Diversity and quantity feature the society of our time, for instance, while visiting either a metropolitan or rural area, our sight and perception are enraptured by the limitless objects, structures and sensations that compose each environment that surrounds us. The latter is featured by the incoherence amongst people’s garments and diversity amongst architectures, streets, transportation means, advertisings and atmospheric conditions too. Diversity is also perceived within the multiplicity of people’s behaviour. Individuals act differently depending on the context they find themselves. The way someone acts in a public space may vary during her or his private moments, or depending on whom the latter spend his, or her, time. Nothing is readily identifiable within today’s society. It is barely impossible to think of an outfit that categorises our time, as it is for the past decades and centuries backward the digital revolution. Throughout the previous centuries, people’s behaviours and bias were shaped by the noble elites and were not objected by communities. The tendencies of the past are therefore easy to identify. Before the 20th century, human’s propensities were detected backwards, while nowadays the assertion of the masses, requires them to be studied and predicted because of the marketplace requirement.
The presence of limitless options and circumstances and the fact that anyone can be easily influenced by the latter through the access of the internet build up the complexity of the 2000’s society. People today have become self-conscious of their power and aware of the happenings around the world. Consumers are increasingly intelligent, armed of free will and always more intricate needing.
1. What is a Trend?
Historians and theorist have summarised the human’s inclination and performance throughout the time by describing them as art, science, fashion and social movements. A future mindset should prevail in such studies To understand and walk along the evolution of today’s world, due to lingering in a safe position of the marketplace. Currently, businesses have to pay more and more attention to the consumers’ bias to stay on the peak of the economic schedules. They cannot take any risk by inventing new products, or services, which do not fulfil the consumer’s need or will. Therefore, more and more companies turn to trend forecasting consultancies to gain a fresher insight about the current users’ predispositions. Trend forecasting is a practice that from the present tries to define the future of a market, by analysing and critically considering data and statistics. But what is precisely a trend?
Trends are considered to be unconscious inclinations that prevail on to the humans’ will. People’s behaviour and preferences change along their perception of society. These arisen changes have the possibility to turn into trends, which insidiously evolve inside the individuals’ unconsciousness, and further, develop into people’s choices.
1. Affect the marketplace either with massive consequences (Marco Trend) or involve a minor number of adapters (Micro Trends).
2. Either spread into a confined territory (National Trends) or spread out into several counties (International Trends), with the possibility to become Global Trends.
3. Alter individuals’ attitudes (Attitudinal Trends) which typically mould their behaviours (Behavioural Trends).
4. Coexist although their conflicting nature (Conflicting Trends).
Trend are likely to have different impacts on consumer segments, such as Gender, Age, Social Grade, Relationships and Cultures.
Considering the vast influence of Trends on the marketplace, they are determinant for the sustain and success of any given business, within any industry and field. Craig Thayer, Managing Editor, Mintel Inspire, Mintel International Group (USA), said that “the nature of trends means that they can pop up anywhere [,] come from anywhere and catch on in unexpected ways. People don’t live in just one sector. Trends that are found in one industry can impact another. […] You need to look at trends across all sectors and put those in the context of individual sectors” (cited by Higham W., 2009, p.94). Because of their nature, Trends are vital when it comes to Design Management actions and decisions. The Design Management performance requires the neutral consideration of any possible source and data to acquire the best results. It is also often associated with the five “W” procedure of analysis -Why, What, Who, When, Where- Followed by the question “How?”. The latter method of research is also needed to identify, interpret and successively imply a trend into a business operation and marketing strategy. Therefore, one practice cannot exist without the other.
2. The importance of a trend
The Executive Vice President of WGSN, Asia Pacific, explained the delicate nature of a trend during an interview for the Business of Fashion Magazine. The global leading trend forecasting company, which operates in the fashion industry, did a survey addressed to their clients, and subsequently analysed the results to see which trends retailers were backing. WGSN took two different fashion products which had coexisted in the marketplace – ankle boots and long boots – and asked retailers which of these two items they thought was coming back again. WGSN has not aspected the majority of the retailers to give the wrong answer by choosing the long boots. “It was actually the ankle boot that was coming back with significant higher percentage in both the depth, i.e., the total number of stock items the retailers overall were holding, and also in the breadth, i.e., the number of ranges of ankle boots.” (Business of Fashion Magazine Team, 2015)
Many retailers were not aware of the trend because the amount of information they had access on was limited. WGSN purpose is to provide fashion companies with tools that detect the new trends in the fashion market. However, the Design Manager of a specific company which access to the WGSN’s data, reports and analysis, has the commitment to imply the upcoming trends into the products and services of his\her company.
