TRENDS STUDIES

 

Trends studies are still paving their way through the business and creative world, but here we are focused on science and their place within academia. This is a new transdisciplinary area that researches mindsets and sociocultural trends, which manifest themselves in behavior patterns and cultural manifestations or artifacts.

There is not one, but many, systematic approaches to the study of trends. Our own perspective now follows the several dynamics between analysis approaches in a complex matrix that articulates research within both solid and shifting paradigms of our times and the mindsets they produce and that originate several behavior patterns.

The understanding of these mindsets and attitudes, and how they translate into seeds of change and signals of innovation, is an important resource for the development of solid strategic and social policies and actions.

In the last two years, there has been a convergence of perspectives and an awakening of Trends Studies as a research of human behavior towards the generation of innovation. The definition of trend shows this convergence and from Portugal to the Netherlands and Brazil, concepts begin to take shape and become more solid. England, with its own  vision and perspective on trends, not to talk about their own impact and importance for the field, is moving towards this new potential for a unified field of study and practice. Business agencies and networks find common ground at a conceptual level, from Trendwatching to Science of the Time, going to new and emerging projects like Berlin (Brazil) and Wandering the Future (Netherlands). This does not mean that the difference perspectives of Trends Studies are dead.

The Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium and Germany still share a common basis for the study of trends. The exchange of professionals and scholars allowed for this construction of a joint school of Trends Studies, which also expands to many professionals and scholars in Brazil. Seeing Trends as major patterns associated to values, beliefs and the hole context of mindsets, which can be studied through the identification of signals with the cool gene has created a basis for dialogue. The definition of Cool itself, following the first proposal by Carl Rhode, and a macro perspective on the trends has ensured a close proximity between Portugal and the Netherlands within the area.

Italy maintains its conceptual basis and a close relation to the study of the genius locci, which gives it a unique and particular perspective on the study of trends. While the main perspective in Spain still sees trends as the emerging patterns and fashion as the mainstream, on opposition to the perspective we support in our network. Yes, there are still many perspectives and proposals, but the last years prove that dialogue is increasing and convergence is now inevitable.

 

 

Trends Studies articulate several perspectives and tools from the Humanities, Social Sciences. Sociology and Ethnography, in articulation with Cultural Studies, provide the means and the critical sense to gather and analyse data within complex social dynamics. Marketing and Consumer Culture Theory provide a basis for contextualization and application of information, in articulation with disciplines like Design, in order to provide a solid picture on social relations and developments, as well as innovation insights. In the case of Trends Observer, we work with these articulations, but give special attention to Cultural Management and Analysis.

When working with Trends Studies, there are several tools to consider and some of them are very specific to this field. One of those tools is Coolhunting: the practice of identifying innovative cultural manifestations and seeds of change in mindsets and behaviors. However, there is no solid consensus on the role and nature of coolhunting. William Higham states that there is still no single established practice for the process of identifying and analyzing trends, underlining, there are few formal studies about the practice and the area (4). Nonetheless, the author adds that strong media coverage enabled the mainstream traction of coolhunting in the 1990s (4) and the practice gained a new international attention. Such promotion, however, did not help in the constitution of a united expertise, since each professional uses his own method and has a specific idea on its potential for application. Also, as Henrik Vejlgaard points out, the practice became a bit overrated since what was reported did not always developed into trends (1). Nevertheless, there is a general understanding that coolhunting allows to spot movements and changes and can lead to the identification of trends and innovation insights. That allows us – in an academic perspective – to apply and integrate the concept and the practice in a Trends Studies’ model.  Peter Gloor and Scott Cooper add that there are two particular areas for the application of coolhunting: namely the observation of external markets and the development of internal innovation (5).

 

 

Apart from tools, there are specific disciplines and practices that are being developed within Trends Studies. Trendspotting and Trendwatching are the basis for the identification and monitoring of trends. It is here that the main work of the trends analyst takes place, from data gathering and analysis to the development of a trends´ architecture. Another emerging discipline is Trends Communication, since the way trends are disseminated and presented to both a specialised and broad audience(s).

 

Major Book References for the study of Trends:

[1] VEJLGAARD, Henrik (2008). Anatomy of a Trend. New York: McGraw-Hill.

[2] RAYMOND, Martin (2010). The Trend Forecaster´s Handbook. London: Laurence King.

[3] DRAGT, Els (2017). How to Research Trends. Amsterdam: Bis Publishers.

[4] HIGHAM, William (2009). The Next Big Thing. London: Kogan Page.

[5] GLOOR, Peter e Scott Cooper (2007). Coolhunting: Chasing down the next big thing. New York: Amacom.

[6] GLADWELL, Malcolm (2006). The Tipping Point: How little things can make a big difference. New York: Little Brown.

Adapted from GOMES, Nelson P. (2015; 2016) and graphics from Maria Ana Vieira Lopes.

 

 

 

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