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Q&A: 2021 Trends and Insights From Our Creative Team

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Q&A: 2021 Trends and Insights From Our Creative Team

Two Rivers Marketing

Two Rivers Marketing
Jan 06, 2021

2021 Creative Trends

After the cascade of challenges and changes in 2020, what will 2021 bring to the creative marketing world? We asked Managing Director of Creative Drew Jones, Creative Director Tony Lieb, and Art Director Kelsea Graham to make some fearless predictions. Here’s what they had to say.

What creative trends do you see for 2021?

Creative Director Tony Lieb

Tony:

Subtle and honest expressions. 2020 has been so extreme and polarizing, I hope that things come back a little humbler and more honest. We've seen each other cry and we've seen each other's homes on video calls. I think that peeling back at the artificial nature of business and exposing the weird, funny, flawed people that we all are will feel like a much-needed sigh.

On the other end of the spectrum, I think formality will come back. People miss dressing up and going to events. We all want to see each other again under normal circumstances. I’m hoping for a reunion vibe on multiple levels. Also, the return of clean and kind humor — we could all use a laugh.


Art Director Kelsea Graham

Kelsea:

I expect major advancements in design program technologies. Adobe released some Tech Sneaks at their Max Conference and some of the new tech is pretty mind-blowing. For example, 2D Plus allows 2D designers easier access to working in 3D space. Technically, these would be 2.5D. The tool automatically generates shadows, lighting, etc., which will be a huge timesaver for us.

They also released Photoshop Neural Filters, which uses AI to completely change a person's features. It's similar to the filters we see on Snapchat and Instagram, except at a higher caliber. Here's a video of Conan O'Brien using the tool to change his facial expression, age, and more. It's insane how much time this will save us and make things that used to be impossible in-house finally possible.

I also think there will be a big increase in B2B brands working to create associations with their brands and a desirable set of emotions and feelings that cause customers to want them.


Director of Creative Drew Jones

Drew:

Motion — specifically in places that used to be limited to static imagery. The still-evolving-but-now-complete shift to digital platforms — combined with the increase in bandwidth in office, home, and mobile environments — means that what once had to be static can now come alive. This means that motion design is now a part of every designer’s toolkit and should be incorporated more fully and more often.

Imagine there's no COVID-19. Based on what you saw before COVID-19, what would you expect to be a big deal in 2021?

Creative Director Tony Lieb

Tony:

Impossible. It has changed the way humans interact forever. My kids will never know the joy of a snow day.


Art Director Kelsea Graham

Kelsea:

More quick-fire video shooting for social via iPhones — TikTok and Instagram have stepped up their in-platform editing game, making it faster and easier to put out social content.

With the rise of direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing (think Casper, Warby Parker, Nurx), the lines between B2B and B2C are blurring. This isn't a complete thought, but I've definitely seen more and more DTC companies/brands popping up, especially in the healthcare sector.

I'm sure we'll also see more and more email marketing because digital leads are a big thing.


Director of Creative Drew Jones

Drew:

I agree with Tony. The world at large will be forever changed. And that will have a dramatic and unavoidable impact on business and marketing. There will be positives and negatives that come out of that, but there’s no going back. The inevitable side effect of COVID was that it accelerated a lot of changes that were already in process. But instead of those things playing out over 5 to 10 years, many of them happened in 5 to 10 months.

Are your clients thinking differently these days? Is there a migration from something to something else?

Creative Director Tony Lieb

Tony:

Clients are lonely. Just like the rest of us, organizations are deeply missing human interaction. Clients want to know how to use technology to speak with people rather than just at people. Yes, that includes social media, but I think that the social and political stuff that is also part of the feed continues to bleed over. There seems to be a want to just talk about "something else" for a bit. It is important that we still remember and learn from last year, but we also need to move forward to find out how we can fit into each other’s lives in a healthier way.


Art Director Kelsea Graham

Kelsea:

Adaptability and flexibility. Companies are providing more encouraging resources to their dealers. Greater motion design capabilities are also key. B2B brands have started to realize the power of video and have been utilizing our in-house animation capabilities to produce engaging content — using that content for social, presentations, conferences, and more.


Director of Creative Drew Jones

Drew:

Everyone is changing the way they think and act. What’s interesting to me is how that change is manifesting itself. We’re seeing some clients pull back on the reins in a wait-and-see-how-this-plays-out sort of way. They’re getting more conservative and playing things closer to the vest. Others are acting more brashly, embracing the chaos and using this opportunity to try new things, grab market share, and reinvent their business. Neither approach is wrong necessarily, but it’s not business-as-usual for anyone.

What trend are YOU most excited about in 2021?

Creative Director Tony Lieb

Tony:

A return to thoughtfulness, even in a digital world. Anything not loud, brash, rushed, garish, or full of itself will stand out. Visually, I look forward to warmer colors, simplicity, thoughtful curation, honesty, craftsmanship, and wit. From a messaging standpoint, I think that slowing down and crafting the right message is important. I miss civility and respect. There is no shortage of noise; let's make sure we're making music.


Art Director Kelsea Graham

Kelsea:

I'm excited about the ever-increasing rule-breaking we're seeing in designs. Designers are taking the principles and rules they've been taught and breaking them in interesting ways. We're seeing more experimental typography and more designs that mesh realism and drawn elements, ultimately adding more personality to these designs. It's like design has the opportunity to become more humanistic as we play with the incorporation of hand-drawn elements, photography, and vector art. We're even seeing B2B designs becoming more fun or playful.


Director of Creative Drew Jones

Drew:

The rapid move toward virtual events. Many of the industries our clients play in have relied only on traditional trade shows and similar events as a way to engage with their audiences. These shows are great, but because they’re such massive endeavors, requiring large investments and tons of coordination, they can only happen once a year (or even less frequently). And for the audience, they required a large investment in time and dollars to attend. By going virtual, they become more inclusive, more varied, and most importantly, they can happen more frequently. This is an exciting development.

What's the most challenging trend for you as professionals?

Creative Director Tony Lieb

Tony:

The belief that there is a formula for this or that we should follow for every trend.

Data, best practices, and processes all have their role. But in the end, there is no replacement for taking the time to figure out what you actually want to say and then patiently executing it at a high enough level that people experience it rather than just see it. The time spent making something that matters to those who are making it is what separates great work from the rest.


Art Director Kelsea Graham

Kelsea:

3D capabilities and teaching myself how to think three-dimensionally to provide more creative opportunities for the client.


Director of Creative Drew Jones

Drew:

Speed to market. The whole world is in a big hurry these days.

By its nature, marketing is an iterative process. You do something, you put it out into the world, you measure it and watch what happens, and you adapt. That’s still what happens, of course, but what used to happen over the course of months and even years, now happens in weeks, days, or even hours.

While that’s exciting, it’s a constant challenge — there’s less time to think and strategize because the marketplace demands constant action. That pushes marketers to be more nimble, more flexible, and more open to change. When you combine that challenge with the ever-more-integrated nature of our business, and a marketing conversation that is taking place across dozens of channels simultaneously, you’re faced with this overarching challenge. How do you make a bigger, more complicated machine work faster and with more agility? On one hand we’ve built a cruise ship, but we need it to perform like a speedboat.


We’re excited for what 2021 holds for the creative world and can’t wait to see how these trends unfold. Do you have creative needs that you’d like to pursue or are you interested in learning more about emerging trends?


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