Fjord Trends 2022: The new fabric of life
The choices we make next might impact our world and its structure in more ways than we can imagine, and they all point to shifts in people’s relationships—with colleagues, brands, society, places and with those they care about. People are also coming face-to-face with the impact they’re having on the planet, and finally accepting they cannot go on behaving as though people were separate from nature.
We’ve had two years of disruption to the systems on which society is run, and it’s taking its toll. There are challenging times ahead, but we believe there are also great opportunities to design new systems, and new ways of being.

This year, the dominant theme throughout these trends is about the need to respond to changes in all relationships. We should define how we—collectively and individually—consciously stitch together positive relationships to create a new fabric of life that’s good for people, business and the planet.

We see five major trends emerging that have significant implications for the year ahead.
According to the Fjord Trends, people's renogotiation with institutions, society and brands, their employer and even private life is becoming relevant for Life Sciences.

FJORD TRENDS 2022

1. Come as you are

People are fundamentally thinking differently about their sense of agency over their own lives, supported by new opportunities like the side-hustle economy. The rise in individualism and independence has major implications for organizations, relationships with employees and consumer-creators. Businesses should keep this in mind when defining their value proposition to attract and retain employees.
2. The end of abundance thinking?

Those who have been able to rely on the availability and convenience of the things they want are having to think again. Scarcity, shortages, distribution delays, austerity laws and sustainability factors are driving forward the nature-positive movement and a more measured approach to consumption.
3. The next frontier

The metaverse is showing promise beyond its gaming roots to offer people and brands a new place to interact, create, consume and earn. Its true potential is yet to be seen, but it has the makings of a new cultural evolution. Finding success here will rely on brands’ understanding of their customers in this new world.
4. This much is true

Asking questions and having them answered immediately has become part of everyday life, but people are increasingly doubting the answers they get. Combined with the proliferation of channels and sources, this is a design and business challenge. Those who meet it will earn trust and competitive edge.
5. Handle with care

The desire to care is a fundamentally human trait, but it’s now more visible, valued and openly discussed. Regardless of their connection with health, organizations must now define how they embed care into their practices and offerings—for employees, customers and wider society.

1. COME AS YOU ARE

What’s going on

An era of post-traumatic growth is taking shape, at scale, manifesting as deeper relationships, openness to new possibilities, a greater sense of personal strength, a stronger sense of spirituality, and a more profound appreciation for life.

People are questioning who they are and what matters to them and, in many cases, they’re finding new confidence to show up as themselves. There’s also a growing humanization of the workforce; professional and private lives are blending more, and admitting to not being okay is no longer a sign of weakness at work.

It’s all part of a trend toward individualism and independence. People are feeling a stronger sense of agency over how and where they spend their time and attention. By the middle of 2021, global economies were opening back up and workers were in demand. The Great Resignation saw people quitting their jobs in line with new priorities that came into focus during pandemic lockdowns.1
Supplementing or replacing primary income is easier for people, thanks to tech platforms with channels and tools for turning their hobbies and talents into businesses. In the United States, people make an average of US$10,972 a year from side-hustles like teaching, writing blogs/newsletters, renting out their homes, freelance programming and more.2

This shift in opportunities and attitudes around work and income has a direct impact on traditional employment. Many businesses, grappling with the repercussions of having a workforce that has been physically apart for so long, are worried about team dynamics, effective innovation and collaborative working. Tension is growing as employee preferences don’t necessarily match what’s best for a business.

The rising individualism underlined by a “me over we” mentality is stressing empathy between colleagues within companies and changing people’s aspirations as customers, which presents new challenges and opportunities for employers and brand owners alike.3
The rising individualism underlined by a “me over we” mentality presents new challenges and opportunities for employers and brand owners alike.

What’s next

Organizations need to understand these shifts in people’s ambitions, sense of agency and ways of living, and examine and respond to the potential impacts. People’s desire to meet their individual needs clashes with their obligations to the communities they belong to and, ultimately, rely on.

