Image Platforms Push for Inclusive Stock Photos
Stock images are used as a visual shorthand in advertising and journalism – but they frequently perpetuate negative stereotypes and fail to accurately represent minority groups. Image libraries are challenging this lack of representation with new sets of inclusive photos.
In March, image library behemoth Getty launched #ShowUS, a photo campaign in collaboration with Dove cosmetics. More than 5,000 new pictures, taken by female photographers from Californian media group Girlgaze, depict women of different sizes, abilities and skin tones from around the globe. The snapshots aim to provide a more culturally representative – and less objectifying – depiction of womanhood.
Last year, the company also addressed its lack of disability inclusion by adding The Disability Collection, which depicts individuals with a wide range of abilities to help broaden public understanding of what disability looks like. For more on how brands are better representing people with disabilities, see our Access for All report.
In response to the lack of racial diversity in its stock images – and among its stock image creators – Abode has collaborated with TONL, an inclusive stock-imagery library. The new image collection on Adobe’s platform celebrates the everyday lives of people from various “ethnic backgrounds, sexual preferences, sizes, ages, abilities and the like”, all captured by photographers of colour.
After struggling to find realistic pictures of transgender and non-binary people in image databases, Vice Media’s Broadly, a news platform which covers traditionally unrepresented communities, launched its Gender Spectrum Collection of stock photos. This project leads the charge in a growing area of demand; the search term gender fluid increased 214% between 2017 and 2018 on Getty (Getty, 2018).
In its press release, Vice argued: “Stock photos that accompany articles do more than illustrate subject matter. They have the power to shape perceptions of entire communities.” Brands should look to these new resources – or create their own – if they wish to engage with the consumer of today. Look to Diversity Rules and The Consumer of 2030 for more on the power of representation.
Tea Maker Brews Tea to Suit Mood
Tapping into the growing consumer appetite for hyper-personalisation in the food and drink space, US start-up Teplo has launched a countertop tea maker that creates a perfect brew based on the drinker's current mood.
The device collects data such as the temperature, brightness, humidity and volume of the room via integrated sensors, as well as the drinker's heart rate and body temperature, which is relayed to the machine through a touch button. It then uses this information to brew the tea in a specific way.
For example, if the drinker is tired (signalled by a slower heart rate and dim lighting), the teapot will brew the beverage at a higher temperature for a more caffeinated cuppa. Conversely, if they're stressed (indicated by a faster heart rate and warm body temperature), the device steeps the tea on a lower heat to produce a sweeter beverage – thought to reduce anxiety.
The mechanism is also able to brew a pot of tea using loose-leaf varieties. To ensure it's brewed for the correct amount of time, the leaves sit inside an infuser, which is lowered into the water when the correct temperature is reached, and rotates to ensure a balanced infusion. It's then lifted out of the drink when the desired strength is achieved.
This new kitchen gadget targets consumers seeking food and drinks with mood-boosting benefits – a collective we explore in-depth in New Architecture of Taste. For more on clever kitchen tech, read Activating At-Home Foodies and Ultrasonic Tea-Making Machine. Read The Evolving Tea Landscape for a broader view on the booming tea market.
Target Launches Sensory Collection for Autistic Children
Target has revealed a new line of sensory furniture to support autistic children in need of extra stimulation or isolation from their environment. The launch was announced on World Autism Awareness Day (April 2) to extend its bright and playful Pillowfort collection to a broader diversity of children.
The collection includes an indoor tent that’s large enough to hold a desk and a cocoon chair with an enveloping padded backrest to sooth kids who feel overwhelmed in their environment. These designs come in subdued tones to reinforce a sense of calm and safety.
For those that struggle with overstimulation, a rocking deckchair and large foam floor pillows allow them to fidget and tumble to exert built-up energy. All pieces feature different tactile materials that are interesting to touch and physically engage the user so they can better focus their attention.
The announcement comes after the launch of Target’s sensory kids clothing line, which is free of clothing tags and three-dimensional embellishments that can irritate wearers with highly sensitive skin.
