Shutterstock 2021 Creative Trends Report

Shutterstock 2021 Creative Trends Report


New York, NY—Shutterstock, Inc., launched the 10th anniversary edition of its annual creative trends report. The Shutterstock 2021 Creative Trends Report highlights both global and local trends that will inspire creative expression in 2021.

The data-driven report predicts the 10 key graphic, photography, footage and music trends. They are based on billions of customer searches that will define creativity and innovation in 2021.

Shutterstock, directly and through its group subsidiaries, is a global provider of high-quality licensed photographs, videos, vectors, illustrations, as well as music. It services businesses, marketing agencies and also media organizations.

“After the year that was, we were encouraged by the positivity, originality as well as resilience displayed by the Shutterstock community; this was reflected in their searches,” said Flo Lau, Creative Director at Shutterstock.

“This year’s trends centered around individuality, imperfection, authenticity and escapism. Despite the obstacles we were forced to navigate, and the uncertainty we faced, there was no shortage of creativity and innovation. These trends, gleaned from billions of keyword searches by our users, lay the foundation for the content we can expect to see across creative outputs, B2B and B2C marketing in the year ahead.”

Shutterstock 2021 Creative Trends Report

The 10 creative trends fall into five categories: graphic, photography, footage, music, as well as the trend to watch. Following is a summary of each category.


Searches for free-flowing inkscapes, one-of-a-kind tie-dye patterns and twisting line portraits depicting “Surreal Faces” show the embrace of individuality—and imperfection.

Keywords such as pastel tie dye (+2,404%); alcohol ink (+381%); and also face line art (+536%) are on the rise. Shutterstock says we will see a surge of flaws, fantasy and distinctive flair among textures, backgrounds as well as illustrations.


In alignment with the events of 2020, there was a demand for inclusion and representation. Moreover, searches such as nonbinary (+2,300%) and authentic people (+133%) are trending up.

“Identity Unfiltered” encompasses authentic portraiture and the wide gamut of beauty across the globe. A focus on inner life and self-care (+177%) compelled many to shift focus in the coming year toward life’s simple pleasures, Shutterstock asserts.

Excerpt from Shutterstock 2021 Creative Trends Report


Motion pictures have the unique ability to evoke emotion. The “Sublime” saw an increase in searches for intense and intimidating scenes from nature. They range from stormy beach (+480%) to dunes (+394%) and mountain aerials (+1,396%).

Furthermore, “Eccentric Animation” gave content creators new ways to express their ideas. In addition, it lent them the ability to embrace more playful animation styles and motion graphics that are whimsical (+13,572%) and fun.

“This trend provides a lively, splashy and colorful outlet for creatives that doesn’t require a crew to produce; it steers away from the seriousness of 2020,” noted Shutterstock.


There was an uptick in tracks featuring “Strings.” This ranged from the rippling notes of a classic cantata to the electrifying, hair-raising sounds of an eclectic spiccato. Popularity also rose for music that is “Uplifting and Playful.” This includes the sounds of brisk BPM, plucky instruments and also sweeping crescendos.

“The footage and music trends, when paired together, produce a distinctive sensorial experience; a layer a track from ‘Strings’ over a clip from ‘The Sublime,’ sit back and enjoy,” announced Shutterstock.

Trend to Watch

After the events of the past year, creatives are on the hunt for the “Unexplored.” Searches spanned the biodiversity stemming from the wildfires and natural disasters to 2020’s SpaceX launch and the fascination with space. There was also an upswing in yoga, meditation and the uncharted phenomena of our mind-body connection.

In addition to these 10 global trends, the Shutterstock 2021 Creative Trends Report outlines the top search terms from 26 countries around the world. The terms ranged from fairy tale lifestyle in Australia to colorful landscapes in South Africa. In addition, this year’s report not only offers hand-curated collections for each of the trends from Shutterstock images, video and music but also images from Offset.

Moreover, looking at the search terms with the highest growth year-over-year, the annual creative trends report analyzes data gathered over a 12-month period from billions of customer searches for images, footage and music content. The data, combined with analysis from Shutterstock’s internal Visual Intelligence panel, determines patterns and styles that are unique and reflect cultural trends from around the world.

To explore the full Shutterstock 2021 Creative Trends Report, click here.


Shutterstock is a global creative platform that provides full-service solutions, high-quality content and tools for brands, businesses and media companies. Working with its growing community of more than one million contributors, Shutterstock adds hundreds of thousands of images each week. What’s more, it currently has more than 350 million images and more than 20 million video clips available.

Headquartered in New York City, Shutterstock has offices around the world and customers in more than 150 countries. The company’s brands also include Bigstock, a value-oriented stock media offering; Shutterstock Studios, an end-to-end custom creative shop; Offset, a high-end image collection; Shutterstock Editorial, a premier source of editorial images and videos for the world’s media; and also PremiumBeat a curated royalty-free music library.