Employers now face an important leadership challenge: to balance the flexibility they offer to individuals with the needs of the team, and work towards the greater good of the organization so that creativity, diversity and trust-building can thrive. Attracting and retaining the right talent while acknowledging that employees are future-proofing against the business is also important. It’s time to take a fresh look at the employee value proposition, with today’s context in mind:

  • The benefits package: Having already adjusted perks for the digital world, employers will continue to assess their suitability for a flexible and remote workforce.
  • A collective effort: Work culture needs a booster shot of “we,” and businesses may need to work hard to ensure that employees understand their responsibility to—and the benefits of—the collective.
  • A differentiated experience: Work has become more transactional thanks to the rise of tech tools, so companies must adjust the balance of the employee experience to be about more than just task productivity.
As the side-hustle economy grows, so too will the needs for the infrastructure within it—from design and manufacturing support through to audience access and delivery. Companies will have to acknowledge that creators—people who make money directly from their audience or side-hustles—are not just their customers, but also their competitors and collaborators, and change their behaviors accordingly.

At the heart of this trend is a wider societal tension between individualism and the collective. This tension is spread unevenly across the world but we believe it will continue to be a defining cultural debate, with economic and experiential consequences that could be felt everywhere.

WE SUGGEST

Think

Reflect on the rise in self-agency and “me vs we” mentality, and the implications for your organization–how will you attract and retain talent and customers in this new context?
Say

Clearly verbalize the value of groups, community, and teams, and how the rise of self-agency and the need for collectivism can coexist for the good of your organization.
Do

Get creative about how your company’s value proposition can evolve to accommodate for people with multiple sources of income. Act on any weak spots within your organization to ensure your employees don’t walk away.

2. THE END OF ABUNDANCE THINKING?

What’s going on

Over the past year, many of us have witnessed and felt what it’s like to face empty shelves, rising energy bills and shortages in everyday services. It’s come as a shock to those of us who have been able to get whatever we want with minimal effort—those who have been lucky enough to enjoy "abundance thinking".

The supply chain crisis started with lockdown’s impact on the manufacturing industry, continued with the Ever Given container ship blocking the Suez Canal4, and was made worse by a shortage of trucks and drivers, which stalled traffic flow through the world’s busiest ports.5 A wide array of materials, parts and goods fell into short supply, ranging from coffee to semiconductor chips.

In many countries, these issues slammed the brakes on abundance thinking. Suddenly, scarcity became a feature in people’s expectations.
Climate change has been another key catalyst. In the wake of natural disasters, from unseasonal flooding to devastating wildfires, people are starting to understand the impact of their consumption habits on the planet.

Events of the past year have also revealed how interconnected and interdependent our commercial infrastructure is, something shoppers might have not been aware of before. For example, when a rise in world gas prices forced the UK’s biggest fertilizer manufacturer to suspend production, a largely unforeseen impact was a sharp drop in the supply of one of its by-products—industrial CO2—which in turn threatened the supply of plastic-wrapped foods like fresh meat.6

While supply chain shortages might be a temporary challenge, the impact is expected to persist and open the door to a shift in our abundance thinking, particularly relating to the environment. Scarcity of goods could affect customers’ morale, and brand owners should prepare to manage expectations around convenience and sustainability.
When designing for the balance between affordability and sustainability, organizations need to decouple innovation from the notion of "new".
What’s next

In our Liquid infrastructure trend last year, we forecasted the supply chain as a new point for value creation.7 Since then, our thinking has evolved in two main ways:

  • We expect an urgent need for the coming together of marketing, customer service and supply chain to protect and support brand reputation.
  • We believe that designing for the balance between affordability and sustainability could be the next big opportunity for brands to break new ground. Ultimately, many customers will likely weigh the good of the planet against their families’ basic necessities when making purchasing decisions. A balance between the two should be at the center of brands’ sustainability innovation.
A necessary mindset shift will be to decouple innovation from the notion of “new.” It’s often said that people have to change behaviors, but this is hard to do when they’re constantly being influenced otherwise. For sustainable behaviors to stick, brands are going to have to think differently.

One method might be to create new value for customers through services that extend a product’s life. Incremental improvements, by contrast, only tempt people to throw away functional items and buy new.

We forecast growing momentum toward “regenerative business” that replaces the traditional “take, make, dispose” model with a more circular approach. This path could involve exploring new practices such as dynamic pricing, micro-factories and hyper-localized manufacturing. It’s also likely that the “nature positive” movement will gain popularity in the coming years. Nature positive means enhancing the resilience of our planet and societies to halt and reverse nature loss.

