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The ’20s Roar in Shutterstock’s Creative Trends Report

The ’20s Roar in Shutterstock’s Creative Trends Report

Steve Heisler

shutterstock creative trends report header image with 1920s flapper girl amid space imagery

At the turn of the decade, the stock photography company learned that its most trending search queries looked back a century and forward indefinitely

To connect with younger generations in 2020, marketers might want to consider populating their materials with pictures of feathered hats, tarot cards and marijuana plants. Shutterstock’s annual Creative Trends Report, which compiles data from the company’s more than 1.9 million users, notes that popular images in 2020 will likely highlight “The Roaring ’20s”—the occult, floral prints and cannabis iconography.

The Roaring 2020s data slide from Shutterstock Creative Trends Report

The methodology behind the report includes analyzing query growth in each of the major categories. The phrase “gold pattern,” a staple of the 1920s, was searched 4,233% more than in previous years, with “’20s retro” at 189% and “linear geometric” at 106%. Searches for “magic” and “spiritual,” which return images associated with the occult, also increased by a triple-digit percentile. Shutterstock specifically notes that “alt-faiths and age-old beliefs are enchanting millennials, Gen Z and Gen Alpha.” In the following two plant-based categories, “flowerscape” results were up 141% while “marijuana” increased 154%.

Like cannabis, other entries in the nine-item list reflected societal shifts toward activism. The presence of “Wild life” demonstrating an increase in outdoor behavior and a mindset of nature and sustainability. No. 9, noted as “one to watch,” was “protest art,” in which searches for the inequality icon were up 465%.

Wild Life slide from Shutterstock's Creative Trends Report

Last year’s report was dominated by “everything old is new again” motifs. The 1980s featured prominently in the 2019 Creative Trends Report, including searches for “chain print,” “snakeskin pattern” and “leopard print.” The “Yesterday’s Tomorrow” theme featured bright neon light grids and trippy visualizations, and “romance” captured the historical timeframe with cherubs and bards abound. Most notably, the No. 1 trend, “zine culture,” included images that appeared to be assembled from analog magazine cutouts but were prominently featured on social media.

In a statement accompanying the report, Shutterstock’s associate creative director Flo Lau views this year’s trends as an indicator that consumers are hungry for answers and action. “The 2020 Creative Trends Report is filled with a sense of uncertainty, resilience and demand for change,” she says. “We’ve already started seeing these design elements being leveraged in various ways across the world in campaigns, social media, packaging and even fashion—from major retailers like Amazon and Coach leveraging elements of astrology online to help customers shop according to their horoscope, to florals exploding on the runway in major ways for Dior Cruise 2020 as well as Ralph Lauren pre-Spring 2020.”

Chinese Ink Painting slide from Shutterstock's Creative Trends Report

Check out the full report to learn more about upcoming image trends and how your brand can utilize its findings to create a distinct look that roars into 2020.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock

Steve Heisler served as staff writer at the American Marketing Association. His work can be found in Rolling Stone, GQ, The A.V. Club and Chicago Sun-Times. He may be reached at