A close up of two people’s hands, on top of each other. They rest on a denim-clad knee. The arms in shot are covered by blue-grey sleeves.

Today’s innovators, tomorrow’s trends

Everyone loves to know what the next big thing will be and there’s a really simple reason why – because humans are creative, social creatures who love to share. Because of this, trends are an inherent part of life and are influenced by everything from fashion and technology, to science, economics, world events and philosophy. Today we are living in a truly fascinating time that will be examined for generations to come. Thinkers and historians will look at aspects of our daily lives that, unusually, we are already putting under the microscope.
Visual trends, in particular, are a fascinating snapshot of how the world looks at a point in time. You only have to do a quick Google image search of ‘pictures of the sixties’ to immediately see the distinct fashions, colours and design aesthetics of the time. Dig deeper and you can quickly find where the trends that subsequently shaped the way we view a whole decade came from. For example, did you know that it was science and exploration that shaped the shiny fashions of the sixties? A combination of hype around the ‘Space Race’ and the development of new materials like acrylic. Polyester and PVC inspired designers like Pierre Cardin and André Courrèges, who created the looks of white patent ‘Go-go’ boots and silver PVC dresses that we have come to associate with the decade.
The Diffusion of Innovation
By the time a trend goes mainstream, it’s already undergone through quite the journey, which is why at the beginning of each year you’ll see a flurry of predictions coming from everywhere from the ‘Big Four’ consultancies to culinary experts. And people love these insights because being on board with what’s going to be big makes you an early adopter and therefore influential. It’s a model that was developed, once again, in the sixties by a Professor of Communications Studies called Everett Rogers. He created the ‘Diffusion of Innovation Theory’, which sought to explain how an idea or product gains momentum over time, ‘diffusing’ through populations and social systems. His theory names innovators as the originators of ideas, followed by early adopters who have significant influence and drive the trends towards reality. These are followed by the ‘early majority’ – fans who pick up on what the early adopters are doing. The late majority – the cautious ones, who wait to see how things pan out before joining in. And finally, the brutally monikered ‘laggards’ whose adoption is the indicator of a trend becoming a norm.

A young woman with red hair sits up in bed and stretches. The bed clothes are soft and white, the headboard grey and she wears a white dressing gown.
Images of people indulging in home comforts and attending to their personal wellbeing are filtering through to the mainstream as a result of the events of the past year.
A young man sits at a desk wearing a VR headset and holding his fingers in a ‘frame’ pose. In front of him is a laptop, notebook and lamp. Behind him are nine equally sized pieces of artwork in white frames.
New technology is featuring heavily as we seek to look beyond the current circumstances and predict how our lives will look in the future.

What does this mean for what we see?
When innovators and early adopters use images today, they are influenced by what’s happening in the world around them and don’t take long to gain momentum. In fact, it’s almost possible to watch trends roll out across social media in real-time, as influencers pick up fresh filters and ideas. Over the last 12 months, social media has given us plenty of strong examples of how swiftly innovator ideas can gain traction – from Blackout Tuesday to ways of encouraging new demographics to vote, to far less savoury concepts, such as Covid-denying. Specialists like Getty Images and Adobe can quickly see what is gaining pace image-wise through data gleaned from their extensive photo libraries and as a result, they are able to see early photographic trends and watch them grow, as well as being able to spot the next big thing. This particular twelve-month period has, for obvious reasons, been fairly unique in that while we’ve mostly been locked down, the socio-political landscape has been a veritable rollercoaster. And this will have an obvious and direct impact on what we’ll be seeing in the mainstream now and in the future.
Colour, compassion, comfort and nature
Cheerfully, Adobe’s trend spotters have homed in on an atmosphere of kindness, positivity, and hope. They’re seeing a visual move into bright, ‘mood-boosting’ colours, as well a swing towards gentler images that reflect the way we are slowly adjusting to the new way of living. Themes of home comforts, wellbeing-improving lifestyles and loved ones feature heavily. A desire to connect with nature continues to play an important role in how 2021 is portrayed, both in terms of the mental health benefits of being outdoors and in response to important issues of climate change.
Fascination for the future and inclusive expectations
Beyond our immediate circumstances, Getty Images have an eye on what’s next next, with their research showing a strong concern for the digital – in the adoption of exciting future technologies, as a means to stay connected and in how we plan to create balance in our usage of them. This might show itself as we see more images of traditional settings with technology built-in, or people engaging in classic pastimes, like painting or chess. Themes aside, they are pleased to see that audiences now absolutely expect images to be authentic and show life as it truly is – representing all ages, bodies and races and ethnicities.
Of course, the caveat here is always that all trends, by their very nature, are a moveable feast. Influenced as they are by an ever-changing world and the multitudes of media that shape our view of it. But in amongst that transience is something more solid. The images we choose to use today on our social media or in advertising will be the ones that tell the story of our time and shape the way it is seen and spoken about in years to come.

Written by Cecilie Harris