My Love-Hate Relationship with Creative Trends
Last week, I attended a seminar at Getty Images by trends expert Rebecca Swift discussing the biggest visual trends today. It is good to see that commercial photographers are creating work based on current technology trends and cultural shifts. For instance, how we are starting to see more of the point-of-view compositions which have been greatly influenced by the popularity of GoPro cameras and remote-controlled drones, and as a big step towards gender equality, there have also been more visual content celebrating today’s empowered women.
However, the one thing that really struck me was how trends in the creative industry were still being predominantly led by consumer behaviour, with brands scrambling frantically to catch on when trends are formed – in the hope of “resonating” with their target audience. While that is, of course, a perfectly reasonable strategy to embrace, but as a creative, I can’t say that my relationship with trends have always been the most smooth sailing.
A double-edged sword, or a safety blade?
We all know the benefits of being a creative in the digital age: endless possibilities for creativity, an infinite canvas for expression and the power of technology. However, more often than not, the first thing we do after receiving a creative brief is to delve straight into our retina displays, in search for inspiration. After all, the Internet is so much a part of our lives that turning to it for our every solution seems like the most natural thing to.
Just not long ago, inspiration used to be something we stumbled upon, not something we set out to look for. Inspiration was found at the most unusual places through personal experiences, not through existing work, nor through the latest trends. As creatives, we crave for originality, yet are often being lured onto the bandwagon. We hope to grab attention, yet sometimes fall into the trap of doing what everyone else is doing.
Well, of course there will always be a struggle between creating something we think the clients would accept versus something that is considered fresh and original. After all, the people behind the brands are consumers as well, and unless a new idea is really strong and ticks all their boxes, they would rather go with proven, surefire methods that have already been tried and tested. Quite frankly, who doesn’t want to be aesthetically associated with the likes of Apple and Nike?
The boundaries have been drawn. Now what?
At the end of the day, in the midst of all these struggle, the starting point of all creatives should be the focus on evoking emotions and creating great experiences. How then, can we push boundaries in this creative landscape that is heavily led by trends? It is important to understand why trends exist (or why they fade so quickly), but it is also important to constantly challenge the status quo.
As visual communicators we must also never lose sight of the bigger picture that is the business and marketing strategy. The strategy acts as the perfect guideline and a thought starter, and it’s also something that helps keep us rooted. We are problem solvers, consultants and brand ambassadors. We help brands tell their stories and stay true to their personality. Therefore, it is equally crucial to put ourselves in both the clients’ shoes as it is to view from the eyes of the intended audience.
Easier said than done, but here’s a note to the creatives (including myself): For the next brief that comes in, remember to 1) Shut down your silver machines, 2) Take a walk outside and 3) Don’t forget to bring that trusty notebook.
Howie Wong is an Art Director at Acoustic
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