The collection verifies the influence of the environment on mental wellbeing, as well as the role furniture plays in constructing a space that can both relax and excite the user. For another example of furniture that explores new forms to cater to autistic children, see Inclusive Sensorial Design for Autistic Users.
To find out how colour is being used as a tool to influence emotions, see Design Shanghai 2019: Mood-Affecting Furniture and Partition Uses Colour Gradients to Influence Mood.
The Conservatory: Physical Store Unlocks Exclusive E-Shop
Upscale fashion boutique The Conservatory hides behind a lush flower-covered entrance within NYC’s latest shopping mall, Hudson Yards. The physical store reflects the brand’s unorthodox retail strategy: fans are required to visit in-person in order to access the brand’s online shop.
The Conservatory’s retail model is based on cultivating a sense of exclusivity – a club of in-the-know consumers – but if you want to buy from the brand, you have to begin at Hudson Yards. This strategy echoes innovations including check-in systems we discuss in Omni-Commerce Gets Personal and limited-access stores highlighted in the Badge of Brand Honour section of Brand Spaces 2019/20.
Instead of letting new customers preview stock online, shoppers speak with a sales associate who creates an online customer profile/account. It’s only after this interaction that shoppers can access the ‘hidden’ e-commerce site.
Shoppers without an account can only preview a list of the 50 designers The Conservatory carries online. There’s a mix of well-known labels, including Italian fashion brand Jil Sander, as well as under-the-radar brands such as French artisanal haircare brand Bastide, and Dutch menswear brand Salle Privee. This limited-viewing strategy encourages IRL (in real life) exploration and underlines the importance of its bricks-and-mortar presence.
Despite its emphasis on the physical store, the brand’s e-commerce component, which is powered by technology developed by multi-brand fashion e-tailer Farfetch, acts like a matchmaker between featured brands and customers. Consumers purchase directly from the brand that makes the item, and The Conservatory receives a commission (although it’s unclear what percentage it takes). The brands available via the e-commerce site receive data about customers’ shopping habits; these insights can then be used to improve sales and marketing strategies.
For more on Hudson Yards, see our NYC Retail City Guide from April 2019.
Reformation’s Plus Sizes are Here to Stay
After a successful capsule collection, LA-based ethical fashion brand Reformation has launched a permanent plus-size line. This collection aims to fill the gap for size-inclusive sustainable apparel.
Since its 2009 launch, the brand has become known for both its dress silhouettes and sustainable practices. The label’s cult following is also thanks, in part, to Instagram. Reformation uses recycled and sustainably made materials, and also ensures all workers receive a fair wage at its LA-based factory.
Released in March this year, the brand’s extended range includes the signature linen dresses, midi skirts and slogan tees in sizes US 14-24 (UK 16-28). "My biggest dream is to bring sustainable fashion to everyone," said the brand’s founder and chief executive, Yael Aflalo. "Size inclusivity has always been important to us. We want all women to be able to wear our clothes and feel good doing it."
In 2018, Reformation’s plus-size collaboration with model Ali Tate Cutler sold out in just a few days. But with limited stock and only a few styles on offer, the brand received criticism for failing to cater to the obvious demand for this clothing. As consumers become increasingly ethically minded, brands must acknowledge the need for sustainable size-inclusive products.
For more on the fashion industry’s move towards ethical products and production, read our Sustainability Round-Up: April 2019, publishing on April 11.
Grace Beauty Launches Disability-Friendly Tools
As make-up companies continue to work towards an inclusive future, smart brands are recognising a key demographic: mixed-ability users. With a spending power of $2.1tn globally (Business of Fashion, 2017), this cohort is commanding attention from the beauty industry.
Reinventing traditional make-up applicators, British start-up Grace Beauty creates products for consumers who have difficulty applying cosmetics. The brand is launching a range of add-ons that can be attached to any mascara wand.
The three extensions are made for consumers with a range of disabilities – all of which perform different functions. The Ring Grip features a circular ring-shaped handle, allowing the user to adjust their grip without holding the wand. The Square Grip’s ribbed hexagonal sleeves fit onto the tube and lid, making it easy to open and hold. The last extension, The Safe Grip is a wide attachment that creates an angled grip for better control.
