captured beautifully by a skilled photographer, be them actually candid or produced to appear so, are still some of the most sought after images online. And when it comes to visual design, showing the design process as well as more unpolished and rough designs are becoming increasingly popular.
We saw this concept of ‘unfiltered’ intensify in lockdown as news anchors cut to experts working from home offices, often being disrupted live on air by their children, and talk show hosts such as Ellen DeGeneres and Jimmy Kimmel began presenting from their living rooms. Actor John Krasinski even launched his own YouTube channel (Some Good News) which captured the spirit of pandemic realness, including sock puppets, makeshift sets and a painted logo.
Over on Envato, while users aren’t specifically searching for images with terms such as ‘authentic’, ‘real’ or ‘raw’, all industry trends and surveys indicate that authenticity is a key factor in visual design and photography.
“The demand for authentic photography that customers can relate to remains very strong. We are also seeing our customers looking for content representing people of all origins, backgrounds, cultures and lifestyles,” says Gaby.
The rise of environmental and social activism throughout 2020 has created an opportunity for more raw, non-editorial content in support of social movements; an organic and unrefined style of content representing social change in an unstaged, candid way. Searches for photos containing the word ‘protest’ are up 78% (with similar results for graphics).
This year has also had an increased focus on mental health, diversity and disability. As the stigma attached to mental health begins to break down – particularly in the wake of the global crisis – and the importance of mental wellbeing comes to the foreground. Photography is beginning to reflect this topic in a big way.
The industry is showing increased demand for images that illustrate an inclusive and diverse society, with key search terms driving content around diversity, inclusivity, and mental health awareness.
A trend that absolutely no one could have predicted, there’s no denying that the COVID-19 global pandemic has had a massive impact on all of our lives – and photos and graphics aren’t exempt. With many people social distancing, pivoting their businesses to digital, working from home, or being directly affected by the virus itself, there’s been a big shift in the type of visual content being created.
“It would be unthinkable not to mention how the current pandemic impacted demand for specifically related content,” says Gaby. “This includes medical research, hygiene best practices, working from home, online education, online shopping, delivery services, social distancing, economic issues, mental illness and so on.”
Since March 2020, we’ve seen COVID-19 related search terms trending heavily, with terms such as corona, quarantine, working from home, stay home and virus in particularly strong demand.
“Information sharing is more important than ever during Covid-19,” says Kate. “Graphics have been made to inform people of rules and regulations. Infographics are accompanying articles and news stories. Icons are being created for app and website designs. It’s been a stressful time. One of the things that has cheered me up is the wonderfully warm and delightful illustrations from the Envato community. Topics including, families spending time together, indoor yoga and work from home arrangements have brightened up my day.”
There’s no denying that video content is dominating the online space. But, with the massive rise of IGTV, Instagram Stories, YouTube and TikTok in the midst of lockdown – we’ve seen an increase in the popularity of live videos and video series throughout 2020. Even typically offline events such as Glastonbury Festival have jumped on board with Virtual Glastonbury Fest, embracing live video and digital content during the pandemic.
Easy to film and fun to watch, these live behind-the-scenes, chit-chat style videos are proving to be the most engaging form of video content online due to their authentic, relatable nature.
However, as people from different industries start adopting this live and long-form video into their marketing approach, customizable graphics are consequently growing in demand as viewers are expecting to see more polished, broadcast-quality content in their feeds.
“I believe live videos can be grouped into the same category as long-form video,” says Envato’s Video Specialist Mark Brodhuber.
“Up until very recently, the unspoken rule for video on the internet was to always try to keep videos short and succinct. Grabbing the viewer’s attention immediately, and getting your message across before they move on to the next one."
A close relative of live video, vertical video is continuing to trend this year. It’s no secret that IGTV and TikTok are quickly becoming some of the most popular formats for live videos, and both favor the vertical format.
