By the end of 2018, there were more than 4 billion people using the internet. Out of that 4 billion, the total count of social media users worldwide reached over 3.1 billion people—a number that has been consistently growing by more than 13% every year. That’s more than half of the world’s entire population getting online and living their lives on the internet. All of these people are going online to consume the masses of content that’s being produced every single day.

There’s no question what kind of content they like: it’s visual content by a mile. The question for your brand is how to catch people’s attention and get them to pay attention to what you have to say. People only become a captive audience when there’s content that keeps them connected and engaged. An easy way to do this is to tailor your visual content strategy to the current social, political, and cultural trends that people are already interested in. This way you already have a head start when it comes to getting them to “buy in” to your brand’s message.

Of course, your competitors are going to attempt the same thing and try to jump on the concepts and aesthetics which will capture the zeitgeist of 2019. This article is meant to help you beat them to the punch. Here are the trends we think will define this year’s marketing content:

1. The 90’s Aesthetic

Over the past half-decade or so, you might have noticed a glut of 80’s nostalgia. It was pretty much everywhere. Taylor Swift released an album titled 1989, they remade the Ghostbusters with an all-female cast, and shoulder pads and pegged pants made a comeback. There was also all the neon—lots and lots of neon.
This is because pop culture nostalgia is cyclical in nature—a 30-year cycle to be exact, and over the past decade, we’ve been reliving the 80’s aesthetic. Now it’s time for the ’90s to shine. You’re already seeing the beginnings of the trend now.

A good way to turn this aesthetic to your advantage isn’t necessarily to fill your imagery with things cribbed directly from the 1990s. Even something as simple as giving your visual content a vintage or retro look can already set the mood in the right way. Easy tweaks to grain and vignette can lend your photos and videos just enough of a lo-fi feel to make them seem like they came from a Polaroid or a VHS tape.

@adidasoriginals exemplifying the 90’s aesthetic with this super-colorful photoshoot. Check the big, chunky shoes, the oversized and exaggerated silhouettes, and the metallic tones.

2. A Connection to Social Issues

People are more conscientious than ever about the companies they support and the causes they champion. Two-thirds of consumers surveyed said they wanted brands to take a stand with regard to social and political issues. Most of them said social media was the most appropriate channel for these messages to appear.
Consumers surveyed had an almost 50% increase in likelihood to make purchases from a brand when they approved of the brand’s position on relevant social issues. People do make their voices heard with their wallets. The takeaway: relevant messaging builds brand credibility regarding social and political issues. And when you have that kind of connection with your audience, you can really spread your message effectively.

Creating visual content that tackles social issues is a fine line to walk. The important bit is making sure that your brand’s position is something that has been well-considered, and translating that properly into unambiguous imagery that communicates your message. Confusing your audience about what you’re trying to say is an absolute no-no. Combine your message with the right typography and photography composition to make sure what you’re saying is absolutely clear. Shorter, simpler language is best.

@prana have always been very outspoken about their social responsibility, and their message ties well into their entire aesthetic. As a result, they’re a big hit with like-minded consumers.

Pastels and Gradients

While bolder, more delineated color schemes may produce higher contrast between visual elements, sometimes letting the design blend into itself is also a good approach. Pastel gradients will give almost any design a light, ethereal feel—this is best used to make simple designs flashier without adding unnecessary clutter. Of course, it depends on your subject matter, but if your visual approach requires a softer touch this can be a very appealing option.

@forever21 utilizing the pastel and gradient technique to the maximum— there’s a very specific mood they’re choosing to evoke. 100,000 likes say that others identify with that mood.

Brand recognition is strongly tied to color, but there are no hard-and-fast rules for actually choosing which color will fit your brand’s personality. One thing you need to do is be consistent to facilitate recall—if you’re changing your palette all the time, there’s no chance for your audience to form the mental link between your brand’s color and your brand itself. A good way to do this is with simple but powerful photo and video editing apps such as Instasize where you can save your preferred color schemes. Manual editing per image is still a must, but taking a lot of the guesswork out of the process is a lifesaver when you need to post regularly.

4. Doodles and Hand-Drawn Art

Illustrations to fill space are starting to become more prevalent, in contrast to the stark minimalism we used to see in years past. When you’re trying to make your imagery stand out, a distinctive style of illustration can make your brand much more identifiable. Aside from that, illustrations can be used alongside other visual elements to “punch up” an image and make it more impactful than it would have otherwise been.

@cocacola here make use of doodles and hand-drawn art to fill the space around a positive message. Good use of typography and colors that are already part of the brand’s palette tie this back to the brand’s identity.

Choosing whether to make the illustrations the centerpiece of your visual design or embellishment is something up to your best judgment. Our main advice for this trend is that you keep it modern—leave enough space around each doodle for the image to breathe, and try to use high contrast colors.
One last piece of advice we’ll leave you with is to not be afraid to experiment—it’s still early in the year and these trends aren’t yet set in stone. See what works with your brand and your message!

Submitted by Denise Langenegger @