Shutterstock Reveals Visual Trends 2021

Shutterstock Reveals Visual Trends 2021
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

Global creative platform Shutterstock has launched the 10th anniversary edition of its annual Creative Trends Report, highlighting the trends that will inspire creative expression and ingenuity in 2021.

Announcing the report, Shutterstock creative director Flo Lau said that, after the year that was, the company was encouraged by the “positivity, originality, and resilience displayed by the Shutterstock community, which was reflected in their searches”.

“This year’s trends centred around individuality, imperfection, authenticity, and escapism—despite the obstacles we were forced to navigate, and the uncertainty we faced, there was no shortage of creativity and innovation,” Lau said.

“These trends, gleaned from billions of keyword searches by our users, lay the foundation for the content we can expect to see across creative outputs, B2B and B2C marketing in the year ahead.”

The 10 2021 Creative Trends—delivered in a brilliant multi-sensory report—fall into five categories: Graphic, Photography, Footage, Music, and the Trend to Watch.


Free-flowing Inkscapes, one-of-a-kind Tie Dye patterns, and twisting, line portraits depicting Surreal Faces, show the embrace of individuality—and imperfection.

Keywords such as pastel tie dye (+2,404 per cent), alcohol ink (+381 per cent), and face line art (+536 per cent) are on the rise, Shutterstock said, as we see a surge of flaws, fantasy and distinctive flair among textures, backgrounds, and illustrations.


In alignment with the events of 2020, there was a demand for inclusion and representation, with searches such as non-binary (+2,300 per cent) and authentic people (+133 per cent) trending up.

Identity Unfiltered encompasses authentic portraiture and the wide gamut of beauty across the globe, Shutterstock explained. A focus on Inner Life and self-care (+177 per cent) has compelled many to shift focus in the coming year towards life’s simple pleasures.


Motion pictures have the unique ability to evoke emotion. The Sublime has seen an increase in searches for intense and intimidating scenes from nature: from stormy beach (+480 per cent) to dunes (+394 per cent), and mountain aerials (+1,396 per cent).

Eccentric Animation has given content creators new ways to express their ideas, Shutterstock said, and to embrace more playful animation styles and motion graphics that are whimsical (+13,572 per cent), and fun.

This trend provides a lively, splashy, and colourful outlet for creatives that doesn’t require a crew to produce, and steers away from the seriousness of 2020.


There has been an uptick in tracks featuring Strings—from the rippling notes of a classic cantata, to the electrifying, hair-raising sounds of an eclectic spiccato.

Popularity has risen for music that is Uplifting and Playful—the sounds of brisk BPM, plucky instruments, and sweeping crescendos.

The footage and music trends, when paired together, produce a distinctive sensorial experience — layer a track from Strings over a clip from The Sublime, sit back and enjoy.

Trend to Watch

After the events of the past year, creatives are on the hunt for the Unexplored, Shutterstock said: from biodiversity stemming from the wildfires and natural disasters, to 2020’s SpaceX launch and the fascination with space, and the upswing in yoga, meditation and the uncharted phenomena of our mind-body connection.

Looking at the search terms with the highest growth year-over-year, the annual Creative Trends report analyses data gathered over a 12-month period from billions of customer searches for images, footage, and music content.

The data, combined with analysis from Shutterstock’s internal Visual Intelligence Panel, determines patterns and styles that are unique and reflect cultural trends from around the world.

You can explore the full 2021 Creative Trends Report here.

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