Grace Beauty follows in the footsteps of British non-profit Kohl Kreatives, who designed the first make-up brushes for individuals with motor disabilities. Both start-ups are recognising that this demographic’s needs are not being met by mainstream beauty brands.
The brand also taps into the ‘consumer as creator’ strategy with the launch of its digital community. By engaging in a dialogue with consumers, Grace Beauty can receive feedback on its designs – ensuring the products are meeting users’ needs and in turn boosting sales. For more on this concept, see New Consumer/Creator Strategies: Lush and Sand & Sky and Crowdsource Your Beauty.
To read more about design strategies for mixed-ability users, see Access For All and Kohl Kreatives’ Make-Up Brushes for Motor Disabilities. Also lookout for our Spotlight Trend, Packaging Futures 19/20: The Human-Centric Approach, publishing on April 30.
SXSW 2019: Confronting a Deepfake Future
At SXSW this year (March 8-17), panellists grappled with the incoming threat of deepfakes: video and audio content manipulated with deep learning algorithms to synthesise recordings that never really happened. Jeremy Gilbert, director of strategic initiatives at US news organisation The Washington Post, bemoaned: “Video itself is no longer proof that something happened.”
Social media – the primary news source for two-thirds of Americans (Reuters, 2017) – is making matters worse. Identifying deepfakes involves finding degraded parts of the footage that indicate manipulation; however, detection is almost impossible due to the low quality of social media video.
One way to make up for the lack of trust in imagery is to prioritise the connection to those who curate information. Nick Quah, founder of US podcasting company Hotpod Media, said: "In the age of content oversaturation, our product is the relationship between host and listeners." The integrity of trusted personalities makes the information they present reliable, and gives it an edge over faceless news clippings shared on social media.
"There is a craving for trusted voices, and we have a 160-year track record [as a news organisation]," said Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg, executive producer at US media platform The Atlantic. Content validation is a growing need-gap for online consumers, and so finding ways to close this gap is a massive market opportunity.
For more on how news organisations are fighting unreliable information and the role brands can play, read our coverage of South by Southwest Interactive Festival 2019. For more on deepfakes' impact on culture, see Pop Culture Close-Up: Meta Marketing.
It’s time for brands to embrace discomfort, and for consumers to appreciate that the world isn’t tailored to their every need and comfort.
Julia is joined by Neil Davidson, CEO of HeyHuman, to discuss everything from advocacy and ‘human’ technology to the impending race for the White House. And, intriguingly, how one festival highlight centred on a post-punk icon talking about a positive future.
Design Shanghai 2019: Colourful Mood-Affecting Furniture
Chinese studio Buzao explores the influence of chromotherapy by employing colourful tints and treatments to create furniture that can calm and excite those nearby. The young offshoot from Chinese company Bentu forged its own identity at this year’s edition of Design Shanghai (March 11-14) with two new collections: Null and Hot.
Null features a bench, table, lamp and wardrobe made from blue-tinted glass that extend bright shadows across the room when illuminated by light. The appearance of each object shifts in strength and direction as sunlight moves throughout the day, giving the designs a living quality that mimics the soothing experience of being outdoors.
Similarly, the Hot collection is made from electro-plated stainless steel that interacts with light to create unpredictable reflections of rainbow colour. The fast-moving effects on the mirrored surface activate the collection to energise passers-by.
Light-reactive materials maximise the visual impact of product, making them an ideal solution for consumers with limited budgets and space. For more, see Product Design Visual Round-Up: Furniture. To explore how sensorial materials are being used to create physically and emotionally engaging products, see our A/W 19/20 Design Direction Captivate.
New Bank Account Pays Back for Shopping Responsibly
A new debit card from US-based digital bank Aspiration rewards consumers for shopping at companies with sustainable business practices. As 64% of Americans say a company's environmental reputation impacts their purchase decisions (Sustainable Brands, 2018), the new card will incentivise consumers to uphold a sustainable shopping ethos.