Throughout history, there are many examples that justify the importance of forecast studies and professional figures able to imply them into strategic tactics. The following list illustrates how dangerous a missed trend can be. It was taken from the book “The Next Big Thing”, written by William Higham, one of the UK’s leading consumer strategists, and expert on innovation, trends and consumer change:
“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music in on the way out” (Decca Recording Company rejecting The Beatles, 1962)
“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” (Harry M Warner, founder, Warner Bros, questioning the trend for ‘talking pictures’ 1927)
“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us” (internal memo, Western Union, rejecting the telephone, 1878)
“The world potential market for copying machines is 5,000 at most” (IBM, turning down a deal with the founders of Xerox, 1959)
The following list further proves the importance of trends in a company performance. It illustrates the rejection from some huge corporations towards the computer:
“There is a total world market for maybe five computers” (Thomas Watson, chairman, IBM, 1943)
“I have travelled the length and breadth of this country and talk with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year” (business editor, Prentice Hall, 1957)
“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home” (Ken Olson, president, computer manufactures DEC, 1977) (cited by Higham W., 2009, p.37)
3. Design Management and Design for Trend Forecasting
Design Management is intrinsically linked to the Trend forecasting procedures because of its role of mediator between a potential trend and the successful implementation of the latter on the business performance. Akhil Succena, Senior Profess at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, said that “it’s no longer enough if designers are just creative, they need to have a head of business and become the strategic force behind it” (cited by DNA, 2013). Today Design has to be cleverly used. From the Art and Crafts movement and the Bauhaus school of thought, the concept of Design has revolutionised and shaped our world. Design is vital to indulge people’s needs and will, thus improve the quality of life and create profit too. Vishal Kapoor, Chief of Visual Merchandising and Store Design at Pantaloos, talking about Indian Designers, said that they “have always worked in isolation [but] they need to understand human behaviour, cultural changes and take things forward from a consumers’ perspective” (cited by the DNA team, 2013), in order to fulfil the purpose of Design described above. The latter finds its materialisation through the Design Management role, which in turn benefits from the consciousness of the Trend Forecasting predictions, in fact, “A Design Manager needs to understand Design as well as clients and consumers, and marketing and […] Trends.” (Shanoo Bhatia, Managing Director of the Mumbai- based Eureka Moment Design Company, cited by the DNA Team, 2013). Design Management covers a broad range of competencies, and its existence is made possible by the intricacy of contemporary people predisposition and bias: “The [Design Manager] job profile includes various aspect of product and Design development, including packaging retail impact, competitive analysis, design measurement, customer delight, design research, trend forecasting and design communication” (DNA Team, 2013)
4. Case Study
A solid example of collaboration between Design Management and Trend Forecasting is perceptible when on 2002 the company Wilson Sporting Goods benefited from the use of the two operating together. Wilson is an American sports equipment manufacturer which operates in 100 countries. The company is worldwide known for the quality of their products and for being the inventor of great classics items used in many different sports, such as tennis, baseball, American football, golf, basketball, softball, badminton and squash. One of these representative items is the batting helmet, which was reinvented by the company in collaboration with the design consultancy “Design Concepts”.
Famous kid’s movies, such as “Air Bud: Golden Receiver” or “Little Giant”, give us the visual notion of the features of the batting helmet before the Wilson Sporting Goods renovation in 2002. The qualities of the helmets present in these movies carry the characteristics of those which were used by young players during the matches. Hanging strips fastened with Velcro, a broad crown made of plastic, or leather, filled with hard foam, which was well known for its uncomfortable feeling on the head. Many kids used to wear bicycle helmets or any other daily hat because to their highest feeling of comfortableness and practicality. Baseball is the most practiced sport amongst kids in the US, and it is also highly dangerous in term of injuries. According to the US Consumer Product Safety, baseball is one of the five sports categories with the highest number of head injury.
“Wilson Sporting Goods saw the movement in the marketplace toward families outfitting their kids with safe, reliable products for both team and individual sports” (Franchino D., 2007, p.23). Comparing the past sells to the present ones (in 2002), Wilson realised that “families were buying more and more of their kid’s equipment” (Franchino D., 2007, p.23). At this stage, instead of having an impassive response to the incoming profitable revenue, the company decided to react and revolutionise the batting helmet, due to fulfilling their clients need. The very first step to achieving their goal was primary research towards the kids whom the product was addressed. Wilson was interested in their perception about the helmet: how did they feel about it, and how would it be better in their opinion. The Wilson team was determined to know what were the changes amongst people perception of sport and security in its practice. Therefore, when it turned to the Design Concepts consultancy to concretise a partnership, it was provided with an incredible passion for its product and a keen ability to forecast trends. The latter company is a full-service product design and strategic innovation consultancy. As stated on their site, they exist “to design cool stuff that drives business success and makes life better” (Design Concepts, 2010). The Design Concepts consultancy’s purpose is the total integration of design within the strategic segment of business. Trend forecasting is needed to materialise a successful design. In fact, the second step of the duo’s strategy was the acknowledgment of the parents’ thoughts about the batting helmets. The latter was the implicit target to whom the product was aimed. The third stage of their approach was to find a way to integrate Design with all the notions of the Safety and Cool trend acquired from respectively parents and kids. Finally, the features of the Design of the new batting helmet were stated: great look, great fit and great performance. Each of these played a crucial role on the final prototype, which was safe, malleable in the intern, adaptable to any head and trendy, with a sophisticated Design that would has been available in a broad colour range.