We expected demand for vertical video to grow, but it’s becoming so popular, television manufacturers are even making TV’s that can be rotated to support vertical resolutions.
While this trend was sure to have developed despite the global crisis, the increase in social distancing and working from home has certainly had a big influence on the amount of people creating and consuming content from home on their phones.
“We’re seeing our authors producing content with vertical orientation in mind during production, which helps to get the framing and composition just right. But it’s worth noting many items from our existing Stock Video library could easily be rotated and cropped to fit vertical orientations,” says Mark.
The exponential development of technology means that there is a constant stream of new design techniques, styles and creative methods on the rise. As a result, animation and motion trends have grown massively in the design space – particularly fluid animation.
This trend means ample opportunities for designers to flex their creative muscles. Ranging from complex and high-quality to simple and fast real-time animations, fluid animation is a futuristic and mesmerising form of digital art which many creatives are combining with gradients and bold colours for a modern edge.
“Fluid Animation, Bold Colours & Gradients have grown in strength and content creators have managed to blur the lines between all three, merging them together into a fresh new style,” says Mark.
To experiment, try something like Fluido by MIKO, reminiscent of the red and purple swirls of a lava lamp, or try Fluidum by JuicyHats featuring 73 vibrant liquid backgrounds.
While the corporate genre has been labelled ‘boring’ or ‘generic’ in the past, there’s no denying that there’s still a big demand for structured yet uplifting corporate audio. Even in the face of a global economic shutdown, corporate audio has remained a strong and consistent trend that isn’t expected to die down any time soon. Employees may be working from home, but when you’re trying to acquire new clients, pairing a video with professional music is still important.
“Growing numbers of corporate projects continue to define this subgenre as legitimate,” says Envato Audio Specialist, Adrien Gardiner.”
With our 2020 audio trend predictions consisting of sports, travel and corporate soundtracks, this category perhaps best represents that you can never know what’s just around the corner!
But, according to Envato Audio Specialist Adrien Gardner, one of the biggest audio trends for 2020 so far has actually been ‘happy’ – proving that even in times of darkness, we will always find the light.
“Mid 2020, it’s interesting to see that “Happy” has overtaken “Corporate” as far as what’s most in demand,” says Adrien. “This could be hinting that in the midst of our ongoing Covid-19 reality, as the months have worn on, a shift has taken place where people and projects have sought to cling to hope, to reminisce or make memories of happy times, deflecting slightly away perhaps from the otherwise everyday business as usual.”
If you’re looking for an audio track with a happy and uplifting atmosphere, try Be Happy by Lowtone – an acoustic arrangement with a laid-back and easy approach to its own perfect kind of happiness – or Happy by raspberrymusic – a super fresh, modern, clean and upbeat vibe. It’s hard to beat its sunny disposition!
Representative of the social change, activism and overcoming adversity that has defined 2020, Epic audio has really taken off this year. A genre that evokes a sense of hope and determination, we’ve seen an increase in these high impact, high energy pieces that drive the power behind a message to tell a story of hope and inspiration.
"Because their energy relies solely on the rhythms and the building strength of the drums, the result is that the visuals have a lot more space to be perceived, unhindered by the need to tune into the harmonies, melodies or transitions of an otherwise “musical” track," Adrien explains.
Over the past few years, media streaming has absolutely exploded online. In this day and age, almost everyone with a TV or a smartphone has access to at least one streaming service – whether it be for music, video, gaming or communication.
And during these unprecedented times of quarantine and social distancing, it’s no surprise that video streaming, music streaming and video sharing have had a big impact on web and code this year.
“This is a trend we have been seeing in demand for a while, but no doubt has increased over the last few months as more and more people around the world are confined to their homes and media consumption has increased,” says Envato Specialist Andrew Hobson.
In fact, items including the term ‘Netflix’ are performing 3.6x better than average, and terms such as LiveTV, Live Streaming, Video Status, Video Streaming and Movie Streaming are trending heavily. No surprises then that the number of streaming services available are growing by the day, including new arrivals from the likes of Foxtel Australia during lockdown.