Businesses will have to do more than mitigate negative impacts. They will need to support our natural world’s ability to replenish itself, which could involve overhauling the systems people depend on.

As we question the role of abundance thinking in business, “less” doesn’t have to mean “loss.” Rethinking our default setting of abundance is an important first step. The second is to start collaborating with others in the ecosystem to tackle climate change—our most pressing challenge.

WE SUGGEST

Think

Contemplate what this supply chain disruption means for your business, and your customers. Can you create new business models by extending existing product life?
Say

Tell your innovation teams and product development teams that innovation does not have to mean new. Quite often, working under constraints yields the most creative solutions.
Do

Establish your sustainability roadmap to get your business and your customers to net neutral—and, further, to nature positive.

3. THE NEXT FRONTIER

What’s going on

Metaverse fever is spreading around the world, bringing with it promises, excitement and unanswered questions.

The metaverse is a new convergence of physical and digital worlds, an evolution of the internet that enables people to move beyond “browsing” to “inhabiting” in a shared experience—enhanced by advancements in 3D, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). It’s a place where people can meet and where digital assets—land, buildings, products, and avatars—can be created, bought and sold. This new system of place will shift our digital behavior and has the makings of a new cultural epoch. Brands will need to understand how/if their customers will exist in this new world.

Expanding beyond its gaming roots, for some, the metaverse is becoming a new place to make money. The “creator economy” is growing to encompass future metaverse employment: creators will make assets; performers will create real-time content; bridgers will connect the physical to the digital world; participants will learn, explore and enhance; builders will design and organize experiences; the community will help, attract and engage.8 Other people are making money by playing and learning. Play-to-earn, create-to-earn, and learn-to-earn are all models that are turning fun activities into work.

Creators and artists are minting digital assets such as photographs, videos, music and art on non-fungible tokens (NFTs). An NFT authenticates a person’s possession of a digital asset, meaning the deed of ownership can’t be copied. This move creates scarcity and builds desirability into digital items, which is something we haven’t seen before.

Over the past year, we’ve also observed that people are looking for a multi-player experience for non-gaming activities like watching movies. For instance, Netflix created a new feature for people to watch content together while apart.9

The metaverse is less about becoming immersed in a fantasy world of unicorns and dragons and more about escaping physical limits to spend time in a virtual space that’s a version of, or extension of, real life.

The metaverse’s future will be interesting to watch unfold. We have more questions than answers on what it will ultimately become, but we can be certain that the first vision of the metaverse will not be the last.

As brands capitalize on opportunities in the metaverse, we encourage open debate around the ethics relating to who people are and what they do there.
What’s next

Significant cultural shifts tend to start in a place—like Renaissance Florence, Vienna in the 1900s, the Swinging Sixties in London. The location for the next one is the metaverse. It will affect how people experience art, music, movies and, of course, brands.

In the immediate future, we expect to see a period of questioning, learning and experimenting on what’s possible. Any brand or creator wanting to operate in the metaverse must be ready for a lot of trial and error, focusing on the end user’s experience.

Unique experiences will likely be key to attracting people outside the gaming community. Initially, we believe brand owners will establish their own spaces within the metaverse, or look to Big Tech to create metaverse-as-a-service platforms they can engage with. These spaces will then evolve beyond the brand or company websites that are commonplace today, into more neutral spaces where subtle and sophisticated interactions can take place, and in ways that are fluid and free-form.

As everything is 3D-based, designers, digital product developers, creatives and technologists will play a central role in virtual world-building and content placement. Development methods in gaming will go mainstream as more 3D experiences come online—like playtesting for example, where gamers give quality control feedback on experiences before a game launches to the wider public.

Embedding ethics from the start is an absolute must. The harm caused by the current internet experience is plain to see—organizations should do better in the next iteration, with more transparency. As brands seek to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the metaverse, ethics around behavior control, sustainability and accessibility for all must be front of mind.

The metaverse gained huge traction during the pandemic. What we cannot know yet is how its evolution will go from here. It may continue to boom and grow, it may shapeshift into something else. Or it may fizzle unless enough people find continued value or relevancy in it.

