January 2015 visual trends: 12 projects to inspire you to be more creative in 2015

January is a great time to explore new areas that will make your work even better in the year ahead.

Aside from the hopefully now over week-long hangover and remorse for the 25+ pigs in blankets you jammed in your gob in the name of Jesus, January can only mean one thing: resolutions. For creatives, self-initiated projects are not only a good way to scratch an itch that your paid work has not quite been reaching, but they can also help you win more of the briefs that you want in 2015. There are two key things to consider: setting yourself limitations and doing something regularly.

If you’re keen to explore a new style or sharpen your analytical skills, using current affairs to trigger ideas is usually a good place to start. However, this week's events in Paris have meant that you'd be tempted to avoid drawing on the news – but it's inspired many creatives to produce works to show support. Many illustrators especially have been deeply touched by the attempt to the silence a magazine whose cartoons especially were so controversial – and they're reactions have ranged from sending love to showing their defiance of those who attack on freedom of expression.

Works such as this by French illustrator Jean Jullien have been widely posted across social media, both by the creative community and beyond – a groundswell of feeling that we can only hope tips the balance back in favour of good after the horror of this week.

Read on to see more inspiring projects across art, design, animation, photography and more.

Yellow is a new weekly illustration project from comics gurus Off Life, which will run for the next year. Each week they invite a different illustrator to create an image inspired by a news story that’s interested them, such as this piece by York-based illustrator Jamie Mills about the report that there’s been a shift away from climate change denial.

Setting yourself a daily challenge (or weekly if that thought terrifies you) is a good way to really hone a skill and prevent yourself from wriggling out of it when you’re “too busy”. Speaking as a journalist, 365 day-projects or the like also make good stories, so you’re more likely to get your work picked up by the press and blogs. Take a look at Manchester studio Dr.Me’s 365 Days of Collage, shown here.

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Every day designers Ryan Doyle and Mark Edwards transform stacks of magazines, photographs and found material into a unique collage and then flog it for £10 on their site.

If you’re not skint in January, then you did December wrong – 365 Days of Collage is a good example of how to monetise a regular self-initiated project.

Not only has it kept Dr.Me’s creative juices flowing and won them ample publicity, but the very accessible price point means that fans keep going back. Rare is it that you can own an original artwork for less than a Northern round.

Lacking in motivation? Get a pep talk from New York-based designer and art director James Victore in his funny and often very insightful series Burning Questions – also a tip from Dr.Me.

This week’s episode (with the title Choose 'Life' before ‘Work') seems especially fitting for the new year.

Also, this week BBC Radio 4 Extra has just started presenting a series of TED talks, the first of which deals with creativity, why we have it and how to find more of it.

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And if you’re looking for a good example of a studio that constantly seeks new creative avenues, head down to London’s KK Outlet to see Nous Vous’ new show, which runs until 31 January.

Much of the work from the show was created during artists Jay Cover, Nicolas Burrows and William Edmonds’ residency at The Tetley in Leeds, and will prove excellent inspiration if you’re looking to get more hands on (or spend less time in front of a screen) in 2015.

Art Basel Miami Beach was the big event for the creative industries at the end of last year – and acts as a good barometer for upcoming trends. As well as lots of wood and soft textile-based projects emerging in the art world, hidden faces and obscured figures were also a prominent theme.

Take Japanese artist Tomoo Gokita’s somewhat unsettling monochrome paintings that were exhibited at part of Mary Boone Gallery’s space. Straddling the line between seductive, surreal and monstrous, the nod to a sexy/scary depiction of the female form is something we’ll be seeing plenty more of in 2015 – as is the monochrome palette.

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For an example of this outside of Miami, check out the latest collaboration between artist Jesse Draxler and fashion photographer Jen Whitaker, called Primer.

First launched on Dazed, the project is a series of collages that deconstruct the female body with a dark and sometimes awkward sexuality.

Weird yet also rather stylish, it’s not difficult to see how this sort of idea could be translated into a lookbook or fashion campaign.

For a slightly softer take on this trend, see the work of Polish photographer Sonia Szóstak, whose excellent show Longboards, Tattoos and a Journey to Mars runs at the NO WO?DKA concept store in Berlin until 25 January.

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In terms of materials, perspex and resin are big stories for spring in the world of product design and furniture. Interestingly though, it often plays a supportive role, as designers use its transparent properties to showcase things within.

Take designer Christopher Duffy’s new Abyss Table, which uses perspex, sculpted glass and CNC-cut layers of wood to form a geological cross-section of the ocean.

For another example of using a transparent material to harness something altogether more spectacular, take a look at Italian design studio Alcarol’s new resin-encased wooden benches complete with hole patterns created by the Teredo Navalis shipworm.

The benches are part of a larger series that has seen the studio suspend mossy logs in resin to make bookshelves and timber poles dredged up from Venice's canals to form cylindrical stools.

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See also the milky resin furniture of Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Wiktoria Szawiel, not to mention the accompanying short film which slickly presents the rural Polish environment that inspired her Landscapes Within collection. A reminder of how a short film can be an excellent way of presenting ideas to a client or potential customer.

As spring approaches, the natural world will start popping up in more briefs, so take a look at how these two projects interpret the trend for harnessing the natural world. Natsai Audrey Chieza is currently working with scientists at UCL to explore the possibility of dying fabrics with a non-pathogenic strain of bacteria commonly found in the roots of plants.

It’s an experimental take on the watercolour trend that was so prevalent in the fashion industry last year – surface designers and illustrators take note. With no background in science herself, this project also shows the importance of collaborating, especially with practitioners outside of the design world.

Last but not least, photographer Tarek Mawad and animator Friedrich van Schoor decided to push the boundaries of projection mapping – a staple of buildings and static, inanimate objects – to see what would happen if they worked on something altogether more organic.

Their new film Projections in the Forest – which you can see at the top of this article – used a computer, projector, and a digital SLR on a slider to create a fake bio-luminescence on natural entities in the wood.

Make sure you check out the making-of video below.

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