New Design: May 2012
Trends are very buzzy right now. Trends have always been important to design of course, but trends are big business.
Unfortunately, everyone seems to be doing the same thing: scanning the web and the streets for new products and bundling these together on a slick social web.
This is useful, but only if you want to catch a bus that has already left.
The following trends are the result of in-depth consumer research and filed observations in locations as diverse as China, The Philippines, Mexico, and the ever-surreal USA. They are a messy mix of technology, social trends and tentative links. Trends are like that.
SuperSustainability — innovating for the 21st Century
It takes at least ten years for a new century to get going. At the start of the 20th century we had no oil or gas based energy, no petroleum, no air travel, no radio, no plastics, no television, computing or world-wide-web.
Growth industries at the time were agriculture, coal mining, the railways, gas lighting for the home and print.
Some of the strands that will dominate the 21st century are beginning to emerge now and it promises to be a rich and intelligent century. Here are a few of the long-term threads that will make up the SuperSustainability fabric.
Intelligence Everywhere — Siri is smart and Watson is bright but portable intelligence will become brilliant. Think Einstein levels of intelligence delivered in an app.
…which will help to deliver:
ResourceRevolutions — the industrial process as an infinite loop. Having spent all that time and money embedding intelligence into base matter, why did we throw it away last century? With intelligence as cheap as chips we can see materials that have their ID, history and functions imprinted in every component supplying an autonomous networked recycling infrastructure.
Infinite loops means the potential for infinite growth, which is good because there are going to be far more consumers with European and US levels of expenditure and they are becoming more demanding…
MyList — Consumers are getting savvy. They are realizing the value of their data and are organizing to use it to their advantage. Soon, retailers and brands will be told precisely what consumers want, where it should be produced, and how much the consumer is prepared to pay. Consumers will become buyers consolidating their needs, which supplied directly from the producers, which connects with…
LocalHeroes — Consumers love local. Our research has shown, that supporting the small, local and ethical is very close to people’s hearts, which chimes in nicely with MyList.
…and this sets the scene for the:
MakerWeb — Distributed manufacture will start very simply refilling and Ocado style closed loop delivery for local suppliers but over time it will develop into a physical version of the world wide web, where you will be able to source anything you need as and when you need it. Think farmers’ markets meet nanotech, which leads us to:
GrowMore — low energy engineering. Last century, to make things cheaply, we needed big plants and lots of energy, but energy costs us dearly and so we will deploy new ways of making, using biological levels of energy density. A lot of this is in the laboratory right now, but at the beginning of the last century so were semiconductors and polymers.
Intelligent, responsive, low energy, infinite capacity — what not to like about SuperSustainability?
DeepDesign — applying entrepreneurial thinking to global giants
Innovation is the engine that drives growth and large companies which are searching for new ways to feed the need for better products and services. Design thinking was a valuable step, but large companies need more than a smarter front end to innovation, they need better implementation as well.
DeeperDesign means designing not just the products and services, but the companies themselves. DeeperDesign learns from successful entrepreneurial models and applies them to their own organizations, morphing them into more entrepreneurial machines. DeeperDesign leads to adopting the software paradigms of continual development and open sourcing, liquid production and networking.
The EmpathyEconomy starts with attitudinal shifts and leads to direct actions, encompassing consumption, charity and commerce.
It began, like many things, with better information. When consumers learnt how some brands treated their product sourcing with more empathy than others, they voted with their wallets and the Fair-trade movement was born. Now the EmpathyEconomy has grown to encompass all areas of life and it is developing its own solutions. Peer2Peer finance brings loans to micro companies staring up across the globe, developing products and services for the have not’s in the West as well as the citizens of the growing economies to make their lives just a little easier. Equally, the investment in infrastructure and industry that brought millions out of poverty in China demonstrates the practical benefits and efficiencies that flow from adding empathy to any investment, be that personal, corporate or national.
The EmpathyEconomy is one answer to the search for a better capitalist model, one that adds fairness to growth. It may have its detractors but 20th century memes take time to die. Have a look at the surge in growth of credit unions as an alternative to banks, the rediscovery of the Co-operative movement and peer-to-peer trading via the web. Fairness, trust, and delivery-all the fundamental things that brands should stand for explored in new ways.
EthniCity — Lessons from Mumbai and Wuhan
When we started work on Unilever’s fabulous cosmetics brand Fair & Lovely we learnt that the motivation for the brands success was making your skin fairer because this is associated with high status and fine living. Not western high status, or fine living, but that of the Brahmin who traditionally worked indoor protected from the fierce Indian sun.
When we worked in Wuhan we learnt that to give a gift was to anticipate a favour in return, not to thank someone for a favour delivered. There are a whole new world of attitudes and expectations that we do not yet understand but, as the global economy moves east and south, will become more important.
There will be Mandarin and Hindi brands sold in London, Paris, Rome and New York — small but important markets in the new world. Some eastern brands are ready for this now but we in the West don’t know about them. Some are already here, but we think of RedBull as being European not Asian despite its origins, and Kingfisher beer seems as British as Chicken Korma. The world’s largest cold cure brand is Chinese and is unknown outside of Asia. Expect that to change.
Article from New Design, “Changing World” by Steve Kelsey, May 2012