Guest Blogpost by Kate Perez, Design Director and Andrew Shepherd, Brand Strategist, Interbrand
Looking back at the past decade, the global cultural landscape has loudened to a deafening roar. We are bombarded by a sea of noise. Our world turns at an alarming pace. Its spinning faster each day, out of our control, and it is growing at an exponential rate into the digital sphere. Technology has created a wedge between us, even though, at times, it can act as a positive catalyst for communication and change. We are craving emotional and personal connection more than ever. We seek to feel like we are a part of something.
As a whole, we feel stressed, overwhelmed, and crave an escape from our hectic everyday lives. When we cannot tune out all the noise, we are compelled to roll up our sleeves and fight through it, making the best of what lies before us with optimism for a better future. We search for avenues to express ourselves as society attempts to define who we are and what we should (or shouldn’t) believe in. Truth in a world full of “fake news” is critical for self-realization, driving us to be informed and develop our own personal values and morals.
Moving into the next decade, Escapism arises as the key macrotrend that serves as the impetus central to current and emerging cultural and design trends. This desire for distraction and relief is a reaction against the noise and stress — a hopeful optimism and inner tranquility to improve the world around us — both individually and as a generation.
Escapism manifests in various ways, from personal wellness to personal expression; honesty through to transparency and resourcefulness.
The Peaceful Retreat
Our most innate reaction against the external stresses of life is to retreat, and intuitively so. We seek out a sanctuary to provide personal calm and tranquility to cope. Instead of focusing externally, we draw inward, improving our minds and bodies because that we can control.
Both cultural and design trends arise around this theme of escaping through serenity and personal wellness:
- According to Forbes, 94% of millennials make personal improvement commitments. The respondents stated their willingness to invest nearly $300 per month on their own self-improvement.
- Activities, such as meditation and napping, and products, such as adaptogenic supplements and CBD oil, are rapidly growing in popularity. They are appearing new formats and new product offerings to help soothe our souls.
- Softer, muted color palettes of neutrals combine with minimalism and white space in package design to provide visual respite, creating a ‘sanctuary’ space for the eye to rest.
- Surfaces and textures that are smooth, yet organic, such as handmade ceramics and Belgian linen, are becoming more predominant in design, creating a naturally calming and environment.
The Freedom of Self
As we draw inward to better ourselves, we desire to escape the status quo and express our individuality without limits. We wish to create our own distinct mark and share our inner goodness with the world. We seek brands that enable us to do so; that share in this desire. And we crave outlets to be heard or be seen amidst the noise and, even more importantly, to be accepted by our peers for who we truly are and our differences.
A rise in personal expression is apparent across channels and categories:
- Branded communications take on a human voice, often showcasing handwriting or artist collaborations to enrich and infuse a brand’s personality across touchpoints.
- Colorful, saturated palettes blend between hues to represent the melting pot of today’s cultural landscape. Gradients and blends are a visual manifestation of the lack of definition and rigidity being sought in our modern world.
- A mixed use of patterns and textures creates an interesting juxtaposition. They work together to create new and unique compositions with depth, dimension, and an individualized character of their own.
The Black & White Truth
Through this focus on self as a means of escape, truth becomes increasingly important. Public trust is at an all-time low, and we are found questioning everything and everyone – especially brands. Action replaces passivity; quality replaces synthetics.
We are left craving authenticity and transparency in the world around us, both culturally and aesthetically:
- According to the Mintel Moral Brands Report, 91% of consumers around the world shared that they were willing to make a purchase, investment, or an endorsement of a brand as a reward for that brand’s authenticity.
- Stark contrasts in design shed light on subject matter, representing the truth through black and white extremes.
- Materials and surfaces become increasingly transparent and/or reflective to represent the revealing of truth. Mirrored, prismatic, and holographic substrates continue to gain popularity.
The Need to Do Good
Conversely, our desire to escape the noise and disruptions is also seen through the desire to also better the world around us. As younger generations come to the forefront and replace the millennial mindset, a mindfulness for the future grows as a priority. These younger consumers tend to be more forward-thinking. They desire life experiences and relationships instead of tangible goods. However, ironically, they are also more digitally-native and interconnected via devices. More altruistic and conscientious than their predecessors, this group is seeking relief from the world’s problems by seeking to address them.
Global awareness of the need for sustainability and resourcefulness is on the rise:
- Purpose-driven brands gain popularity and momentum. According to Mintel’s Moral Brands Report, 55% of consumers expect brands to be a force for positive change.
- Sophisticated digital brights, neutral wood tones, and soft metallic finishes bring a modern, yet friendly, aesthetic to products and packaging. This aesthetic is reminiscent of other contemporary digital brands, such as Warby Parker, Thinx Underwear and Apple.
- Simple, geometric shape language brings a familiarity and ease, further ‘democratizing’ design.
And How Is This Relevant To Your Brand?
Consumers are seeking relationships with the brands they love — brands that successfully create an interpersonal connection on a human level. By infusing elements of Escapism into design, brands can offer relevancy and relief to overstimulated consumers in today’s convoluted, transactional marketplace. Transparency and storytelling inject clarity and emotion, depicting a brand’s core values and messages in a way that resonates with consumers on a human level. Brands that embrace creative expression and individuality through design will elevate themselves to a more creative space, increasing differentiation and recognition. Embrace the escape.