Before digging into specific design trends, it’s worth looking at a significant idea underlining much of what we’re seeing expressed in art, music, fashion, and media. Rebellion is shifting the cultural landscape massively. There’s a whiff of revolution in the air, and it’s manifesting as a reaction to rules, rationality, and tradition.
Whether it’s taking to the streets with a poignant message, opting out of the mass-production cycle, or embracing vintage tech as a middle finger to push-button perfection, creatives are responding to a world fed up with the mess technology leaves in its wake. We can see the dehumanising effect it’s had on so much of society, and we’re returning to simpler, authentic, more hands-on ways of making things, and expressing ourselves.
As a brand or an individual looking to engage meaningfully with your audience this year, you’d do well to consider the changing tides. Before you begin trying out fashionable new design ideas, take a moment to consider where they’re coming from, and tune in to the values of the people you’re talking to.
From where we’re standing, there are four major expressions of rebellion having a ripple effect on doing business in 2020: Authentic Imagery, Female Narrative, Reduce-Reuse-Recycle and Protest Aesthetics.
“Far too many brands have ended up alienating us in their attempts to inspire us.”
Phew. The fashion houses and beauty brands finally got the message. We’re not all size zero Scandinavian goddesses with flawless, mathematically symmetrical faces, and we don’t wake up in the morning looking like magical beautician elves pampered us while we slept. How we ever allowed the 0,01% to define how we all ought to look is a mystery for future generations to puzzle over, but in 2020, quite frankly, perfection is booooring.
This was inevitable, and the cracks have been showing for a long time. Like with most things, technology has played a major role in this cultural shift. First off, almost everybody has access to a camera these days, so fashion and portrait photography is no longer an elite skill limited to professional artists and models. On Instagram alone we’re seeing millions of authentic perspectives every day, reframing beauty as something intrinsic, not engineered.
The sorcery of Photoshop has also lost most of its mystery at this stage. We all know that the images we see on covers and in campaigns are retouched to the point of being digital paintings more than photographs. It all starts to feel a bit deceitful, and if we’re not buying the pictures in the ads, then we’re unlikely to buy the product either. Far too many brands have ended up alienating us in their attempts to inspire us.
We’ve seen fashion magazines make statements by publishing raw, un-edited covers in the past. Vogue Italia went a step further in their January 2020 editions, opting to use no photography at all – only illustration.
"Authenticity is a major currency in a world disillusioned with the glossy varnish on advertising."
In fact, the pendulum is swinging so hard, that imperfections aren’t just being tolerated, they’re being celebrated. Women’s shaving brand Billie, for example, is made all the more endearing through its unabashed close-ups on lip fluff and hirsute bikini lines. It’s a dramatic departure from those generic, silky smooth Gillette ads, but masterfully in tune with young women grappling with body positivity.
The good news is that this trend makes everything a little easier. It costs less to be real, with the added bonus of people liking and trusting you more. So scrap the studio, the lights, the photographer, the models, the make-up artist, the post-production, and DYI it: grab your iPhone and a few of your half-good-looking mates, and shoot that new campaign on the fly in your bedroom, or down at the beach. Just make sure you keep it real and at least buy everybody lunch.
It’s all about image selection for this trend, so if you’re not working with your own photographs and relying on image libraries for your content, consider how you search. Even the major libraries are becoming far more in tune with this cultural shift, and there are more and more authentic, representative images coming online every day.
There’s also a growing number of boutique photo libraries focused on rebalancing under-representation, like TONL, Create HER, Scopio, and The Gender Spectrum Collection. Check these out if Unsplash or Pixabay don’t have what you’re looking for.
Resist the urge to gravitate towards the polished, perfect, popular options that churn up in searches, and dig a little deeper. Or scuff them up a little with some analogue texture. Consider the value of more realistic, down-to-earth portrayals.
“If you’re a small, female-owned brand, you and your team are better ambassadors than you might realise.”
Female-oriented brands have unsurprisingly led the way with this shift towards authentic imagery. Freed from the male gaze that defined the classic beauty and fashion standards of decades gone by, women are reclaiming their own representation. There’s an enormous opportunity for getting real with consumers who are sick of the phony gold standard. Beyond the imagery, there’s a shifting paradigm that puts major brand power into the female narrative. Female entrepreneurship is in a golden age right now, and it’s being celebrated widely. There are a growing number of platforms and spaces geared towards support, motivation, opportunities, and knowledge sharing for the #girlboss movement, like Refinery29, Girlgaze, and The Wing.
