Say goodbye to your cocoon.
"The end of an era of individualism has come," says Li Edelkoort. The world's foremost trend forecaster studies the links among design, art, fashion and consumer culture to see what kind of effect they have will have on our lives. Two to three years down the road, "we will rely on each other to network and collaborate … functioning within a group, without losing personal traits and talents. This will ultimately have a positive outcome on our creative culture, where the single-minded and the general will engage in a dance together to expand a new dialogue in design."
Such a move could mean a departure from the, dare we say it, self-absorption of our times. But will it? It's hard to spot a trend, never mind predict one.
And given the importance of design, there's a lot lying on the line. As James Wallman, the editor of LS:N Global, the must-view design portal of the Future Laboratory, points out: "What sort of business isn't design-related today?"
But there's no crystal ball. Predicting what's going to happen in the future is about observing, understanding and disseminating what's already out there and happening - from the micro to macro, the cult to the mainstream.
Some designers and artists rely on gut instinct. Others subscribe to expensive research reports or send teams on fact-finding missions to the world's design cities or major trade fairs. These are not entirely satisfactory, however.
Increasingly, companies seek out trends forecasters.
Burberry, Dunhill and Samsung have recently joined Philips Design and StudioIlse as clients of the Future Laboratory. They are charged £6,000 (Dh34,000) for five "keys", "trend briefings", forums and networking events. "Our methodology is the most robust in the industry," Wallman says. "We do not cover everything. We cover everything that matters and has meaning … to work out what's happening now and crucially, why it's happening now, so that we can confidently forecast what's going to happen next."
The Future Laboratory is one of several companies forecasting trends. Two new design trends and information subscriber services launched last year, promising to help artists, designers and planners develop winning strategies and design decisions.
Homebuildlife from WGSN, the online industry bible for the fashion industry, is a trend-forecasting and product-development resource for the residential interiors industry. For £5,000 a year, it helps interior and product design firms, brands and manufacturers develop successful new schemes and product ranges.
Stylus bills itself as an information service for consumer-facing industries trying to come up with winning solutions in today's competitive global markets. This means analysing macrotrends and breaking them down into commercial applications (£10,000 a year, for three users). Founded by Marc Worth, the entrepreneur behind WGSN, Stylus was originally envisaged as a similar service for interiors, before he realised that there is a bigger market in consumer industries generally. "I seriously believe it will change the design industry … in the same way as WGSN changed fashion," he said at the launch.
"The birth of these new resources shows how important understanding trends is to companies," Wallman says, "but most companies simply post stuff and make up trends based on thin thinking."
In other words, the days of saying "blue is the new black" and expecting people to believe it are over.
These sophisticated offerings complement various free online design-information services, including WIDN (World Interior Design Network) and Interiorstalk. WIDN is part of Progressive Media Publishing, which publishes international design trade magazines, including Blueprint and FX. Free-to-access services include daily news, newsletters, project studies and an extensive database of products and suppliers. Interiorstalk publishes news releases, case studies and technical articles from manufacturers, making it a comprehensive web-news resource.
In contrast, the dynamically hip Cool Hunter, which claims to be the world's most read design website, is a nexus for what's cool, innovative and original. It prides itself not on tracking trends but on creating trends around the work it features. Boasting that many magazines now rely on Cool Hunter to find content for their pages, its founder, Bill Tikkos, recently formed a sister venture, Access, a multidisciplinary creative agency that devises branding and marketing campaigns for international brands and manufacturers.
Providing the "next generation" of trend reports and insight, Trend Hunter aims to help companies formulate their strategies and steal market share from less-informed competitors. The website gives access to more than 35 categories, such as design, home and food, by subscription (Dh2,000 to Dh36,700, depending on the package). It is run by Jeremy Gutsche, called "an intellectual can of Red Bull", who teaches clients how to leverage viral trends to generate ideas, stimulate creativity and ultimately, exploit chaos.
Looking at the world of interiors, what are designers and design commentators looking forward to and pronouncing for 2011? And what do they turn to for inspiration and information during the creative process?
"I am looking forward to seeing design step away from the uniform 'International Style', which results in a blend of expensive materials with no personality," says the London-based Lebanese interior designer, gallerist and hotel owner Rabih Hage. "The trend will move towards what I started three years ago with the Rough Luxe Hotel concept, namely more authenticity in the choice of finishes and aesthetics. A mix of layers between local and international, old and new, art and design. Genuine pieces and interiors is a good trend to follow and develop, especially in the Middle East; again, it's all about authenticity."