If you’re keen to get on the music streaming scene, DeepSound by DoughouzForest is a fast, rich, secured music sharing script perfect for creating your own music website.
Or, if you want to create a website that looks and works like YouTube, Amazon Prime or Netflix, Vodi by MadrasThemes – a Video WordPress Theme for Movies & TV Shows – will have you up and running in no time.
Thanks to the constant evolution of tech, freelancing and self-serve culture, the Gig Economy – a labour market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs – has been a big trend for 2020.
The gig economy has seen the rise of some huge companies such as Uber and AirBnB and we have many visits from potential customers wanting to create the next big service for the gig-economy,” says Andrew.
The global Esports and video game industry is not just surviving, but thriving despite the widespread economic disruption caused by the coronavirus. With social distancing reducing consumer and business activity to a minimum, Esports has fast become an engaging distraction for people at home looking for social interaction, and initial data shows huge growth in playing time and sales since the lockdowns began.
“Esports has been a very popular trend across almost every content type that we sell,” says Andrew. “The industry is going from strength to strength and as such teams and individuals need content to create their own website and promote themselves online.”
And not only has the playing of video games increased 75% since the first week of quarantine – gaming as a spectator sport is also through the roof. Twitch, one the world’s biggest streaming platforms for gamers, is estimated to have grown its audience by up to a third in March alone.
With terms such as 'Pubg', 'Twitch', 'Esport' and 'Freefire' trending everywhere, it’s clear indication that the global crisis has simply accelerated the already growing Esports sector.
If you’re an avid gamer or just keen to stream, check out this Twitch LiveStream Box and Countdown WordPress Plugin by Odin_Design and this Pubg Tournament App Source Code by arinfosoft.
As the technological melting pot becomes more and more diverse and selective, there's been a big increase in cross-platform or ‘universal’ development tools to create apps that run on multiple platforms.
Including frameworks such as Flutter, React Native and Ionic 4, this trend enables developers to create apps to run on a variety of operating systems – Android, iOS, Windows, Blackberry, and so on. The apps built on this framework do not require separate coding for each platform. Instead, coding once will create the foundation for the app to run efficiently on all platforms.
We’ve also seen a big increase in demand for page builders such as Elementor and WordPress Gutenberg, along with Envato’s own Template Kits for Elementor, as more and more small businesses pivot to digital and become hands-on and self-serve in their approach to creating websites and building their online presence.
“We've seen a shift in the way people build websites, with more taking a builder first approach to applying design,” says Envato Content Specialist, Stephen Cronin.
Research by the analysts Retail Economics last year found that 53% of retail sales were expected to be online by 2028, and in the wake of lockdown, that percentage is sure to be on the rise. In fact, a fifth of micro businesses are reported to have gone online for the first time during lockdown, and half of those said their digital and social media tools had increased.
Elementor remains the page-builder of choice, dominating search and continuing to grow in demand, and while Wordpress themes have traditionally been the starting point for building a site, we believe Template Kits will become a go-to tool.
“Template kits for Elementor should be very popular with this customer segment,” says Stephen. “We're expecting a shake up coming, with WordPress adding the full site editor/builder (Gutenberg Phase 2) in December. This will see block based themes emerge and potentially also template kits for Gutenberg as well. That said, I expect Elementor will continue to be popular, as will traditional WordPress themes. Lots to watch in this space over the next year.”
Discover Template Kits for yourself, or find a website for your online business, over on ThemeForest.
Well, if the second half of 2020 is anything like the first, we can safely say that it’s difficult to predict what's ahead! But, stay tuned to the Envato Blog for new and emerging creative trends – like our latest blogs on Ecommerce Trends, Mockup Trends and Font Trends – or check out our Creative Trend Predictions for 2020 to see how far we’ve come!