Walking in to meet with a new client this week, I was greeted with a one-liner worth blogging about:

“Hi, great to meet you in person! You look just like your photo!”

We laughed — but he brings up an important point. In a world that’s dominated by filtered Instagram influencers, endless stock photos, and Photoshopped tabloids, what you see is rarely what you get. This makes authenticity the key to mastering the marketing fundamentals of know, like, and trust.

And let me tell you, it’s a lot harder than it sounds when it comes to design!

I grappled when it came to choosing a photo for this blog because, well, authenticity. So I’m going to just call myself out right off the bat.

“Hello, Pot here, nice to meet ya kettle!”

Some argue that there is a time and place for stock images when the image isn’t the focus of our message. Others argue there is never a place for generic, disingenuous design. Wherever you land in the debate, here’s a look at why authenticity is key, and how to achieve it.

Ultimately, I chose a photo that shows a member of my own fabulous team. An authentic, genuine shot of a woman who’s well-known and loved by our mConnexions clients and connections. But I was close to grabbing a stock image to quickly get the job done!

Focus on Authenticity in Your Design

Matthew Tyson of The Huffington Post wrote that millennials, “are not moved by flashy ads, big promises, and the ‘wow’ factor. They want authentic messages, authentic brands, and authentic interactions.” Four years after the piece was published, millennials have huge buying power — and still demand authenticity. They crave emotional connections and will look for this connection when deciding between brands.

And they’re not alone. We hesitated to even call authenticity a trend in our team’s outlook for 2019 Marketing Trends, because it’s as timeless as a little black cocktail dress. But, it bears emphasis this year when it comes to design.

When it comes to content, the images, colors, and graphics we use are equally as critical as the words we choose. Consumers are looking for a personal connection with brands and businesses. Well-thought-out designs can help foster that connection while attracting new attention.

Design offers the opportunity to create connections. Through the look and feel of your graphics, logos, materials, website, and more, you can make a lasting connection with your audience. Design allows you to show the human side of your business. Trends in design are constantly evolving, but here are a few ways you can highlight the human element in design and communicate authentically with your customers in 2019.

Be Bold, But Keep It Simple

Bold, vibrant colors are making a splash in 2019. Even Pantone’s color of the year offers a unique pop. This can help you make a statement with your website, emails, and graphics. Don’t be shy about using colors that truly reflect your business and your personality.

That said, don’t forget the power of simplicity. Minimal designs can keep your message from getting lost, and there’s nothing wrong with a little white space to keep things looking clean, polished, and professional.

Be Unique and Original

Show off the uniqueness that is you with hand-drawn or custom designs and texts when possible. This communicates intimacy and shows that there are people behind your brand. Remember, people want to buy from people.

With that in mind, don’t forget to show off the people behind your brand. Use pictures of people rather than objects and, when you can avoid it, no stock photos! If you have to, make sure those photos truly reflect the people behind your brand, and make them as personal as possible.

Our audience is savvy when it comes to marketing and can sense when you aren’t being genuine. They’re also prolific users of the internet and are likely to notice when you use that same stock photo that they see a million other brands using.

So instead, use these tips and drop the stock images, the filters that keep you from looking authentically you, and consider design a new opportunity to connect in a way that is genuine and true.