Visual trends 2016: 16 incredible projects to inspire you for the year ahead

Laura Snoad reveals 16 must-see projects from explosive paintings and beautiful designs to wintery, creepy TV shows and experimental music videos.


Although the cold winter might not have come as soon as usual, the clocks have gone back and we’re preparing to buckle down for the darker months. Whether you’re finishing off work on Christmas projects or looking at how to distill the wider winter season into your themes or colour palettes, gathering inspiration from the natural world is an excellent place to start.

Swedish photographer Gabriel Isak’s portfolio is a masterclass in capturing the fairytale quality of winter. There’s a melancholy in his work - he uses photography as a means of exploring his own depression, he tells The Creators Project - but there’s also a strong sense of magic, achieved both by surreal, minimalist compositions, but also an awe for the beautiful landscapes he uses both as protagonists and backdrops.

Similarly photographer Noemie Goudal’s current exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery in London (runs until 16 January) uses the relationship between the natural world and human interventions to create an otherworldly feel perfect for seasonal projects. Her first major solo show in the UK, Southern Light Stations features moon-like floating spheres in a number of eerie landscapes. The title nods to scientific research and weather stations, but like a lot of Goudal’s portfolio, the power is in the ambiguity of the forms and their purpose.

Goudal is an expert in innovative ways to use place in her images, check out her series Les Amants for a very clever way to display landscape photography that centres around displacement – something transferrable to a range of other projects.


If it's too cold to venture out, just turn on your television to find inspiration in the colours and textures of the countryside at dusk. The second series of The Returned – the melancholia-laden French TV show about the dead returning that's completely at the other end of the emotional spectrum from the likes of The Walking Dead is now available through Amazon or iTunes. The half-light that much of show is set in perfectly matches that the characters seem caught between life and death (and there's an incredible, depth-defining soundtrack to the show by Scottish post-rock behemoths Mogwai).
 
(If you prefer Gabriel's mix of wonder and darkness to Noemie and The Returned's starkness, queue up Scandinavian not-really-a-crime-drama Jordskott on Amazon or iTunes).

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Just as a muted, earthy colour palette is integral to the feel of Noemie and Gabriel’s work and The Returned and Jordskott, the photographs of David Batchelder similarly trade on subtle colour combinations and contrasts – in this case thrown up by the natural world itself.

For his new book Tideland, David has documented naturally occurring ‘watercolour’ paintings, made by the tide on a small beach near to his home in Charleston.


David’s work is a reminder that the natural world itself can often work as an excellent canvas.


Moving onto the brighter feel of the coming spring, another example of an artist using chance to ‘paint’ her pictures is Rosmarie Fiore - who creates stunning chromatic scenes by exploding and containing fireworks. Because of the unconventionality of her medium, Fiore has largely had to invent her own tools, including duct-taped brooms and containers on wheels to make sure the smoke bombs hit the surface at the right speed.

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The blended hues are achieved by using a smooth printmaking paper. We can’t think of a more exciting way to rethink your colour palettes.


Colour-obsessed Londoners could do a lot worse than heading down to the Wellcome Collection to discover Ann Veronica Janssens’ States of Mind installation. The show, which is part of a year-long exploration of human consciousness, fills the gallery with a dense dry mist and coloured light that gives the impression of enveloping visitors in a number of hues.

Mind-bending stuff and great for tips on experiential design – be sure to check out the exhibition identity and companion publication by Studio Hato.


For another great example of how to use colour to blur perception, check out these paperscapes by Carl Kleiner. Made for Google’s new Android Marshmallow operating systems, they look computer generated but in fact Kleiner has made the optical illusions using purely analogue means.

Paper stock, pigments, lighting, floating inks and textures powders help create three-dimensional effects. Even when working for a digital behemoth like Google, sometime the most magical solutions are the handmade.

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If you’re looking for ways to take this trend into three-dimensions, take a look at this piece of set design for fashion brand Sportmax by Italian studio Formafantasma. Transparent ribbons of PVC were trailed around the catwalk and held in place with terracotta cylinders. Where the ‘infinite’ bands overlapped, new colours appeared, making for a clever optical interplay.


In a similar way to Kleiner’s visuals, Shai Langen’s video for Jo Goes Hunting (above) looks like it’s been made digitally but with a concoction of wallpaper paster and acrylic paint, his alien-like models writhe in front of the camera as if formed in Cinema 4D. The contrast between the real and the perception of digital makes for very weird watching.


The combination between digital platforms and the overtly analogue is not a new trend as such but there have been a couple of projects in recent months that have transported the idea into the art world and taken it up a gear in terms of execution. Miguel Nóbrega, for example, recently launched an online gallery of drawings he’s been working on using his coding skills, felt tip markers, a CNC milling machine and a vinyl cutter.

Based roughly on architectural structures, every time the code runs, new randomly generated properties are introduced meaning no two drawings are the same – as well as taking away control from Nóbrega. You can watch a video of the process here.

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Rachel Rossin recently took the art world by storm with her paintings at New York gallery Zieher Smitth and Horton, which turn the genre of still life on its head using Oculus Rift. Rossi takes roughs of her paintings into software more usually utilised by the games industry, and manipulates physical attributes like gravity and spatial relationships to create surreal scenes.

Because of digital compression, some data is lost in this process – hence the show’s title Lossy – making for warped scenes. She then paints her final paintings using true 3D as a reference point.


Book and editorial designers take note, similarly surreal new book Erotic Glam by Frances Adair Mckenzie combines augmented reality with a physical publication, to create a home for GIF art away from the computer screen. Two-dimensional images are then activated using an iPad app.

The key thing about this project – and something for anyone working with augmented reality to bear in mind – is that the photography looks top notch on its own, meaning that the book is far from redundant without the augmented layer.


Back in the real world, take a look at these two excellent projects as inspiration for making irresistible wares. As part of their Turner Prize exhibition, architecture collective Assemble has developed a showroom for some of the products available as part of their Four Granby Streets project. The project saw them work with the Granby Streets local community in Liverpool to rebuild the neighbourhood after years of institutional neglect, including developing new community centres and fixing up people’s houses.

The products have all been developed with the local community using some pretty innovative DIY processes like mixing rubble with concrete to make a rather beautiful granite-like composite and smoke-firing ceramics in a BBQ. All pre-orders will help launch the Granby Workshop business, which will aid the further rebuilding of Granby Four Streets. As well as being a great example of how design can be used for good, it’s also an excellent project if you’re looking for inspiration on new processes and downright resourcefulness.

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As part of Irish Design 2015, The Souvenir Project tasked Irish designers to create objects that tapped into the cultural and material memory of Ireland to produce a range of wares that really spoke of the depth of the country. Ranging from a ceramic plate that combines traditional pattern with a rainbow palette (celebrating the vote for marriage equality) to this tea towel by Superfolk inspired by dry stone wall techniques, all of the products have a strong narrative and haptic quality.

The take-home from both this project and the Assemble showroom is, when thinking about what to produce to sell, consider both its purpose and its story. By creating something meaningful, you make it more sustainable (as people want to keep it longer) and you also generate free PR as customers will retell the narrative whenever someone compliments them on the item. Win win.