Adobe’s 2020 Creativity News & Survey Analyzed – Challenges and Changes in the Creative World

Can we all agree 2020 seems to be something out of a mainstream blockbuster? This year has shaken things up for good between social activism on various global, common causes and a worldwide pandemic and consequent lockdown. The effect on the creative community is palpable. 

Today, Adobe revealed the results from its 2020 Creativity News & Survey, with a strong focus on how 2020 events reshaped visual and creative work, and what is it like to be creative in 2020. 

The report, based on answers from 600 designers and marketers, gives valuable insight into what challenges arose this year in visual design, where creatives draw inspiration from at this time, the most effective marketing images right now, and where they are finding them.

Here I analyze the Adobe survey results and what they say about 2020 in the creative industry.

Stock State of Stock Infographic > Adobe’s 2020 Creativity News & Survey Analyzed - Challenges and Changes in the Creative World
Adobe's Creativity News and Survey data are highlighted in bold in the article. The non-bolded text is my personal commentary.

The Challenge of 2020 is To Create a Restrictive Environment

One of the most notorious events in 2020 is, undoubtedly, the worldwide Covid-19 (or novel Coronavirus) pandemic, with the consequent lockdown that affected pretty much every country and region, albeit to different degrees. 

In this context, creative workflows and strategies are forcefully modified. Many creative teams have shifted to remote work. Many brands used to custom visual materials cannot produce new content, and the rapidly changing media landscape demands new ways to communicate. 

According to Adobe Survey: 

  • 83% of survey respondents agree the events of 2020 have made it more critical than ever to expand creative skillsets (e.g., video, 3D, and interactive design), with 25% incorporating new virtual photography tactics.
  • 88% of creatives say 2020 made campaign planning for 20/21 more challenging
  • 87% of them found it necessary to reevaluate the subject in their visual campaigns

Given creative workflows tend to be a bit chaotic in a normal situation, the disruption of this year's events has certainly messed things up and creatives are called to adapt and make it work. 

2020 Visual Landscape: Change is the New Normal

It’ll come as no surprise that for most people working in creative departments or running their own business campaigns, the key element for this year has been how fast things can change worldwide and how impactful those changes can be for everyone. 

Per the Adobe report:

  • 87% of surveyed creatives believe change is the only thing that stays the same in the creative industry

By impactful changes, we are talking not only about the Covid-19 spread but also about several global social justice movements with extensive media coverage that sparked up daily life conversations –the George Floyd case and the BLM movement, or Greta Turnberg and climate change activism are just two of many examples– consequently demanding content that reflects these matters and more diversity in visuals, and adding a considerable amount of pressure for visual content creators. 

Adobe Survey collects that:

  • 87% of them found it necessary to reevaluate the subject in their visual campaigns
  • 86% are struggling more than ever to stay relevant with their customers
  • 81 percent are being asked to develop more content in less time
  • 76% say it's harder to navigate through the rapidly evolving visual and cultural trends today than it was 6 months ago

One thing is clear: most creatives now know the world can throw them a curve ball at any given moment, and they have it hard to knock it off the park.

Creativity Gears Towards Stock Photography

As a result of the scenario we just painted, business creatives discover or rely more on stock photography to keep their marketing wheel running.

As the Adobe survey shows:

  • 93% of marketers and designers agree that stock content can serve a greater variety of creative projects
  • 84% of respondents rely on stock content providers to do their jobs (up +11 points over 2019)
  • 49% of creative teams incorporated more stock assets instead of custom shoots and/or are using a hybrid model (mix of existing custom and branded assets plus stock)

For me, creatives are tapping on one of the core benefits of stock photography: that is readily available. In times like this, having images that are already produced bypasses any current obstacles to go out and shooting photos, but also makes it possible to rethink, redefine, and redesign visual campaigns on the go. 

Adapt & Inspire with Change-Driven Visuals

In what for me is the most interesting insight from this survey, so far this year, designers and creatives seem to be not only soldiering through but have found a way to bank on the current state of things for their marketing and communications strategies, turning a challenging context into an inspiration-fueling and positive impact-driving concept. 

Adobe’s survey says:

  • 91% of stock users admit the events of 2020 have inspired their team to incorporate real-world issues into their creative work
  • 49% of them are developing campaigns with positive societal impacts
  • 41% have changed how they create in 2020 by preparing to pivot or change creative direction quickly

While the trend for socially-influenced visuals isn't new –you can see it in our Photography Trends 2020 and those for 2018 and 2019–I think this is a great way to adapt marketing strategies to trying times.

We have given you some inspirational resources in our list of Positive Visual Ideas to Communicate during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Per this report, a lot of creatives are going down that path, too.

If anything, what we get out of this is that while some of this year’s events might be –hopefully– of the once-in-a-lifetime type, the fast-paced, social-driven, and visual-first global environment is here to stay, so adapting to its rhythm is important.

A Growing Demand for Diverse and Socially Representative Images

Resorting to stock photos to design elevated visuals based on today's social landscape isn't without its challenges. While the stock photo market is wide and modern stock photography aims at authenticity and diversity, the vertiginous evolution of social trends makes it hard for providers to stay up to date, and content creators are visualizing it. 

According to Adobe's report: 

  • 89% of creatives are interested in diverse and inclusive stock collections
  • 74% say finding stock images that resonate with today's audiences is a challenge

This is something that stock photo agencies and stock photographers and artists would ideally pick up on, to deliver the socially-inspired content designers are so craving. However, the creative restrictions mentioned earlier affect providers too and add to a whole set of issues going on at their side of the market, so it's a matter of time to see if they'll be able to create the offer for this growing demand. 

Things Changed, But We Still Create

If one thing is clear from Adobe’s Creative News & Survey 2020, is that the creative community is not been deterred by the year’s many obstacles to campaign planning and visual content production, but is instead adapting, expanding into new mediums, and finding an ally in stock photography as well as inspiration in the global happenings.

But what about you? How has your experience with marketing and communications during this year been? What changes have you implemented in your workflow? We’d love to know!


Image header: Copyright antifalten/, all rights reserved.

Ivanna Attié
Ivanna Attié

I am Content Manager, Researcher, and Author in and Stock Photo Press and its many stock media-oriented publications. I am a passionate communicator with a love for visual imagery and an inexhaustible thirst for knowledge. Lucky enough to enter the wonderful world of stock photography working side-by-side with experienced experts, I am happy to share my research, insights, and advice about image licensing, stock photography offers, and the stock media industry with everyone in the creative community. My background is in Communication and Journalism, and I also love literature and performing arts.

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