Looking back over a year that has shaken the creative world

The seismic shifts we’ve all experienced this year can be seen across the stories we ourselves have published, and far beyond.


Studying the list of most-read articles, news stories and features published on It’s Nice That in any given year is always a solid indication of what really captured the creative world’s imagination across a 12-month period. Last year, for instance, our Top 25 lists were dominated by new logos, big creative agency relaunches, and even an egg that became the most-liked photo of all time on Instagram (remember that utterly bizarre, if brief, cultural moment?).

But this year our lists look a little different. Hardly surprising given that 2020 has worn down the keys that spell out “unprecedented” on everyone’s keyboards. This year some of our most-read stories include Studio Ghibli releasing video-call backgrounds; an interview with the founders of Stay Safe, Stay Sane, a poster platform for expressing positivity; a collection of recipes offered up by some of our favourite creatives for those getting obsessed with cooking at home; and an opinion piece about the importance of letting go of our need to be creatively productive, particularly in a time of crisis.

Look through the stories we’re resurfacing today a few patterns emerge. Firstly, those dreaded initials “WFH” crop up a fair bit. Often the constraints of isolation led to surprisingly original and uniquely creative results, like in the Škoda advert that was shot entirely in the directors’ homes or the wonderful stop-motion animation created over Zoom by Erwin Van Den IJssel.

However, a lot of our top stories were also about initiatives set up in response to the pandemic and its dramatic impacts on the creative community. Stay Safe, Stay Sane is one, but there were countless others – from the Quarantine Public Library to Limbo, a magazine set up to support unemployed creatives and artists, to campaigns urging others to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus. In 2020, creatives have turned their talents en masse to helping others and supporting their communities.

Indeed, in many ways, creativity has helped us get through the pandemic. That’s not just referring to the inexhaustible stream of new drama series on Netflix or the podcasts that we’ve turned to in a desperate effort to escape our laptops. Creativity has been more ubiquitous than ever. Look, for instance, at how front windows have become a kind of public gallery space, showing scribbled rainbows (we commissioned seven of our own back in April), signs proclaiming “Thank You Key Workers”, and hand-painted Black Lives Matter fists. Despite being cooped up indoors, people have felt the need to communicate these messages to the wider world.

As this suggests, creatives have this year dedicated themselves and their skills more than ever to social and political causes. The Black Lives Matter movement led to the establishment of thousands of new initiatives, such as See in Black – launched by Joshua Kissi and Micaiah Carter – and Change the Lens; but it also forced the creative industry to look at itself and face its failures on structural racism. (We at It’s Nice That were no exception – we made a series of commitments in June; you can find the latest update on what we have been doing since, as part of the HudsonBec Group, here.)

Diversity has never been such a high-priority issue within the creative industry; yet there is always the danger that brands and agencies alike pay lip service to it without enacting genuine change. As Shanice Mears, co-founder and head of talent at The Elephant Room, wrote in an opinion piece for us: “The industry still has a long way to go in making sure that the resources that are out there continue to amplify young talent, and it isn’t a short fix. I can’t predict whether anything is here to stay or not, but I do know that nobody is waiting for permission.”

For our part, we at It’s Nice That will be working to continue improving the ways we amplify young talent in 2021 and hopefully far beyond. As ever, if you have any thoughts on how we can improve or if you have any other feedback, then please do get in touch with me at ma@itsnicethat.com. In the meantime, we hope you join us over the next two weeks in our moment of pausing and reflecting on 2020, courtesy of our latest Review of the Year.

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Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek: Pin-Up Guinea Pigs (Copyright © Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek, 2020)

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About the Author

Matt Alagiah

Matt joined It’s Nice That as editor in October 2018 and became editor-in-chief in September 2020. He was previously executive editor at Monocle magazine. Drop him a line with ideas and suggestions, or simply to say hello.


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