Tapping into these networks can be hugely beneficial – psychologically and practically. Small collabs and content partnerships with likeminded brands are definitely opportunities to look out for, exposing you to new communities already in tune with your vibe. If you’re a small, female-owned brand, you and your team (no matter how small) are better ambassadors than you might realize, so turn the camera towards yourself from time to time. Your story as a female entrepreneur almost certainly has an audience that wants to hear it.
“There are a growing number of platforms and spaces geared towards support, motivation, opportunities, and knowledge sharing.”
There’s a gap in the market for fresh perspectives on stale cliches. Parade, for example, subverts the sexy lingerie stereotype with real images of real women in their gorgeous underwear. They feature bedroom selfies from satisfied customers alongside their studio shoots on Instagram. It all looks beautiful, but the insight is that iPhone snaps from real fans are at least as valuable and effective as styled, professional shoots.
User-generated content (or UGC) is particularly valuable to brands focused on young female consumers. A steady drip of satisfied selfies is pure gold for a small brand that relies on word-of-mouth marketing, and can be way more effective than expensive campaigns with superstar influencers. People will gladly share this kind of authentic content if your product makes them feel more confident, beautiful, safe, or inspired.
This is why we’re seeing big brands adding more and more re-grammed testimonials in their feed. Not only does it celebrate their product, engaged fans open up cans of new content ideas a marketing director might never have imagined – especially if he’s a dude.
Here again, the easiest way to endorse this Here again, the easiest way to endorse this trend is with authentic imagery, thinking carefully about the pictures you choose to use in your content. Within the Unsplash and Pixabay libraries on Over, you can find collections geared towards specific representation – like this one, curated by Billie. And don’t forget about the smaller, female-focused image libraries like Create HER, and The Gender Spectrum Collection
We also have a great selection of #girlpower graphics that you can use to fly your feminist flag, and create fun, inspiring designs that make a statement. Bold copy on a plain background (in the mode of protest aesthetics) can be the simplest and most powerful way to send a message.
“Conscience is becoming a brighter guiding light for consumers lost in the plastic jungle.”
We’re running out of all the good stuff – like glaciers and animals and beautiful green spaces – but putting more junk into the world than ever before. Whether it’s single-use plastics or single-season fashion, our obsession with cheap products that make our life easier has brought with it some severe side-effects. The environment is the biggest loser, but human rights are often disregarded in the race to produce more of what we want, for less. We end up on a treadmill of mindless consumption, leaving a trail of waste and damage behind us.
Thankfully, more and more of us are choosing to hop off the treadmill, and becoming more aware of what – and how – we consume. There seems to have been a ripple effect on our collective consciousness, with “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” becoming an ethos in art, fashion, food, and just about everything else. At this point, rather than being super cool to be eco-conscious or sustainable, it’s just really uncool not to be.
Aesthetically, this RRR mindset comes across in things like vintage tech, collage, authentic imagery, video remixing, and memes – rejecting excess and newness by reviving old ‘junk’. The rise of thrifting is a great example of how it’s becoming a big cultural movement too. Rocking vintage clothes is both a statement of unique personal expression, and a principled defiance of the fast-fashion disaster. It’s never been more on point. Textile upcycling is also putting out some of the flames, with Vogue predicting that the 2020s will be about making new clothes out of old ones.
With every trend come new opportunities, and right now the online ‘car-boot sale’ represents a massive side-hustling frontier. Turning your wardrobe stuffing into cold, hard cash has never been easier. Thriving on major social media platforms, there are now numerous trading platforms branching off to create their own communities.
Depop is one of the coolest players in this arena. Their huge base of fashion-forward sellers model their unwanted wares on the app, find buyers, and in the process create inspirational content in the form of authentic fashion ideas. Highly active users can grow their own audience, and countless thrifters, fashionistas, collectors, bedroom-designers, and stylists are using the platform to launch careers.
More broadly, reflecting an awareness of sustainability and positioning your brand in opposition to waste and mass-production can only do you good in the current landscape. This doesn’t have to equate to becoming an ‘eco-warrior’, but considering your brand’s impact is a sensible idea.
