Part 1: What are the visual design trends for 2018?

8th October 2021

In part 1 of this 2 part series, focusing on Visual Design Trends for 2018, I examine the art of storytelling using images that connect with an audience, and some of the emerging trends you should think about for 2018.

Your selection of images not only personify your brand, but they definitely have a huge impact on how effective your content marketing is. Being on trend with your images and video, is a really practical way to generate additional interest, which naturally translates to better engagement and more click-throughs.

Let’s start by considering some of the trends identified by Getty Images Creative team, who analyzed 1 billion searches and 400 million imagery downloads on, studying advertising trends, and examining pop culture shifts to predict three defining visual trends of 2018.

2018 trend #1 –  A ‘second Renaissance’ in photography: quiet, contemplative images informed by art history. What do they mean by that? Using themes in Art History and transposing them on modern photography themes to create references that seem both new and yet, familiar, at the same time.

What I really like about this is that it requires some thought and skill, to craft a great image, in an age when it has never been easier to take a few shots and share them. What is lost in just taking a shot on your iPhone and sharing it, is perhaps the real opportunity to inspire your audience and embed a very subtle message about product quality or the fact that you are on trend. Style and detail, are also brand elements, and photography is a very powerful visual medium for communication, that the right audience will connect with.

The sample below will give you some idea of the dramatic effect this approach can have, but for a full understanding, check out the mood board.

#1 Visual Design Trend for 2018: Art History

2018 trend #2 –  Conceptual Realism: “Realistic”, “authentic”, “believable”, are buzzwords dominating the commercial marketplace. Semi-unobtainable and aspirational scenes no longer resonate. Consumers have become content creators and imperfect, DIY imagery feels honest. As we lose faith in the Media and once trusted sources, we really crave imagery that looks honest and real. “Conceptual realism” – is emerging as the new reality we want to trust and connect with.

I think this is an inspiring thought for brands that have a genuine honest story to tell. Find ways to keep it real in the imagery you use, and customers will love you for it.

This concept works really well with the objective of being spontaneous, on trend in real-time, and telling an authentic story. For content creators and bloggers, it just seems like this hot 2018 trend is made for you. For product-oriented brands too though, think laterally about how slick your product placement shots really need to be.

The sample below will give you some idea of why people connect with everyday images that relate to events that occur anywhere anytime, but for more insight, check out the mood board.

#2 Visual Design Trend for 2018: Conceptual Realism

2018 trend #3 –  Masculinity Undone: The male psyche is in crisis, with suicide now the number one killer for men under 50. The media fails to present male identities to aspire to: “buffoon” (incompetent dad); sports advertising “hero”; beer commercial “tough guy”; “abman”; and car ad “existentialist man”. In general, we are not excited by these non-ideals or unreal men. More importantly, Millennials are absolutely rejecting gender stereotypes, and these one-dimensional depictions are being challenged.

There is a real trend and hence an opportunity, to show your brand is all about real men. Real men face real challenges. They are not perfect. They don’t need to conform. And we don’t want to be like every other man. Consider how your brand will send a message visually that it is for real men, and for that matter, for real women, who also don’t need to conform.

As per the images below, keeping it real is more likely to connect with men who are tired of the stress of keeping up with the stereotypes, that don’t live in the real world. For more insight, check out the mood board.

#3 Visual Design Trend for 2018: Masculinity Undone

The key takeouts from these trends, that should inspire your thinking, as you approach building an image bank for 2018, are:

  1. There is a place for craftsmanship and the art of photography, but don’t over-engineer the setting. Instead, focus on telling a story.
  2. Invest more in the quality of your camera, than the setting and model in front of it.
  3. Avoid the stereotypes – we don’t connect with them anymore and we do really value authenticity.
  4. Be creative, not typical.

Check out our Best Practice guide for taking great images that work, and stay tuned for more in our mastering photography series.

If you think about these objectives as you set out to select images or create your own, you will be setting yourself up for 2x and 3x growth in your content marketing outcomes, and let’s face it, that’s why we do it. So have fun, take pride, be thoughtful and discerning, and the results will follow.