May Visual Trend: Purpose Over Beauty
This month we’re thinking about what it means to put purpose first, and let beauty follow. We’re pondering images whose main purpose is to motivate us to action — maybe to make the world better, or to remember to be in a moment. And we’re considering those humble images designed to be a part of something bigger, like the stock textures and patterns that designers can use to build their compositions.
Sharing images to show where you stand.
As we contemplated images with a purpose, we realized that we’re all inundated with social media photos that ask us to do something. It’s a trend that Adobe’s Digital Insights team is tracking, and it’s finding an uptick in images with a political or philanthropic purpose. From photos of people hoisting their protest signs, to snapshots as they cross the finish line in a charitable 5K, social media users are increasingly blending visuals and hashtags to create calls to action.
With this in mind, we analyzed aggregated, anonymous data from the Adobe Experience Cloud, including more than 75 million social engagements between 2015 and today to understand more about the trend. We found that holidays with a political or social message drive peaks in social media hashtag use. For example, in April, when we celebrate Earth Day, advocacy mentions jump 30 percent above the baseline. They jump 90 percent above the baseline in June for LGBTQ Pride month.
As we’d expect with social media, celebrities are helping drive the trend. It turns out that it’s a great strategy — when celebrities post images with activist hashtags, it can drive their engagements up to three times the usual baseline. It may even be that, for celebrities, activism is becoming a necessity. As Katy Perry told Vogue this month, “I don’t think you have to shout it from the rooftops, but I think you have to stand for something. And if you’re not standing for anything, you’re really just serving yourself, period, end of story.”
Curating stock with purpose.
To highlight images with purpose, we created a dedicated gallery of Adobe Stock photographs, illustrations, and videos. We began building the collection by searching terms like “revolution,” “united,” and “sustainability,” and when we honed in on something especially powerful, we used the “Find Similar” tool to broaden our options even further.
We also kept an eye out for pieces that reflect the best of stock — images that work with a contemporary aesthetic, offer editorial appeal, leave space to work with copy, and complement current color trends. Perhaps most importantly, we sought images with depth, those pieces that invite multiple interpretations, so stock users can make them their own.
We found plenty of images to love. Our top three favorites included a photograph of a powerful woman with no hair entitled, “Real Female hairless fight against cancer outdoor.” Before we found her, we were contemplating an image of a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness, but this less literal image seemed to speak so clearly to strength in the face of adversity that we just couldn’t get her out of our minds.
Another favorite image was Yakobchuk Olena’s “Stylish adult female sitting in studio.” The subject’s expression is intriguing, and the image seems to offer a critique of visual representations of women, especially in stock imagery.
Rounding out our trio, we were taken with James Threw’s illustrations, “Anxiety, depression and mindfulness awareness concept.” Thew’s work is elegant and poetic, and it captured painful and complex issues in a way that made us want to know more.
Making it a month with a mission.
Keep following us this month as we explore how images can serve a purpose. We’ll share the stories of creatives doing their part to serve a purpose or bring awareness to a cause. We’ll examine the individual stock images that make up one designer’s complex composition, and we’ll peek at stock that’s all about function, from images of textures and patterns to the forms that make 3D compositions possible.