Global Design Trends 2013: Decline In Photo Use

Posted on 3/28/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Shutterstock has released an infographic that forecasts several design trends for the year ahead. In 2012 Shutterstock delivered 76 million image downloads giving them a wealth of data from which to draw conclusions.

For photographers, one of the most interesting insights is the trend toward less use of photos relative to illustration.

  2005 2012
Photos 89% 61%
Illustrations 6% 29%
Vectors 5% 10%

Based on Shutterstock downloads designer seem to be relying much more on illustration and scalable vectors to meet the demands of mobile and web design. Consider the top 50 downloads for 2012. Only 11 of them were photographs. Everything else was a vector or illustration.

Also take a look at a current Wired Magazine story about how “Hyper-Realistic CGI is Killing Photographers, Thrilling Product Designers.” There are still a lot of photos being used, but it in coming years it may become harder and harder to sell them.

The trendiest keywords for the year are: Vintage, Social Media, Retro, Infographic, Green, Icon, Dogs, Cats, Macro, Global, Minimalism, Hipster, Tattoo and App.

Some of the broader trends are Green, Nostalgia and Geometric. Keywords associated with these trends include:
    Green (with keywords Green, Environmental, Organic, Eco, Sustainable)
    Nostalgia (with keywords Antiques, vintage, heritage, classic, retro)
    Geometric (with keywords Pixel Art, Digital, Geographical, Patterns, 8 bit)
Here's a comparison of the number of images in the Shutterstock collection on some of these subjects and the number of downloads in 2012 of the subjects.

  Images Downloads
Green 4.6 million 13.7 million
Nostalgia 2.7 million 12 million
Macro 2.9 million 7.9 million
Global 710,000 3.5 million
Minimalism 410,000 1.8 million
Geometric 5.6 million 1.4 million

In 2012 compared to 2011 there was increased use by designers of imagery for Apps, Packaging and Infographics.
    Apps – a 134% increase in downloads of buttons and icons by mobile developers
    Packaging – a 60% increase in the use prize worthy ribbons and stamps for labels
    Infographics – a 525% increase in elements and templates that could be used along with data to create compelling infographics
For the video shooters there is a lot of interest in: Stop Motion, Action POV, Slow Motion and 3D.

Check out these links for sample images of Green, Geometric and Minimalism. Note how few photographs appear among these selections.

For more insights be sure to review the infographic.

Copyright © 2013 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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