April 30, 2019
Fjord Trends
By: Ted Kilian

Fjord trends released 7 forecasts this year. What are your top 3 favourite trends, and why?

Space odyssey:
As a former urban geographer who moved into the digital design world, I am always deeply interested in how physical space and digital technology are coming together and influencing each other. This year’s trend follows on from last year where we saw physical space and physical devices making a big impact after people had written space off as irrelevant in a world of ecommerce and virtual reality. We are now seeing how rooted human behaviour is in physical space and how important strategies that consider physical digital and mobility are (shout out to “Ahead of the curb”, another interesting trend this year).

The last straw:
The environment has always been important to me, even when it wasn’t trendy to pay attention to it (which is related to my background as a geographer). But the thing that fascinates me about this trend is seeing an inflection point in consumer attitudes and changes in corporate behaviour as a result. For designers there is an exciting potential for the redesign of everything. From smarter manufacturing to new services that make recycling, disposal and reuse part of the product experience – these open us up to a whole new world of possibilities. It also presents a lucrative opportunity for brands that take the leap. So, instead of thinking about sustainability as being part of corporate citizenship, it becomes part of innovation thinking. Despite the countertrend of science sceptics, I am deeply optimistic about the potential of this trend.

Synthetic realities:
People have been talking about the Year of VR for a few years now, but the twist in this year’s trend around synthetic realities is something different. I have been fascinated by how our political and social realities have been constructed by the media; this is especially so as we enter a completely new era with the introduction of Russian bots, “fake news” and “alternative facts”. Synthetic realities will become an accepted part of our lives, much like photographs and movies, both of which went through stages in which they appeared to be threats to the fundamental truth. But in the meantime, we are living through a bewildering period of making sense of what to do with the potential it offers.

Do you see any of these trends being relevant beyond the business landscape? In what ways are they applicable in your personal life?

I see personal connections to all of the trends, but there are a couple that I often find myself thinking of in daily life.

Silence is golden:
This trend is really integral to my day to day existence as the father of an 8-year-old. Concerns about screen time are now being supported with research and it does sometimes feel like we are overwhelmed with shouting devices taking up our attention 24 hours a day. It is an occupational hazard of my role to spend a lot of time engaged with screens, but I try my best to balance that even while I experiment with getting the best out of what it has to offer. Ironically, the trend is at least, in part, an indictment of our success as designers at creating a world of indispensable digital products. So, whilst I don’t want any screens in the bedroom, I do still use my phone to track sleep patterns. Often I find that the screen is my first and last connection to the world on many days. That struggle is what Silence is golden is all about.

The last straw:
As I mentioned, the environment has always been important to me and I have been through a few previous waves of environmental attention. However, this wave feels different in that it seems more personal for people in general while still remaining tied to broader global forces on the topic. For example, I am more aware of the food I eat, where it comes from, what it means in terms of health, agricultural sustainability and global capitalism. On the positive side, the opportunities I see from a design perspective are immense. On the other side the environment is more under threat at a more critical time than ever before. I don’t know what direction we will move from here, but there can be no doubt about the day to day relevance of this trend.

If you look into your crystal ball for the year 2020, are there any likely trends that are already starting to show? What is 1 prediction that you can make now?

Our overarching meta trend for this year is Relevance. I think that we will see that playing out in interesting ways in 2020. We have focused on helping our clients innovate to stay relevant in a fast-changing world, but we have been thinking more lately of how relevance plays out in other ways. The sense of relevance that employees feel in the meaningfulness of their work life, the fear of a loss of relevance that may well sit behind many of the political upheavals that we see in the world today. This will likely appear in new forms in 2020, but the underlying driver will certainly be an important part of our reality.

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