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Innovate by Spotting & Applying Trends Cheat Sheet (DRAFT) by [deleted]

Spotting What's Trending

This is a draft cheat sheet. It is a work in progress and is not finished yet.


A trend, stripped of its history and context, isn’t partic­ularly meanin­gful. It’s merely a reflection of the now. Effective trend watchers find glimpses of the future and use them to design meaningful products and experi­ences. Unlike clothing, food and other easily altered consum­ables, it often takes several years to design and manufa­cture a hard good. If you’re designing to capitalize on what is trendy now, you’re designing something that’s potent­ially dated by the time it reaches the market.

So how do you get that glimpse into the near future? It starts by knowing the different types of trends and how to spot, analyze and use them effect­ively.

Trend Types

Macro: These are the “big picture” trends that help place a particular consumer or industry trend into context. Looking at macro trends as social, techno­log­ical, economic, enviro­nmental and/or political (STEEP approach) is a good way to start catego­rizing what you see.

Consumer: People often confuse consumer trends with fashion or fads, but that’s far too simplistic an approach. To quote trendw­atc­hin­, “trends emerge when external change unlocks new ways to serve age-old human needs and desires.” Consider Uber as an example. At a macro trend level, our society is increa­singly urbanized and younger genera­tions are less likely to own a car. In addition, the rapidly growing “gig economy” creates a pool of indepe­ndent contra­ctors available by demand. Through the prolif­eration of smart phones, Uber is able to serve the age-old need for transp­ort­ation through the use of contra­ctors. Uber may not exist in 50 years, but the need to provide convenient transp­ort­ation and flexible employment will.

Industry: Industry trends are important, but remember that they are directly impacted by macro and consumer trends. Focusing on what everyone else in your industry is doing, without looking more broadly, may help you keep up with the pack but it won’t bring the insights necessary to innovate.

What's Trending

Become a Trend Watcher

Look cross-­ind­ustry: Your customers are exposed to many products and experi­ences. If you see a trend manifested across several indust­ries, try it on for size in your own industry and see how it fits.
Establish a trend trajec­tory: Trends are a natural progre­ssion, which means looking back can help you see forward. Through online searches, you can follow a trend through its evolution and make an educated guess about where it’s going. Unders­tanding the trend trajectory can be fodder for developing disruptive products and services.
Check your bias: Try to remove your taste from the consid­eration set. Ask lots of questions and search for answers in places beyond your personal comfort zone. Look at what younger genera­tions are doing, wearing and writing about. Check out technology magazines.
Don’t dismiss ideas/­pro­ducts too quickly: When tablets first came out, many people ridiculed them as useless. Or how about putting a camera in a phone? Nobody will want that! Often, we’re telling clients, “It looks crazy now, but trust us it will be everywhere in a year.”
Try products out: You can learn a lot by getting different products in your hands. Reading about a Misfit and wearing one are very different experi­ences. Physical intera­ction brings an unders­tanding that secondary research can’t replicate.
Look for the anti-t­rend:If everyone is wearing black, someone will wear white. Eventu­ally, people want something new and opposites attract. Marble and gold, once considered dated, are back in fashion. Is this because consumers are tired of granite and stainless? Playing with textures, sheen and finish can give something unfash­ionable a fresh twist. Because it hasn’t been seen in so long, updated “old” can feel new.
Be aware of the world: The economy, events like the World Cup, and social movements can influence trends. Next year, the bright colors of Rio’s Carnival are likely to pop up in lots of places as they host the Summer Olympics.
Layer trends: Mixing and matching different trends you have identified can lead to some intere­sting concepts.