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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Art Licensing Editorial: List of Art Trends

Trends come and go but usually stay around for several to many years while fads can disappear even before the product is introduced to market. Determining if a NEW trend is really a trend and not a fad can be difficult. For instance, in 2000 purple and red hat products flooded the market with the advent of the Red Hat Society. Many thought it would stay around for a while but it disappeared from the mass market in less than two years but it is still going strong as a niche market. The same thing happened with the 100th anniversary of the teddy bear in 2002. For several years teddy bear art was on everything and soon disappear from the mass market.

Artists that create trend forward art often have it sit in their portfolio for years and are still waiting for it to be discovered and licensed. A theme may be popular by consumers such as dance but is not recognized as popular enough by manufactures to take a chance on licensing it. Some themes take years to hit the art licensing industry. At the 2003 Licensing Show an artist (I do not remember who) displayed high heel shoe art in her booth but it was not until a couple of years ago that high heels became a popular theme. And sometimes a trend does not materialize for other reasons. For instance, several years ago artists thought that there would be a great opportunity to license recycling themed art because of consumer interest in the "Greening of America." However, there was less opportunity than anticipated because most manufacturers were not setup to produce products with reclaimable and sustainable materials that they must use for "green" art themes. Thus, there is little art licensed with that theme.

Many artists are successful in licensing their art when they use existing trends but give their art a new spin to make it look fresh and new instead of trying to predict new trends. Below is my list of art themes, backgrounds, styles, and colors that I think is licensable in todays market. Caution: This list is not complete and constantly changes. Other artist lists are most likely different.

Trends seen in the 2012 market (many have been trends for years and probably continue)
• Themes
– Nature - geraniums and other flowers, butterflies, birds, owls (retro look), cats and dogs (non specific breeds)
– Coastal - seashells, nautical items such as anchors, lighthouses
– Beach Fun - flip flops, umbrellas, beach chairs, surf boards
– Inspirational words with art - hope, love, dream, etc
– Christmas - Santa, snowmen, deer, trees, ornaments, poinsettias, cardinals, snowflakes, wreaths, stockings
– Halloween - pumpkins and non-scary witches, bats, mummys, monsters, etc.
– Others - robots, high heel shoes, coffee, chocolate, cupcakes, paisley designs, grapes & wine, roosters

• Backgrounds - texture, patterns, words & iconic motifs

• Art Styles (depending on industry and manufacturer)
– Illustrative with swishes and swirls - good for embellishing greeting cards and gift bags with metallics and glitter
– Simple illustrations for die-cut greeting cards
– Grunge (collage of images and text with parts of the images erased and unsaturated colors) used mostly for home decor products
– Collage of images for home decor and gift products
– Simple images for decorative flags

• Colors (depending on the industry, art style, customer demographics, and manufacturer
– Christmas: graphic art = bright cherry red and lime green; grunge look = trendy colors such as violet & metallic greens and pinks & blues; traditional art = dark red and green
– Home decor: unsaturated colors in browns and grays
– Pinks and Yellows are still in and Pantone 2012 Color of the Year ( tangerine tango) is starting to show on some products
– Coastal: blues (especially turquoise), white, off-whites, tans and browns

Trends most likely seen on products in 2013 and 2014 as designs trend-up or new trends become popular 

Update May 2014 - Not all these predicted trends are seen in the marketplace. So far Santas are not more popular than snowmen, words as art are on the way down, retro owls are still popular, black and white outlines etc not yet seen on many products.  But nostalgic images such as typewriters, mustaches, cars are seen on lots of products.

• Evolution of present trends
– Santa more popular than snowmen
– penquins
– sunflowers coming back
– words of all kind with simplified motifs or none
– colors becoming brighter & more saturated (even for home decor)
– owls but not so retro

• B&W sketches & outlines for fabrics, home d├ęcor, and greeting cards

• Lighter colored - very light and white backgrounds; more white accents in design

• Technology images - nostalgia (typewriters, clocks) vs cell phones, computers

Related articles:
"Art Licensing Trend Questions Answered"
"Art Licensing Trend Resources"

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.


  1. Awesome Joan. Many thanks to you for all of your hard work and generous sharing of info. I always look forward to reading your articles!

  2. Very interesting, Joan. It's such a difficult topic to get a complete grasp on, but so necessary to try! Thanks.

  3. Thank you so much Joan. This will give me plenty to work on.

  4. Yes, I've been seeing more of sketches & line drawings...great, cause I love to sketch! You dont miss a thing!

  5. Fantastic article! Thank you so much for sharing.

  6. Thank you so much Joan,your site is a very insightful read. I have shared your site many a time.
    Michelle Campbell

  7. Very helpful information. Thanks a lot Joan for putting this together and sharing.