The January edition of Vogue Italia, for example, featured no photographs at all, only illustration. Aside from affirming the decline of perfect fashion photography, this creative move equated to an astronomical reduction of the carbon footprint typically associated with big shoots all over the world. It was an ecological concern, more than a stylistic concept – and readers loved it. Conscience is becoming a brighter guiding light for consumers lost in the plastic jungle.
We’ve mentioned how thrifting is a huge opportunity at the moment, and we’re all about that side-hustle. Whether your goal is to to rustle up some quick cash to keep your bigger dreams afloat, or to build an online vintage scrunchie empire, we all know that first impressions are important.
So instead of just snapping and posting right away, consider creating a simple frame in Over, and find a font that says: “Hey! Over here!”. Make your virtual shop window pop.
If you just want to infuse some eco-consciousness into your content stream, we also have some beautiful templates and graphic packs in this visual style. There are plenty dates on the calendar when these messages are more relevant (Earth Day, World Environment Day, Global Recycling Day, Arbor Day, World Oceans Day, etc.), but you needn’t wait for these to engage with this hot topic. The destruction of planet earth would be terrible for business, so let’s try and avoid that, shall we?
“There’s a renewed sense that we can actually overcome seemingly impossible challenges – if we all push in the same direction.”
Perhaps the most literal expression of rebellion we’ve been seeing lately is the act of protest itself. It’s one of the purest expressions of democracy and – despite the complications that arise with free speech – protest action has always maintained the uneasy alliance between good an evil. Without it, history would be one long tale of little people under powerful thumbs.
The narrative over the last few years has been one of growing hopelessness. Ruthless capitalism, fake news, pollution, global warming, inequality… like Sisyphus, we’re pushing a big rock up a steep hill, and it keeps rolling back down. But last year we witnessed some great examples of mass protests turning the tide, and the side effect seems to have been a sense of optimism.
In light of Hong Kong, Greta Thunberg, #metoo, and other victories for freedom, common sense, and decency, there’s a renewed sense that we can actually overcome seemingly impossible challenges – if we all push in the same direction. Our voice does matter, and we can use it to create the future we want.
People have taken to social platforms to vent their frustrations for years, and people have been gathering in the street with slogans on placards for much longer than that. With visual communication becoming our go-to mode, we’re seeing an interesting merging of these patterns. Joining protests is quite fashionable, if not for the cause then certainly for the content. Pictures or it didn’t happen, baby.
It’s easy to be cynical about virtue signalling, but there’s a far more optimistic perspective. Broadcasting to your followers with boots on the ground just means you’re amplifying your concern to way more people all around the world. It’s our smartphones, more than our smart signs, that are truly making the message heard.
That said, protests are a fantastic platform for emerging activist-comedians. We all love some clever wordplay sprinkled in with the demand. We’re also more likely to share it with our friends. Raking in those laugh reacts is good strategy if you want more than 12 people to hear what you have to say. Cute drawings don’t hurt either, another example of how childlike expression forms part of the overarching rebellion trend.
Signs, slogans and protest placards inspire a graphic style that speaks of activism and eclecticism. Spontaneity and rawness defines the protest aesthetic, and it’s a very direct way to communicate – especially for younger people who are the biggest drivers of this trend. There aren’t any rules to speak of, but the key insight is that a simple message can be more powerful – and relatable – as a rallying cry.
In 2020 we’ll see US elections, post-Brexit Britain, and more urgency around climate change and the spread of populist rhetoric. Brands will have a vital role to play in helping us rationally judge the information, products and services we consume. And as an individual, your social media feed is your cardboard placard. Be heard.
Simple and direct is the best approach for making your message heard. Big, bold, unmissable fonts in bright colors is always a great way to catch eyeballs, but consider a more humanistic style if you want to invoke the protestor spirit.
Handwritten or sketchy fonts typically convey this feeling. And make it big. No, even bigger than that. Subtle textures (especially cardboard and rough paper) blended into the background can heighten the protest metaphor. A few cutesy graphics sprinkled here and there probably won’t hurt either.
Here are a few quick examples we made in Over. Try it for yourself, and let your rallying cry ring out far and wide.