We may well be on the brink of a new cultural epoch. If this is true, this shift will be associated with the metaverse. Whatever happens, the metaverse may offer infinite potential as a brave new space for companies to explore, test, and innovate, all of which makes it—to say the very least—tremendously exciting.

WE SUGGEST

Think

Consider your product in the metaverse—how it’s seen, how it’s purchased, where it goes, how it’s used by your metaverse customers. The lifecycle of your product, brand, and experiences requires a complete mindset shift. The metaverse is a place and not just another channel.
Say

Ask people (especially young people) about the games they’re playing and the clothes they’re buying for their avatars. Talk about the experiences they’re having with their friends online to learn more about the metaverse’s potential.
Do

Approach the metaverse with curiosity and playfulness, but always with integrity, ethics, care, and respect for the environment.

4. THIS MUCH IS TRUE

What’s going on

It’s been 24 years since Google was founded10, and one of its most profound effects is how it has evolved our relationship with questions. Having them answered at the touch of a button (or brief exchange with a voice assistant) is so embedded in our lives that it’s an expectation we barely think about. And it’s led us to ask even more questions.

But as we get answers from more sources like social media11, prolific disinformation leaves us doubting the answers we find. It has been suggested that, over the past 18 months, trust has been so tested that we’re experiencing “Information Bankruptcy”—a state characterized by record-low levels of trust in all information, alongside soaring fears around job security, personal safety and autonomy, and societal matters.12

Incidences of inflammatory language, lack of integrity, misinformation and the politicization of everything have been accelerating a decline in trust in experts and governments, yet trust is critical. People want and need to be able to trust all sources of the answers they seek.

Most recently, emotional and ethical concerns are making the process more complex. Conscious consumerism continues to grow, with a particular focus on ethical and sustainability values.13 People want to feel good about what they’re buying. They’re asking more questions that need answers at the point of sale, around topics like the ethical treatment of workers and animals, and fair trade.

People expect to get answers at points of interaction with the product or service they want to buy and at the point of purchase. Brands have to know how to conduct that exchange at those moments.

A brand is a bundle of promises, and customers want to know more about those promises than ever—they also expect brands to deliver on them. The layers of information a brand owner chooses to impart should therefore be a clear and open demonstration to its customers of how it’s performing.

Increasingly, brands will likely compete with one another on information layers—if one brand owner decides not to include them, a rival brand might.
What’s next

As they strive to answer people’s questions, brands should make strategic choices about which information layers to deploy and how to design them across touchpoints to build trust. Layers should be simple to use, delivering the right information in the most appropriate form and in the right moment.

The amount of information included should vary according to the place, interface and people’s ever-changing modes. After all, at any given moment, the same person might be shopping in their role as an interior designer, a parent or an amateur athlete. They might quickly go from searching for the cheapest available option to being in the mood to splurge.

Conversation is a natural part of the human experience—it’s how we share and find out information, how we frame who we are, and how we grow and learn. We believe brand conversations with their customers might evolve and be used to structurally solve the challenge of providing the right answer at the right time. Already, conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) powers an array of basic question-and-answer services, but approaches will likely evolve both in ambition and sophistication.

Brands also have an opportunity to encourage loyalty by rewarding customers for making more ecologically responsible purchases. Customers who shop sustainably could gain points over time, for example. Loyalty programs like this could include a community component, so people see that their efforts are contributing to something impactful.

Increasingly, brands will compete with one another on information layers. Granular design decisions will have direct strategic implications, expanding the remit of designers’ work. In fact, tasks related to information layers will span the whole organization, especially brand, marketing, customer service and operations.

Proof demonstrates truth. We can’t expect all customers to interrogate the veracity of the information they’re offered, so the expectation is on brands to substantiate what they say in their information layers to lighten the customer’s mental load. This can also be a powerful trust-building opportunity.

WE SUGGEST

Think

Research the types of questions customers are now asking in—and of—your industry. Outside of your sales channels, consider where people go to get information about your company or products, and how you can create information layers that mean they don’t have to go there.
Say

Tell your customers that you want to make sure they feel confident buying from you by giving them more transparency and information at the point of sale.
Do

Design new information layers to build trust with your customers and communities and prove your commitment to answering your customers’ ever-increasing questions about your product and services—in ways that are easily discoverable both inside and outside the sales channel. Use data to understand as much as you can about the layers each customer is seeking.

