The importance of images for targeting specific groups will continue to grow in the future. This becomes clear when looking at Generation Z: The teens and young adults who were born between 1995 and 2010 are virtually networked to such a degree that they are visually influenced like no other generation before them. While there will undoubtedly be more older people in the future, it is also assumed that the 8- to 23-year-olds will account for around 40 percent of consumers by 2020—an important target group for all kinds of advertising, including photography.

The most important common characteristic of Generation Z members is that they all grew up with digital technology. For them, real and virtual worlds merge; communication on the net often stands on an equal footing with real contact. Digital technology in all its variants expands the possibilities for young people to grow into the world. Generation Z is online for most of the day, surfing on a real wave of images. This, on the one hand, makes it harder to attract attention to an image because of the associated sensory overload, and easier on the other because the visual impact of this generation is more pronounced. This is why the principle that good photos are more important than texts applies, to a greater degree, to visual communication with young people.

The smartphone as the key to the world

The topic “digitization” offers a wide range of possible motifs. Above all, the smartphone as the most important networking tool for young people is the focus here in countless variations. This applies not only to all aspects of connectivity, such as documenting special moments, amusing mishaps in the virtual world, but also to the discussion of negative side effects of digitization, such as cyberbullying, data theft, and interference with privacy.

Today’s young people move in a world that is constantly changing and requires lifelong learning. This aspect also opens up a variety of themed design possibilities to visually communicate with this group; the use of digital technology in schools and universities, young people researching and experimenting, “e-learning” on the PC instead of lessons in the classroom, but also the drawbacks such as excessive demands, pressure to perform, and the compulsion to self-optimize are rich subject areas for visual design.

Young professionals generally have a different relationship with their work than previous generations. They are curious, open, flexible, and willing to perform, but for them, values such as work-life balance, fun at work, self-actualization, and a good working atmosphere take precedence over traditional values such as a high salary and status. At the same time, there is a shortage of skilled workers in many industries. Those starting their careers today not only want to be motivated differently in their work, but they also have to be approached differently when it comes to getting them interested in a certain occupational field.

Crude picture messages no longer work

For the marketing department of large companies, for example, this means that they have to choose a different visual language in order to reach young people. Possible topics are creative young entrepreneurs, job interviews in a relaxed atmosphere, the beloved hobby as a profession, good relationships between superiors and job entrants, new job opportunities through digital change, portraits in the typical working environment of various professions and—this is also becoming increasingly important—young women in professions previously dominated by men.

And, in addition to the current topics mentioned, there are, naturally, the unchanging aspects of being young and coming of age: puberty with all its trials and tribulations, such as rebellion, falling in love and heartache, dreams of fame and beauty, friendship, puppy love, going out and celebrating, adventure, and the intensity of all the things that you experience for the first time.

Generation Z is altogether better informed than its predecessors (but also more susceptible to disinformation) and thus in some ways more critical. Crude picture messages no longer work here. This makes it all the more important in the future to find the appropriate visual language to attract the attention of teens and adolescents.