Forward Thinking: taking stock of unprecedented times


      Exploring the global creative industry’s ambitions and predictions with Google Design.

      Forward Thinking, supported by Google Design, is an editorial series reflecting on creative life after 2020. With a total campaign reach of more than one million people, the six It’s Nice That articles helped creatives plan for better times while cementing Google Design as a thoughtful industry leader.

      Google has sponsored It’s Nice That’s Review of the Year programme for the past five years. However, in 2020, it didn’t feel right to be celebrating a year that had been a struggle for so many. We needed to take a new approach that suited the current climate.


      Benedikt Luft illustrations for Forward Thinking

      It's Nice That collaborated with Illustrator Benedikt Luft to create the identity and illustrations for the campaign

      Forward Thinking was our new iteration of Review of the Year, taking stock of learnings from the past to explore how creatives around the world could tackle the year ahead. Through a series of six advice and opinion pieces, we dissected topics like the state of creatives’ mental health and how to rethink public and private spaces in a post-pandemic world. Keeping a tone of cautious optimism, we heard from 15 leading creatives spanning illustration, film and advertising.

      To bring more diverse voices and opinions to this year’s campaign, we commissioned two articles from guest editors, including Kati Krause, previous editor of Anxy magazine, and Diyora Shadijanova, an editor at gal-dem. Meanwhile, our Stop, Start, Continue feature asked four leading creatives about their resolutions for 2021, including Google UX director Skye Lee.

      For Forward Thinking, we needed a brand identity that stood out from previous years, as well as other content on the site. Our aim was to create a look that felt calm and hopeful, but not too cheerful given the difficulties of 2020.

      Working with illustrator Benedikt Luft and motion designer Dian Jiao, we created our first visual identity led by animation. Benedikt’s work is simple and tranquil but on point, making him the perfect commission for this project. By adding soft motion to the work, Dian enhanced the soothing tone of the campaign. The movement in our hero and list images made for an eye-catching identity that stood out on our homepage as one of our first editorial series for 2021.

      • Total campaign reach of over 1.1 million people on It’s Nice That
      • 50,000 total page views across all editorial content
      • It’s Nice That’s audience spent 2,500 hours engaging with editorial content

      For both It’s Nice That and Google Design, the key triumph was finding a way to support our audience as it saw the back of a challenging year. “It was really exciting working on something completely new this year in Forward Thinking”, says editor-in-chief Matt Alagiah. “It feels like we’ve really found our stride in tackling the important issues facing the design community worldwide at the start of a new year.”


      Kati Krause: Guest Editor
      Diyora Shadijanova: Guest Editor
      Benedikt Luft: Graphic Designer
      Dian Jiao: Motion Designer

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