Currently working on a penthouse overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Beirut, Hage recommends the Fast Company and DeTnk websites (he founded the latter) for trendspotting. "Both have their finger on the pulse within the creative world; the former on trends and lifestyle, the latter on product design and the collectible market."
Kelly Hoppen says she's never been a trend follower. "I much prefer to create the trends!" The interior designer, known as the "queen of taupe" thanks to her predilection for all things beige, recently launched Home Style App (£2.99), which contains short films to show users how to recreate her style simply and inexpensively, with a focus on the bedroom, kitchen, tables and shelving.
"Each year I issue my trend report as to what I feel is going to be big in the coming year, be it a new texture, colour or perhaps a new fabric," Hoppen says. "Currently working on my report for 2011, I am rather excited about experimenting with men's Harris tweeds in pink, mint green, sky blue and muted purple, mixed with natural Belgian linens."
Another respected decorator hailing the traditional route is Nicholas Haslam. "In 2011, I am most looking forward to this idea of 'heritage branding' that Suzy Menkes [the International Herald Tribune style correspondent] is espousing … I want design to be human and romantic. We need books - and not just on our coffee tables! And pictures and candles and layers … a move towards the quietly unexpected and less of this contrived hotel-style decorating."
Haslam finds inspiration, "what I like to call 'a germ of an idea' everywhere - from the grandest palaces to the most unexpected 'moments' … like a moss on a wall or a foil wrapper on a sweet … I am constantly inspired by fine (and not so fine!) art, fashion and shop windows - Louis Vuitton's and Harvey Nichols's have been fabulous." Haslam has recently begun blogging (you can find it at www.nh-design.co.uk/blog) and admits to rather liquid approach that includes Cool Hunter, All the Best, Little Augury, the Peak of Chic and An Aesthete's Lament.
Putting the finishing touches to a penthouse in Dubai's World Trade Centre apartment block, Intarya's head designer, Kamini Ezralow, predicts seeing more golden, brassy tones. "I'm not talking bling gold, but in the tones of textures, especially weaves and embellishments in fabrics. Lace is also going to make a resurgence, but in unexpected ways. We'll see touches of lace accents on cushions and throws. Again it comes down to textures, incorporating simple fabrics with something more ornate."
As for inspiration, she doesn't follow trend websites. "For me, inspiration comes from my background, upbringing and respective influences … I look a lot to fashion, watching Fashion TV and regularly reading Vogue and other top fashion magazines. I believe that interiors trends are increasingly following the catwalk."
Edelkoort, who expects networking to grow and individualism to fade away, sees the collaborative trend growing beyond humanity and affecting future designs. "Our relationship with nature and animals is going to deepen.
"Urban, birds, colours echoing concrete and abstract patterns will dominate … In an effort to reflect and respect nature, we'll be camouflaging our buildings so that they blend with the natural environment… architecture will amplify this idea of togetherness, structures will be strong and geometric, echoing the hexagonal structures of beehives … and we'll use lively colour and pattern to decorate our homes."
Four trends to watch
Taking old products, usually furniture, and recovering, reworking or repurposing them. Despite each piece being unique, many are finding their way into commercial interiors. Beirut’s hip design firm Bokja is loved for its vibrant reworked vintage furniture pieces.
A charming 1950s-inspired direction, integrating honest and traditional family values. Memorable vintage characters and motifs evoke the familiar and cute, while crafted and hand-made finishes play a key role. A retro pastel palette provides a quaint backdrop for highlight brights and metallics.
Living simply with beautiful, useful and meaningful objects offers an honest yet elegant way of life. As much a philosophy for living as an important product trend, our longing for simple luxury comes at a time when there are more disposable products available than ever before. For a growing number of consumers, living with less but better is more appealing.
City dwellers are getting in touch with rural qualities. Rejecting the impersonal bigness of globalisation and corporations, they are reconnecting with their communities, living locally, growing their own food and embracing small-scale brands. Other movements within this trend, driven by economic necessity, include neighbourhood car and goods clubs, where locals lend or rent out belongings, getting more value out of goods they already own.