Most of us have heard about the concept of trends from somewhere or the other; be it in marketing, fashion, technology or internet. Trends stay longer than fads and are more like broader shifts that develop in an industry…
There are many organizations, and individual experts who do trend analysis and forecasting. People who attempt to spot and watch the progression of trends are called ‘trendwatchers’.And ‘urbanwatchers’ are those who work behind the scenes.They collect and catch the pieces of evidence, latent messages, “faint signals” which will needto be interpreted, deciphered and put into a context with other pieces emerging from other areas. It is almost what ‘coolhunters’ do for street fashion.
One of the world’s leading trend firms is trendwatching.com – they scan technology, lifestyle and many other areas for emerging trends with the help of their worldwide watchers.
I have done trendspotting in past, and, in fact studied it as part of my design education in Italy. Most exciting part is to think of the innovation possibilities based on a particular trend. Some of my work has also been part of the famous trendwatching festivals by Capri Foundation in the beautiful island of Capri. They do a great job year after year. So here I am diving in again.
#Urbanwatching 1: Life is random, so am I..
Keywords: Randomness, Out of Control, Alternative Reality, Uncertainty, Odd
Basic Human Needs: Freedom from the norms, Surprise, Excitement in the unknown
Drivers of Change: Availability of multiple possibilities
Example 1: Randomness at Plastic
Area of pertinence: club
Place: Plastic, Milan Italy
Facebook Page: Plastic Milano Official Page
Plastic is one of the most fashionable clubs in Milan. A place you would either hate or love; there is nothing in between. The door policy here is also exclusive. The chic and extravagant crowd dance late into the night to sophisticated hip-hop and house sounds. These sounds are a random mix of different themes, and people are also seen unwinding over a relaxed game of pool in the “Hero Room”. Yes, that’s the name of one of the special spaces created there.
It’s a club where the real party animals of Milan party the whole night through. The accessories worn by people are randomly picked, and they perfectly merge the environment. The art director of this club writes about Plastic in his page, Angle Records
Life is random and in it, we have no idea of the system of connections that runs through our existence. Plastic depicts that uncertain existence of life in the form of music, space, fashion, erratic attitude. And below is the screenshot (yelp.com) of the love/hate relationship that people have with Plastic.
Example 2: Dans Le Noir (French for “In the dark”)
Area of pertinence: concept restaurant
Place: Clerkenwell Green, London
Here, guests are served in total darkness; a concept called dark dining or blind dining. The ultimate challenge of the surprise menu is such that you would have to guess each dish that was served to you. Surroundings are unfamiliar since you are blinded as soon as you come in. All waiters and waitresses are blind. Read more at the Guardian post.
For the diners, food is randomly served makes the sense of hearing heightened. Customers lose their preconceptions and inhibitions from spending their time without knowing things around them. It is a lot of guesswork that your tongue is busy doing while you are working on the food in the dark.
Like on Yelp, one of the reviewers said, “I had no idea what it was, but it melted in the mouth.”
What if mobile shopping apps could show random exciting moments, images of people from markets of different cities at different time zones like you were shopping there too?
What if we boarded a flight, without knowing its destination, blind-eyed till we land?
#urbanwatching 2: Participatory Experiences
Keywords: Live, Informal, Sociality, Innovative, Generosity, Sharing, True, Visible, Open, Futuristic
Basic Human Needs: Social interaction, Support, Idea-making
Drivers of change: Crowdsourcing, Open design models, Participatory planning
Example 1: Lago Apartamento
Brand: LAGO (http://www.lago.it/en)
Area of pertinence: Lifestyle store
Place: Padua, Italy
The apartment has all Lago design elements on display, but they are also in use. The staff of Lago and tenants would live in the apartment for a duration of time, sharing the kitchen, shower, the lifestyle products on display and wardrobes. The Lago Tenant is the centre of attraction and engine of experiences for people. He or she organises events, invites people in the city who are making innovations. He creates occasions for introducing people to his or her home and the value of the Lago project it’s a part of. You could walk in, touch any of the objects, change them and sit anywhere on any designed furniture for any length of time. Talk and socialize with whoever you find interesting, open and read any book, pick and eat or cook anything from the kitchen and use any of the innovative products.
In their words, “We want to understand whether in future, shops, as we know them today, will still be the only way we can get in touch with people. And if there are new scenarios and new opportunities for hands-on experience of our furniture.”
A concept undoubtedly to be imitated at many furniture and lifestyle stores is unique in terms of its method of the exhibition. People propose how their systems are used, therefore participating in the way the space is designed. The tenants are also the Lago ambassadors. According to them, it is the alphabet that they provide, to be used to furnish spaces in harmony with the designer’s own interior lives.
Example 2: BMW Guggenheim Lab
Brand: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the BMW Group
Area of pertinence: Experience
Place: Berlin, New York, Mumbai
The BMW Guggenheim Lab worked in 3 different cities, on “box of ideas” that encouraged a hands-on approach to shaping the urban environment. They focused on learning by doing things by hands and engines to formulate experiments. It was for the transdisciplinary people who are otherwise not involved in creating technological devices and therefore empowering them to create what they need in their city.
Participation in urban spaces by the general public helps solve important city issues. The lab’s main here is to encourage people to predict how our urban spaces will be by participating in designing it.
Post their travel between 2011-2014, the lab has created interesting gamified surveys for people to take part in like Urbanology, Private/Public. Having these games available for people allows continuous participation from people in building up data for many other cities.
What if members of a community directly got involved in how parts of a public budget could be allocated and spent? Here is one example:
What if students participated in curating their studies depending on their interests and they chose their mentors in an open society, where people could freely walk up to each other?
Let’s think of more such possibilities with these two particular trends: Life is Random and Participatory Experiences