Aspiration's new Spend & Save account gives users 0.5% cashback on any transaction, which itself is uncommon for a debit account. This reward increases to 1% cashback on purchases made at businesses with sustainable practices and employee-friendly policies. The bank calculates the average consumer could accrue $545 a year just by shopping more consciously with its card.
The bank measures companies' practices with both people and planet scores, calculated through the use of an algorithm which takes into account more than 75,000 data points. The people score tracks businesses' employment policies to ensure that staff have access to fair working conditions, while the planet score monitors how environmentally friendly a company is.
Aspiration promises that "deposits are fossil-fuel free" when consumers bank with them, giving individuals an alternative – and sustainable – financial option. This will appeal to eco-minded consumers; a recent report found that big banks invested over $115m in the harvesting of fossil fuels in 2017 (Oil Change International, 2018). The company also donates 10% of its profits to charities that help struggling US families, giving a further altruistic benefit to using the card.
New fintech start-ups like Aspiration have the opportunity to disrupt the banking industry by providing services that align with the ethos of those who rely on them. For more on connecting with consumers interested in philanthropic investment, see Bespoke Banking, part of our Spotlight Trend The Future of Money.
Bar Conveys Flavour Through Colourful Cocktail Menu
As we explore in Crafting Craveability (part of our Industry Trend report, The Future of Flavour), colour can be a powerful stimulus when it comes to taste. Harnessing this sensory opportunity, London bar Social 24 has developed a colour-coded cocktail menu. The variable hues denote specific flavour profiles, making it easier for guests to choose drinks that they will most enjoy.
Curated by London bartender Mickael Lenu, colour swatches appear alongside a description of each drink on the menu. The colour tells the drinker whether the cocktail is sweet, salty, sour, fruity, floral or bitter, or a combination of these six taste profiles.
Sunset 24, made with Grey Goose vodka, Meloncello, citrus, melon, egg white and melon meringue, is illustrated on the menu with dashes of yellow to highlight sour notes, orange to represent fruity flavours and blue for sweetness.
Meanwhile, the "floral and tangy" Social Mistress, made with Bacardi rum, pear liqueur, maraschino and blackberry ice cream candy, is coded with yellow and pink its for sour and fruity flavour profile.
This design-led thinking could be applied across food and fragrance packaging, with brands adopting universal colour codes to help consumers make more informed decisions based on their preferred tastes.
For other examples of how bars are stepping outside of the box, see the scent-based menu from Singapore-based bar Tipping Club, covered in Alcohol Trends 2018: Imbibe Live, and Atlanta's multisensory dining pop-up in Glow-In-The-Dark Dining Experience. See also our Food & Colour: Visualising Flavour report.
Gold: Crafting Luxury in Retail Spatial Design
Notoriously associated with luxury, gold is often the go-to colour and material choice for creating premium design aesthetics. Now, design studios and agencies are being more creative; using polished brass, galvanised gold metal and glowing amber light to create impactful and alluring retail spaces. Here are three noteworthy projects.
- Bake Cheese Tart Shop, Fumitaka Suzuki: Galvanised metal panels with a warm gold, rainbow burnish are paired with bright yellow accents in this Osaka-based store. The striking metal finish has a premium, gleaming aesthetic and draws attention to the products. Designed to embody the product and production process, the glass shopfront showcases the baking process; while the colour and material choices resemble the heat and scent of freshly baked tarts.
- Bulgari, MVRDV: A pattern of gold veins glistens from within this innovative façade for the Italian luxury brand’s flagship store in Kuala Lumpur. Developed by Dutch architecture firm MVRDV, the cracked-effect storefront is made of glass reinforced concrete, resin and amber LED lighting. The illuminated gold colour creates an organic quality during the day, and a dramatic, electric-like effect at night.
- En, Archiee: For its first physical store, located in Paris, Japanese beauty brand En assigned local design studio Archiee to create an elegant and extraordinary boutique experience. Conceived in an assemblage of polished brass, rough-hewn stone and minimal white, with curving metallic partitions and furniture to break up the space with warm and distorted reflections.
See our CMF Industry View: Retail Spaces report for more captivating colour, material and finish themes emerging in the retail sector.
