Marieke van der Poel: Trend Is Not A Four-Letter Word

Applied trend forecaster Marieke van der Poel weighs in on the t-word, and how small trends or fads can be hard to grasp, but in the end, all trends tie in to bigger fluctuations in consumer behavior

Trend, noun
1.
a line of general direction or movement <the trend of the coast turned toward the west>

2.
a : a prevailing tendency or inclination : drift <currenttrends in education>
b : a general movement : swing <the trend toward suburban living>
c : a current style or preference : vogue <new fashiontrends>
d : a line of development : approach <new trends in cancer research>

3
: the general movement over time of a statistically detectable change; also : a statistical curve reflecting such a change

Just recently, I was part of a panel discussion about the future of design. My co-panelists seemed rather wary of the fact that I was a “trend person.” What might I say? “Short is the season’s skirt length,” or “Black is the new black!” or “Everything should be inspired by the nineties.”

The discussion concluded with the agreement that a theory about future design or movements in design may, in effect, be a theory about trends. It is worth asking if there is a disconnect between the word trend and the popular (often simplistic) idea of trend. Does “trend” simply have too many meanings?

We trend forecasters analyze general or popular movements, tendencies, and inclinations as well as style and fashion changes. The word “trend” encompasses all, from the very short term (a “fad”) to the long term (a movement, fluctuation, or cultural swing). Sometimes, we may be inclined to give the one a different name over the other.

Should we create a new word for this more substantive use of trend? We already have a seemingly neverending penchant for neologisms and suffixes. A society’s need for these can be argued to contribute to a decline of the language—even the society itself.

“Trend” continues to evolve for me in professional use. Yes, we trend forecasters use long and short-term trend information to map out what consumers want and why. This certainly implies some subjective vision, something that is always easier to show (or “prove”) by using a lot of neologisms or beautiful images. To my mind, there have been too many gurus in a business that is primarily about understanding.

In the end, forecasters are a kind of tool or service: We help envision and translate where there are opportunities (for innovations, brands, product, or design strategies). This involves the strange combination of intuition, inspiration, and common sense. The fun part is exploring and translating these into an integrated concept.

The truth is, whether we are reading, watching a movie, looking at art, buying products, or shopping, our world does not change that much. We don’t step from one world into a new one when we come from behind our screens to go jeans shopping, or when we go from yoga to the bank. Our desires influence—and are influenced by—our whole paradigm, our entire set of references.

That means that we are influenced and influence trends on different levels. I find it extremely useful that this one word has so much variation. No need for neologisms or suffixes (or gurus, for that matter): just thinking about the things we all affect and are affected by. In the end, trend’s no four-letter word; it conveys a world of meaning.

Originally published on Dwell. republished with kind permission.

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