In 2003, Wilson Sporting Good made a strategic action that achieved their previously planned objective. They furnished 16 teams participating the Little League World Series with their helmets and straight after the first match, they received 250 calls the following day, concerning where the item could be purchased. In three years time, the company rose revenues from 0 percent, to 30 percent, selling approximately 750 000 helmets. Consecutively, the company’s entire line of sporting was under the consumers’ attention: “the reputation of the company for producing cutting-edge products with a contemporary, trendsetting style has been etched in the mindset of consumers” (Franchino D., 2007, p. 27). The latter study case can be considered as an evidence of the useful merge between Design Management and Trend Forecasting to successfully perform within the marketplace. It also evidences the benefits that both parts can reach.
Design has become a powerful instrument to shape and structure today’s society. Dave Franchino, President of Design Concepts, said that “design now influences strategic decisions from the outset of the process rather than serving as icing on the cake in the final stages of development”. In fact, the design of a product, to the later success, has to grow up alongside with the entire process of realisation. The Design Management role is fundamental to achieve this goal. Despite to general management, Design Management requires to evolve itself alongside its competencies. It does not manage the authorities involved in the creation of a product, or service, but it rather performs with them and supervise each stage of the process. The biggest responsibility which lays behind the Design management role is the chance of success for any practice it performs for. Therefore, its primary duty is to consider all the consequences that may occur from its decisions. Design Management has to be aware of all the current circumstances happening within the society because its purposes are actually addressed to the latter. Considering the Trend Forecasting function of analysing and reporting the current bias of the society to predict its future ones, the results of its practices are strongly needed to be taken into consideration by the Design Management organism of a given business. Leon C. Megginson, Louisiana State University business professor, during a speech in 1963, summarised the Charles Darwin’s theory of the species, by saying: “it is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Darwin’s theory can be extended to the best success of a given business. In fact, as proved by the entire length of this project, the most successful corporations existing are those who actively respond to a particular reaction of the population.
Our world is continuously changing and evolving. Considering this statement, it can be assert that society is always turning into a more complex state. Therefore, it requires the assistance of a likewise organism of competence: both the Design Manager and Trend Forecaster professional figures, are the product of this circumstance. Design Management is thus the gene that allows success in the ocean of our world’s changes: it is the means needed to translate the new Trends, which in turn are detected by the Trend Forecasting performances. Consequently, success in today’s society requires the coexistence and collaboration of both implementations.
By Nicole Afonso Alves Calistri, 2016
Business of Fashion Magazine Team (2015), Vandana Rana interview to Dan Cotton, “Trend Watching: Delivering real-time insights with WGSN InStock”, Business of Fashion, Magazine, June 24, 2015
Design Concepts (2010), “Thinking bigger takes people and practice”, About section, online source available from http://www.design-concepts.com/about, accessed on 10/03/2016
DNA (2013), Grand Designs, “In the Age of ‘the look’, Design is becoming a bid deal in fields where it was once non- exist”, January 14, 2013, Monday
Franchino D. (2007), Delivering Success Through Design: Reinventing the Batting Helmet, Design Management Review; Winter 2007; 18, 1; Arts & Humanities, pg. 23, 27
Higham W. (2009), “The Next Big Thing: Spotting and Forecasting Consumer Trends for Profit”, published by Kogan Page, p. 23, 94.
Meggison L. C. (1963), June, Southwestern Social Science Quarterly, Volume 44, Number 1, Lessons from Europe for American Business by Leon C. Megginson, (Presidential address delivered at the Southwestern Social Science Association convention in San Antonio, Texas, April 12, 1963), Start Page 3, Quote Page 4, Published jointly by The Southwestern Social Science Association and the University of Texas Press. (Verified with scans; thanks to a helpful librarian at the University of Central Florida), reference is taken from the online source available at http:// quoteinvestigator.com/tag/leon-c-megginson/, accessed on 11/03/2016