Weekly Thought-Starter #019: The New Plastics Roadmap
“A worldwide revolution against the way we produce and consume plastic is underway.”
The opening line from The New Plastics Roadmap, our latest Colour & Materials report, is a powerful one. It’s also accurate: the way we make, use and dispose of plastic is changing before our eyes.
And this, we believe, poses a huge opportunity. Brands, alongside governments, NGOs and consumers, have a huge role to play in not only stemming the flow of waste, but making it easier for people to do the same.
The most forward-thinking businesses should go beyond ditching single-use plastics and embrace everything from agro-industrial waste to debonding technologies – which ‘unmake’ plastics at the end of their lifespan.
“Our material landscape is going through a radical shift, and this is opening up new lucrative markets,” says Sioban Imms, our Colour & Materials consultant. “Breakthrough technologies that allow plastics to be recycled without contamination downgrading their quality are one area of real interest.”
The sheer scale of the plastic problem is pretty terrifying. In 2016, worldwide production of plastic materials stood at 280 million tonnes. A third of this was single-use plastics, and, even worse, around 7 million tonnes ended up in the ocean.
Pressure from consumers, alongside recent bans on plastic waste imports, is forcing the powers that be to take action. The result is that brands are coming face-to-face with the plastic waste they produce.
“Single-use plastics are loaded objects,” Sioban adds. “They’re omens for environmental disaster, and no brand wants that association. Now’s the time to start using recycled plastics or bioplastics – because soon brands will be penalised by governing bodies and abandoned by consumers if they don’t.
“I see great potential in bioplastics made from algae, like Algix, and agro-industrial waste, like Biofase. We just need better infrastructure to support commercial production.
“It’s also worth pointing out the work of designer Thomas Vailly, who’s doing extraordinary things with waste from sunflower crops. With help from scientists, he’s produced an alternative to polystyrene foam, a fibreboard, a water-based glue and a leather-like material. It’s this sort of action that’s really exciting and will contribute to the next materials revolution, where materials are grown and not extracted from the Earth’s crust.”
Back in November 2017, we told our members of a “cultural moment”. Brands, it became clear, were no longer staying silent on typically taboo or under-represented issues.
Tackling Taboos, written by our Media & Marketing team, advised brands to seize on this opportunity to be bolder and braver – because tapping into such conversations would inevitably lead to better engagement.
“Over the past few years, social media has amplified typically underrepresented voices and issues, leading to the current cultural landscape where consumers are increasingly expecting more open, nuanced conversations around things like mental and sexual health,” explains Christian Ward, our head of Media & Marketing.
“As a result, traditional brand approaches to these issues now feel outmoded, if not tone-deaf. Consumers now welcome truth-telling and transparency, but are also seeking more nuanced and sophisticated information, which they often can’t get from traditional educational or civic institutions.
“This presents an opportunity for brands not only to speak about these issues in a more bold and open way, but also to provide platforms and build communities around these issues and act as mentors and educators.”
So, what’s happened in the two years since Tackling Taboos was published? Well, here are five developments that caught Christian’s eye.
February 2018: Tough parenting triumphs
What we said: “Marketers are looking beyond portrayals of perfect nuclear families and becoming a supportive hand for those experiencing more nuanced dynamics.”
What happened: A great example of this in action came from Indian mosquito repellent brand All Out, and its #StandByToughMoms campaign. It kicked off with a three-minute video depicting a family meal, during which a mother is criticised by her in-laws for being hard on her son (who, aside from refusing to eat, is shown stealing money). Eventually, the boy’s paternal grandfather speaks up in support of the mother’s decision to discipline.
May 2018: Death-positive podcast sweeps the board
What we said: “Millennial consumers in particular are seeking relationships with brands that are unafraid to speak honestly about difficult subjects.”
What happened: In 2018, Cariad Lloyd’s Griefcast was named Podcast of the Year at the British Podcast Awards – proof, to an extent, that taboos around bereavement are breaking down. The actor and comedian, who lost her dad at 15, told the Radio Times: “I decided to make a podcast that I wish had been around when I lost my father. People don’t like to talk about death.”
