Disruptive Expression: Bold, Fluid, Unapologetic Creativity
Disruptive Expression is about artistic experimentation and fluidity. It’s about creating bold images that blur boundaries and bring us to new imagined spaces. It’s about breaking down timid perfectionism and replacing it with something spontaneous and imperative — something just screaming to come out.
With a wealth of digital tools at our fingertips, people are creating vibrant, layered, and unique images on their own terms. At the drop of a hat, they can throw a filter onto an image, piece together a collage, or digitally manipulate a photograph. Whether they’re being serious or whimsical, Disruptive Expression lives off the creative confidence to break some rules. These artists are not afraid to broadcast new ideas to the world in real time.
You can see the Disruptive Expression trend in action in our curated gallery of Adobe Stock.
A space for creative play
In Disruptive Expression visuals, artists are comfortable having some fun. At a time when we’re overwhelmed with grave issues, Disruptive Expression makes a much-needed space for emotion and unrestrained play. Artists design and push out images that capture a flash of mood or a moment of inspiration. But this doesn’t mean they’re not serious: sometimes taking issues to heart requires disrupting how we’re used to feeling about them.
Faces play a huge role in Disruptive Expression — we’re tweaking their textures, shapes, and colors. Apps that distort how we look are huge, from the familiar Snapchat filters to reality-tweaking apps like YouCam, which allows you to apply makeup to your selfie; KiraKira, which adds sparkle to your images; FABBY, which puts you in whimsical video settings; and VSCO, which gives users a suite of tools for changing up their images.
Confidence across boundaries
Disruptive Expression embraces digital manipulation as well as analog formats as a way to invent unique and bold images. But this shouldn’t be interpreted as hiding from reality. In fact, digital tools are becoming a catalyst for freedom of expression and re-evaluating our analog world. As people create, they feel confident and safe to defy the status quo.
Consider London club kid Scotty “Sussi” Sussman, who’s turned his appearance, from his bold red lips to his exaggerated widow’s peak and over-the-top club wardrobe, into an art installation in itself. Scotty explains the freedom that comes with his disruptive image: “Dressing up is taking the person you were on the inside and putting it on the outside… the second you cross the threshold into being someone that is completely free and open, there’s no more room to doubt yourself.”
Spanish artist Cinta Tort Cartró is another powerful example of an artist who’s throwing out conformity — in her case, to embrace radical self-acceptance. Her images celebrate all types of bodies and abilities, bringing us close-up with body hair, and transforming stretch marks into glittering rainbows. Similarly, nonbinary French illustrator Izumi Tutti draws on their face, transforming acne from a nuisance into cosmic constellations.
In the world of Disruptive Expression, people don’t have to conform. If none of the boxes fit, you create your own.
An experimental thread runs through Disruptive Expression — and folks are jumping into their experiments with unabashed enthusiasm. In this, Gen Z leads the pack. As a group, they’re confident in their creativity, and they express themselves freely in exuberant mashups of words, photos, and illustrations, all designed to share excitement about, well, everything. They’re passionate about serious issues and whimsical ones, and the whole world offers an opportunity to speak their minds.
As Molly Logan, a tracker of all things Gen Z and founder of Irregular Labs, recently said in an interview, “You have to remove any sense of binaries or rules — there are no contradictions for Gen Z, it’s just all raw material.” As a result, their creative style embraces everything with equal intensity: “Why wouldn’t I articulate something that may be very serious through certain tools and tactics that older people think should be reserved for something that’s between your friends or frivolous?”
The takeaway for brands and designers
Consumers are drawn to brands that are as honest, iconoclastic, and intense as they are. Designers can embrace the Disruptive Expression trend with visuals that offer unique points of view and that bring diversity, self-acceptance, and fearlessness to the fore. It’s time to elevate celebration, and even a touch of hedonism. Set aside a light touch in favor of power, joy, and fierce individuality.