Being A Trend Forecaster

victoria polaroidAfter I’ve presented a trend seminar it’s usual for several audience members to come and speak to me about some piece of information or another that particularly interested them,  and without fail each and every one of them will comment on how brilliant it must be to be a Trend Forecaster (which of course it is!) … and they will also normally ask me exactly what my day-to-day job entails.  It seems no matter where in the world I present seminars, and no matter what market sector the audience members are from, Trend Forecasting is a job that fascinates people.  So I thought it would be interesting to give you an insight into what it is I do all day:desk

final pic for blog

Basically I lead the trend forecasting and creative projects at Scarlet Opus and spend my days thinking about, discussing and writing about the future!

Outside of the design industry few people seem to know about the work of Trend Forecasters or how our predictions help to guide the designing, manufacturing and buying activities of the world’s best known product brands and retailers.  In fact few end consumers have any idea that the vast majority of the products they buy have been created in line with the predictions of international trend forecasting agencies like ours, and that this process of forecasting all started a couple of years before the product ever became available for them to buy in a shop:

MONTAGE workAs you read this post we’re completing our Autumn/Winter 2015/16 forecasts for some of our clients and beginning to think about Spring/Summer 2016.  I know – it’s kinda crazy!  Many of our clients want to know about trend predictions just 1 year or 18 months in advance, so whilst we work on reports looking ahead 2 years, we’re also translating trends into product ideas for our clients who want to stay focussed on Spring/Summer 2015 at the moment … and that’s fine too because we want to work at the pace that is right for our clients:

COVERABOVE cover image: New hand-embroidered fabric collection from Fameed Khalique

First and foremost being a Trend Forecaster is about research and information gathering.  Then analysis and translation of that information.  Then drinking cocktails & attending lovely events.  That’s the order of the work tasks for a Trend Forecaster.  Just to be clear – let me show you that as a diagram:


Essentially what I’m saying is that a lot of my time as a Trend Forecaster is spent online finding information on the global events planned-in over the next few years, as well as sifting through the reams of information the team gathers, reading lots of thought-provoking online articles and reports from specialists and experts in diverse fields of study, and reading-up on everything from future film releases to underwater architecture:

waterAs a team we discuss these architectural projects, hotel openings, film productions, museum shows … and a myriad of other planned events, whilst also assessing social change, examining popular culture, and the economic climate in a broader sense.  And of course we keep a keen eye on new works being created by Designers and Artists around the world.  We analyse all of this information, also taking into account current global events, in order to translate it all into a prediction of future design trends.  We need to anticipate what end consumers will want to buy way ahead of them ever developing the desire.  From our research we know what will be on people’s radars at a given point in the future and what they’ll be looking to buy into.  Our job is to help ensure that at that point, the products they want, in the colours, patterns, styles and materials they want them, will be available in stores to answer this demand.  All of the pieces of information we gather together and discuss are like pieces of a jigsaw that fit together to give a bigger and more complete picture of future design trends.  We can then begin to build colour palettes and establish the ‘look’ and key design characteristics of each of the season’s trends:

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Once we’ve established our 5 trend predictions for a season we can begin to build trend boards and create the seasonal reports for our clients.  The first step is to start image gathering – finding wonderful images of fantastic products by great Designers to feature on the trend boards that will come together to provide a clear visual of the trends.  We contact each of them directly to ask their permission to use an image of their work, and slowly but surely the trend boards begin to be built using InDesign software.  Alongside the creation of the trend boards we begin to build our seasonal Trend Report and Presentations, and record the audio commentary that our clients find so useful:

trend board work

ABOVE: ‘The Vision’ trend board & colour palette; Dress by Eri Matsui; ‘Ruined Polaroid’ by William Miller ; ‘Adrift’ (floating crystals photo) by Kirk Johnson

Then it’s time to get out and present our latest forecasts to clients – Manufacturers (Like Kimberly-Clark, Le Creuset, Quick-Step, Interface, Steelcase and sappi), Retailers (like Lakeland), Service Providers, Product Designers and Interior Designers (like Show Business Interiors), or Trade Associations (like BHETA).   Sometimes our trend presentations are held at their offices for just their in-house teams to attend; sometimes our clients invite some of their suppliers along (and that’s fine with us – the more the merrier!); sometimes we give trend presentations on behalf of our cleints to groups of their clients or potential clients!  Whatever works for them works for us, and we LOVE talking about future design trends, and sharing our expertise – informing and inspiring groups large and small:

trend presentation montage

When I’m back in the studio I write posts for our blog, and I write articles and quotes for magazines and newspapers, as well as doing interviews for trade magazines and exhibitions.  Recently a trend forecast feature was published in the 2014 Interior Design Yearbook (pages 170-175) and it’s also going to be featured in the consumer edition out in December.  I’ve also given a telephone interview about ‘Wellbeing & Design’ to the team behind 360° magazine which will feature in their January issue (67).  And earlier this week I did an interview for a feature entitled ‘Gearing Up For SURFACES’ for the December issue of Floor Focusmag montageAnd that rather neatly reminds me to mention our involvement with both the SURFACES show in Las Vegas and The Flooring Show in the UK.  For both of these trade exhibitions we design and curate the Trends Hub (an open space for show visitors to learn about the trends for the year ahead and see inspiring products from their industry … as well as being a space to relax, work or hold a meeting).  We also present Trend Forecasting seminars, and at the moment I’m working on our events for Designer Day at SURFACES on Jan 29th 2014 which includes: a 90min seminar on Design Trends for 2014/15; leading 2 ‘Speed Trend Tours’ out on the show floor of exhibitors booths (ably assisted by Phil as our navigator); PLUS daily Live in the Hub talks from the team across the duration of the show (28th – 30th Jan 2014).  Phil & I have selected the exhibitors who will be on the Speed Trend Tours and now I need to start writing the tour script and building the seminar slides.  Meanwhile Catherine (our Intern) & I are devising, purchasing & making props for the Trends Hub.  It’s a really creative and exciting time in our studio.

Last year (as you can see below) we went with a Lab styling for the Trends Hub that was bright and industrial-looking with a scientific twist.  The 2014 Trends Hub theme is VERY different and I can’t wait to get to Vegas in the New Year and start working with the fantastic builders to put it all together and make our design a reality!

hub montage

So that’s essentially what it’s like Being A Trend Forecaster i.e. completely fascinating and completely all-consuming!  But I feel completely privileged to have spent the last 10 years helping people around the world to have a clearer view of the future!

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