July 2018: Insta-friendly erectile dysfunction ads
What we said: “Brands are kick-starting conversations to end the shame and embarrassment around difficult subjects. Those that succeed are able to become part of the zeitgeist.”
What happened: Men’s wellness brand Hims started advertising its erectile dysfunction medication on the New York Subway – using Instagram-friendly images of phallic succulents and eggplants (aubergines, if you prefer) against pastel backgrounds. This slick aesthetic, one could argue, is more in line with a chic lifestyle brand – a way, then, to help end the stigma surrounding a particularly tricky subject.
November 2018: Encouraging women to say “viva la vulva”
What we said: “Brands don’t always need to approach taboo subjects from a sensible position; sometimes humour can be an effective way to change the conversation.”
What happened: Viva La Vulva, a campaign from Swedish sanitary product brand Libresse, encouraged women to get to know their own unique body parts by using a) scientifically correct names and b) humour, to prevent it sounding like a biology lesson – cue scenes of vulva-resembling objects singing a light-hearted yet empowering message.
February 2019: Taboo-smashing greetings cards
What we said: “Health issues have long been a source of shame and embarrassment in wider culture. A long-overdue sea change is occurring as brands begin to normalise these subjects through the sensitive subversion of traditional approaches.”
What happened: A key trend at this year’s National Stationery Show in New York was smashing taboos over mental health and addiction using sensitive – and humorous – slogans. Two that jumped out were “We are like super chill chicks but with a ton of anxiety” and “A (avocado) toast to your sobriety.”
So, what to make of these developments?
“As you can see, tackling taboo topics in a bolder, more transparent way really enables brands to free their creativity,” Christian adds.
“These campaigns are some of the most creatively interesting we’ve seen in the past few years – and the industry agrees, with Libresse winning the Grand Prix at Cannes Lions for its work.
“And it works for consumers too: 60% of consumers who recalled Libresse’s campaign had a better opinion of the brand as a result, and more than two-thirds of women wanted to buy the brand after seeing the ad, according to research from Ipsos. Taking on these issues in a smart, sophisticated and emotionally nuanced way is a winner for everyone.”
Top 6 Easter Egg Designs 2019 (UK)
A flurry of creative confections has hit UK retail shelves in time for Easter. Food brands play with unusual savoury ingredients, new playful and interactive formats and tongue-in-cheek messaging. We dive into our top six favourites for 2019.
- Bunny Business: Ikea has created a DIY chocolate bunny that's inspired by its famous flat-pack furniture and made from sustainable chocolate. Available at select stores, it comes in three separate pieces that slot together to form a 3D rabbit.
Meanwhile, Marks & Spencer is targeting the wellness-seeking consumer with its milk chocolate yoga bunny, shaped like a rabbit in the 'downward dog' position. However, the sweet treat has caused a bit of a stir online, due to its potentially 'suggestive' pose.
- Savoury Flavours: For those with more savoury leanings, British cheese producer Butlers has produced two Easter eggs made from spreadable cheese. Each comes with a packet of oat cakes and a portion of chutney, and are available in Cheddar and Blue varieties from UK supermarket chains Sainsbury's and Ocado.
Likewise, UK "love it or hate it" brand Marmite has launched the 'yeaster egg' – a chocolate egg flavoured with the divisive yeast-extract spread.
- Realistic Indulgence: London-based artisanal ice-cream maker Snowflake has conjured a realistic-looking Easter egg made from gelato, avaiable exclusively at UK department store Selfridges. Available in pastel hues including duck-egg blue and classic hen's egg, a filling of creamy white chocolate gelato with a tropical mango and passion fruit 'yolk' is encased in a Belgian chocolate shell. The eggs are served in a handmade straw basket, with an edible butter kataifi (Greek pastry) nest.
Taking inspiration from an iconic British snack, UK supermarket brand Waitrose has released a chocolate Scotch egg in collaboration with celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal. It consists of caramel ganache and mango and yuzu fondant yolk, coated in milk chocolate maple-flavoured sugar pieces.