10/03/2017 11:37 GMT | Updated 11/03/2018 05:12 GMT

How We're Using Imagery To Depict Today's World

Every year, Shutterstock showcases the most up to date visual trends. With information gathered from millions of searches and downloads, plus expert knowledge from Shutterstock's internal teams, these trends show what's on the rise around the world.

Often, the trends observed highlight real-world concerns. For example, this year we saw an interesting juxtaposition, with a growth in tech-focused searches happening alongside a thirst for a more natural aesthetic. As technology creates a new world around us, we seek comfort in familiar symbols and natural styles.

Depicting the future

People are on the hunt for images that depict different aspects of technology. Searches for 'cybersecurity' have increased 363% globally, while for the UK, 'blockchain' (the tech behind Bitcoin) stirred-up the most new searches in the UK last year. Other trending, future-gazing, notions that seem to be on everyone's fingertips include: 'Ephemeral internet' (+120%) and 'VR' (+255%).

This shows the increasing need that marketing and design professionals have to represent today's technologically driven world. We all know what smartphones look like, but how do you represent concepts such as AI and blockchain? This is clearly something people want to know

There are no obvious tropes or examples to depict ideas and products such as blockchain and VR. We lack the visual vocabulary to portray them. They are new and as such do not have a place in any pre-existing register. The imagery of the future has no standards to follow so marketing and design professionals are actively shaping them. This is showcased by the volume of searches we've been witnessing.

Harping back to an organic feel

At the other end of the spectrum, organic images are also in vogue, with natural looks offsetting tech-driven styles.

The natural design trends include tropical and organic images that present nature as authentic and raw. Tropical designs explore lavish colors, king size leaves, and loud patterns, turning displays into far away destinations. Organic designs celebrate the rough-hewn look of wood, marble, or blossoms in their truest state.

For instance, searches for organic textures, that is the rich and timeless patterns found in plants, tree rings and marble swirls, increased by 74%, compared to last year.

Likewise, we noticed a feel-good trend focusing on vivid colours and exotic themes. Searches for 'tropical' images increased 44%, compared to last year.

Some countries also embraced the vibrancy of these natural trends. The image that had the largest increase in searches in the USA in 2016 was the Jalapeno pepper while in Germany, it was Tannenwald (a forest of fir trees).

These dual urges, towards the future and back to nature, echo our ambivalent era, where technological advances take us fast towards a new and unknown eratime. In turn, this only increases our urge to be in contact with and to see nature. Contrasted with tech, nature harkens back to the past, reconnecting us with our roots.

While the future is ambivalent, metallic and wiry, nature is the quickest way for us to ground ourselves amidst uncertainty.

Indeed, searches for imagery which depict 'nostalgia' have increased more than three-fold (+214%) over the last year. We imagine that trend continuing.

Whether it is the cutting edge of tomorrow's hard tech or the soft comfort of memory, effective imagery changes with our general cultural attitude. Creative trends reflect our day-to-day concerns so the successful harnessing of these will always shave the most impact.

Of course, this is only a small section of what designers and creatives will be searching for and using in 2017. You can see Shutterstock's full 2017 creative trends here.