5. HANDLE WITH CARE

What’s going on

Care and compassion are rooted in human nature—they’re arguably the character traits that define humanity.14 Caring is an act of kindness and concern for others. It goes past empathy and builds trust. In all its forms, care became more prominent this past year: self-care, care for others, the service of care and the channels to deliver care (both digital and physical):

  • We have seen the rising importance of self-care. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on mental health around the world—this was one of the biggest global signals coming from our design studios as we crowdsourced these trends.
  • Access to services that enable people to care for their loved ones was reduced or disrupted. Those who take care of others therefore took on more responsibilities—educating their children, helping with medical appointments, shopping for their parents—on top of the busy lives they had before the pandemic.
  • The amount of time and attention now devoted to caring for the well-being of colleagues has also likely increased. Compassion and grace in the face of a colleague’s personal struggles—such as mental health issues, grief or a sudden disruption through illness—have become normalized.

Technology has become both a new channel and a source of solutions for care, as the pandemic forced mass adoption and acceptance of technology for healthcare and well-being.

This openness to using tech for care was further accelerated by the inevitable use of Covid-19 passes in many countries. Out of collective responsibility to those that are vulnerable in society, people have started to exchange health information about their vaccination status for access to public spaces like restaurants, theaters and airports, usually using a smartphone. It also signals another important behavioral shift: sharing of previously private health information publicly. Comfort levels on sharing this information vary from person to person, but a majority are doing it, giving communities the confidence to open up knowing this is a good way to minimize risk for their patrons.

The focus on care is expanding beyond the health industry, as traditionally non-health businesses and services are finding new ways to care for customers. Self-care, taking care of others and taking care of carers has become an important focus.

Visibly caring for customers builds brand trust. It means aligning with moments that matter, creating new services, and harnessing technology.

What’s next

The responsibilities around self-care and caring for others will likely continue to be a priority. For brands, visibly caring for customers builds trust. Brands must align with moments that matter, create new services and harness technology in an appropriate and measured way.

Looking ahead, infusing kindness and compassion for others is a business opportunity that design can help with. There are many ways to create new value in caring through design:

  1. Expand accessibility
    It’s critical for brands to consider whether they’re being expansive enough in their definition of accessibility. There are barriers to caring for others—especially for the people whose need for care is highest. Brands should evaluate their channels, products and services for accessibility in the wake of the massive shift to digital care.
  2. Prioritize mental well-being and safety
    Designing for the mental well-being and safety of people is critical. This approach isn’t new, but the irresponsible use of dark patterns to influence people’s digital behavior has been under growing public scrutiny. Designing KPIs that measure the benefit/risk to people and their relationships will likely be a differentiator for a caring business.15
  3. Explore multisensory design to boost inclusivity
    Multisensory design is an empathetic approach that recognizes the many ways in which people experience and react to a product or service, environment or experience—subtle and obvious, consciously and unconsciously.16 It extends beyond the prevailing focus on visual design with features that also appeal to other senses, such as smell or touch. For care-related propositions, audio has significant potential.
  4. Take a fresh look at the detail of the employee experience
    Designing internal processes and rules to reduce employees’ mental load is a subtle, yet important way to show care. In all aspects of work, employers can declutter and make cumbersome experiences invisible and easy, and give people space to do the work they’re meant to do.
Care has always been an important part of being human, but the difference is that it’s now more visible and openly discussed—a welcome change. Designers and businesses alike need to make space for practicing care—it’s not enough to talk about it. The aim should be to deliberately design and build care into systems.

WE SUGGEST

Think

Treat care as both formal and informal. Acknowledge that care is important, emotionally taxing work. Consider how you can develop products and services—and the KPIs related to them—around the needs of people who have care as part of their daily work.
Say

Clearly communicate that care is not transactional. Define what care means for your organization and use it as a guiding principle in your design work and communications.
Do

Declutter your organization of the things that most frustrate your employees and customers. Look for ways to minimize the noise, (such as communications, internal processes, external products/services), to give people more time and space for the things that matter.

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