Every year, I get this pit in my stomach, where I’m fearful that we’ve exhausted all the trends. I worry there won’t be any that we haven’t discovered before and I sit there looking at a blank piece of paper wondering what we’ve got.

Yet, somehow it turns out there’s plenty to think about and uncover, and that’s just what we’ve done again. There’s a lot of work that goes into identifying and creating these trends — how we put them together, analyze them and share them with the world. I’d like to tell you that story because I think it’s quite unique, messy and deeply human.

But first, what are the Fjord Trends?

Fjord (Accenture Interactive’s design and innovation practice) put together the first trends in 2007 to look at the ways humans are interacting with technology.

We try to understand the big changes that are already happening or are likely to accelerate soon, and predict their impact on how we design new products and services, or redesign existing ones.

But it’s not all abstract and philosophical. Each trend has real-world applications to help companies decide whether they need to rethink their products.

Why we invite everyone to participate

Probably the most important thing to know about Fjord Trends is that we crowdsource them within our global team to catch a rich, eclectic range of insights and opinions.

This year, we heard from 1,200 brilliant creatives from 33 of our studios worldwide — quite literally from Melbourne to Madrid to Mexico, by way of Singapore, Brazil, Berlin and beyond.

The inclusive nature of the process is really important to us because the content we capture becomes stronger as more and more diverse viewpoints pour in from all over. That global perspective allows us to balance the trends out. It also lets us call out when something is probably more of a fad than a trend.

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I remember very clearly the ah-ha moment in a meeting when we talked about it and I thought, “That’s really interesting and big!”

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For example, it was our people in the São Paulo studio who started talking about the trend that eventually became known as synthetic realities, one of our most successful predictions last year. They noticed something that nobody else had spotted or talked about, and it turned out to be a core signal of a global trend.

I remember very clearly the ah-ha moment in a meeting when we talked about it and I thought, “That’s really interesting and big!” And it’s proved to be even bigger than we initially thought: We built on this trend this year with digital doubles.

We look for patterns in technology and human behavior

First, during the summer of each new year, we put out a call for initial trend feedback to our studios across the world. What are we looking for? Trend insights that are practical, real and actually unfolding. These aren’t ideas that are way out in the future, like jetpacks for people. They’re much bigger-picture than that — trends that are going to shape our work in the near term.

We’re very particular about how our creatives provide their visions of what they think are the important topics for Fjord Trends. We’re also careful to make space for unique reflections and feedback. After all, we’re bringing together a large global team with different perspectives and cultures to deliver a cohesive set of high-impact trends.

We field the flood of feedback

This next phase kicks off with workshops — when each Fjord studio hosts local creative bootcamps. We dig in and collaboratively sift through the insights and the stats, and we talk through both the bigger picture and granular contexts of the trends that flood in. You could say we’re on the hunt for only the keepers at this point.

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Caption: Synthesis meeting in London where we fleshed out the 2020 trends

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The biggest challenge for me in the whole process is, frankly, knowing when to stop.

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From there, the best trends swapped during our workshops are then put on a wall, quite literally. We print out the teams’ input on the trends, and we plaster them up on a massive wall made up of idea-filled posters. Then, we absorb the materials and dissect one trend concept at a time. 

We must decide: Which ones are merely fads, and which hold their weight as fact-based global shifts that customers and brands should pay attention to?

We scan all ideas for emerging themes and evidence

Once we’ve collected the broad trends that fit these guiding parameters (often by late summer), we start narrowing down the key trends. The mass separation of the wheat from the chaff begins in earnest. 

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It’s incredibly hard to resist the temptation to change the trend, even if it’s only by adding one sentence more.

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It’s not an easy feat, and it takes time and constant iteration. In fact, the biggest challenge for me in the whole process is, frankly, knowing when to stop. One of the most challenging things is to accept the final cutoff date for evidence backing up the trends because the deeper we get into them, the more evidence turns up.

It’s incredibly hard to resist the temptation to change the trend, even if it’s only by adding one sentence more. We have to be very disciplined, and I’m lucky to have a team unafraid to beat me with a stick and tell me to stop putting new trend evidence in.

Finally, we refine the winners and choose a design concept

This is the refining and pattern-spotting phase. Here’s why: How we group the ideas, images, illustrations and data — and later scrutinize and evaluate them — is essential to forming the trends. This is where the fruits of our labor really blossom, when we decide which themes are most compelling, and which will not make the cut.

Next, in October through to early December, we finally enter the last stage of the process — distilling the most meaningful themes down to a few trends (this year, we had seven).

An incredible amount of work, by design

Our trend-spotting process brings together brand strategists, architects, anthropologists, psychologists, coders, designers, and developers to explore human value. Every now and then we don’t get it right (some examples are here this 10-year retrospective of our trends), but that’s the point: We interact with technology in unexpected ways and sometimes the outcomes are surprising.

The Fjord team is genuinely incredible, filled with passion and energy, and I am very lucky to do as much representation of their hard work as I do. I’m standing on the shoulders of a whole collection of giants.

Mark Curtis

Sustainability Lead – Accenture Song

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