2018 Video Trend #5: Design and the Rise of the Unicorn

by James Loizou
2018 Video Trend #5: Design and the Rise of the Unicorn

Post-Minimalism and the Rise of the Unicorn

Our fifth and final trend may be the hardest to talk about, as the word "design" can stir strong opinions from both the design-enabled and design-less. But like all good design, we seek to reveal the motivations behind specific choices. We're not here to acknowledge what's on the surface -- like what color is hot in 2018.

It's ultra violet, btw.


In 2007, UPS launched its famous "white board" commercial with a really chill dude drawing delivery concepts with a brown marker. This ad would forever change the landscape of corporate videos, igniting what we refer to as the "white board industrial complex" or a period of time when every brand, mother and child made at least one dry erase video. In hindsight, no one is proud of these videos, but we all did it! More importantly, this era exposed a real need for the "explainer" video.


Emerging from the recession, organization's were hungry to tell a story of economic impact. Leaning on a clean, infographic aesthetic, vector-based videos emerged. And it was a beautiful thing. Using flat shapes with limited palettes, moving infographics proved to be an enduring trend where the most complex of concepts were boiled down to an individual icon. These videos could be driven by narration or play silently with kinetic typography. Our motionographers still excel at this style, effectively explaining some pretty interesting stuff.

Like the economic worth of the steel industry.

How state banks are regulated.

lai video trends design vector rise up

What is the Internet of Things (iOT)?

Or talking about a new training program.

But as we entered a post-vector world, viewers expected more from their animations. How about using the medium to express a playful or emotional message? In 2012, Chipotle released a short film that touted their sustainable farming practices. They didn't do this with markers or infographics. They did this with adorable "Little People"-style farmers being consumed by modern-day Big Ag practices. The somewhat haunting story was a bonafide YouTube hit and ushered in a more evocative way of communicating with video.

Using animation to tell actual stories (not just statistical ones) allows marketers to move beyond the limitations of live-action. For A Dream of Safety, we transported viewers to the wild west of union construction before zero-injury policies were put in place. Tying our visuals to the testimony of one man, we could conjure up illustrations through his memory. We could exaggerate and dwell on his account and make something that was ultimately less precise but more meaningful. More memorable.

With the rising popularity of YouTubers using a DIY style, other more design-respected platforms like Instagram started to embrace a similarly hasty and intentionally amateur motif. With Instagram Stories, users can instantly and somewhat ironically scribble silly expressions overtop boomeranged loops of dogs doing cartwheels. While you're at it, you can drop the perfect emojis to punctuate your point. These are choices that people make. Every day.

In 2017, Apple cemented the trend (as it usually does), by providing iPhone users with "stickers" to quickly and colorfully express a thought while also proving your mad pop culture skillz. This trend manifested in a more produced fashion, leading to "surrealist mixed-media," a term that our Associate Creative Director Tiffany Lewis just coined for this post. Videos are no longer simple. Or minimal. But embrace a messy "more is more" approach.

For a collection of punchy event "bumpers," we embodied a seemingly chaotic montage of visuals. But beneath the surface experience was a carefully calculated bombardment of video and graphic elements. Inspired by a trippy video for the Red Bull Music Academy, we gave our viewers credit to absorb and understand like and unlike imagery while creating an overwhelmingly visceral experience.

For a follow-up event, we traded spastic cuts for calmer introductions, blending or "compositing" live-action and totally digital assets into one seamless render. We played on elements that are real, but remixed them into something that is fresh. And that's what's ultimately exciting about this moment in time. More than ever, we can be self-aware. We can be self-referential. Be it 8-bit retro, the 80s, unicorns, you name it! We can give viewers an opportunity to put things together and be surprised. 

Learn about more video marketing trends that we predict will dominate 2018.

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