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Trends, the World in a Shade Card!

Itu Chaudhuri

Many of us look for upcoming trends to be ready for future demands of customers or clients. You already must have read many articles on predicting trends at the beginning of each year. Here read on for a very unique view on design trends by Itu Chaudhuri, founder and principal at Itu Chaudhuri Design.

It’s a modern, seasonal disease. The new year brings with it a thick flow of trend forecasts, cheery and sweeping, and we read them with the forgiving spirit that the holiday season demands. For Deep Design, it seems foolhardy to indulge, yet churlish to desist, so here’s a holiday smoothie on trends themselves.

Some trends forecast, such as those in fashion, are meant to be self-fulfilling. The great and big among the fashion industry make them. Thus buyers know what colours and styles to buy, and retailers know what to stock. The media is in it at the start, happy to report what the well-dressed citizen will be wearing. The consumer, she of the clued-in, independent mind, is eager to confirm: it’s only fitting. Paris/Milan/Mumbai know best; empty shelves help no one.

Trends

The communications industry, unlike those that stock things, doesn’t face the risk of empty shelves. Yet trends there surely are. The dozen or so portfolios and the artfully designed CVs that our office reviews monthly give a clear view into what the bottom of the food chain has been eating. A set of colour palettes, a certain taste in typefaces, and a tendency to gratuitously quantify, in order to contrive a graph to replace text (give yourself a 75% hardworking score, or three and a half stars).

But unlike fashion, there’s no Big Design, no dominant source heavily invested in the forecast. Pantone, a widely used colour communication system, comes closest to announcing trends, along with paint manufacturers who try to drum up interest in their new shades, a hue and cry, if you will. For the most part, these graphic trends result from simple imitative impulses. This may account for the relative stability of these design trends.

DESIGNERS (WHICH INCLUDES COMMUNICATORS, MARKETERS AND POLICY MAKERS) SHOULD CONTINUE TO TAKE THE TRENDS THEMSELVES WITH A GRAIN OF ETHICALLY-PRODUCED, IODIDE-RICH, ROCK OR SEA SALT.

But common to all trends forecast, and trend commentating, is the theorising that identifies and proposes the driving currents. Inevitably, large, global turns of politics and their economic, social and cultural facets are called out as driving forces: Brexit, Trump and unless you are observing news fast (another micro-trend) you know the rest. Deep Design, too, has indulged early and often, such as linking the discontents behind the rise of the US prez to those boosting the rise of Patanjali long before the final elections, not to imply direct link but to speculate on a similar mood driving both.

Trends

Anti-globalisation and nationalism are the most familiar labels applied to this phenomenon. Commentators hear the voices of groups who feel ‘disenfranchised’, speaking with eerie simultaneity across continents. These voices have exhausted their patience with the ruling intelligentsia, and abhor its factual (or specious, or false), well-articulated utterances: better a mis-spelled, ‘feeling’ untruth that promises action, than an unproductive, pedantic truth. Going further: a suspicion of democracy, technocracy, complexity and balance, and the citified, corporate or university culture that spawns them; a yearning for viscerally inspired gestures. (Other strands omitted for brevity).

The trends forecast that respond to these may be summarised (in a post-truth kind of way!) as a return to roots and basics; a preference for imperfection; the recycled; rough and natural finishes (call them unfinished). The broad theme: authenticity.

Pantone’s Colour of the Year is Greenery 15-0343, to represent ‘fresh beginnings’ complemented by earth and mineral tones, and upcycled materials. Primary colours (from flags, and nationalism) remain in force. Expect packaging to be literally and otherwise transparent, to convey the authenticity of provenance (add: bucolic-ness and humanity). Photography, it says, will be more ‘real’ in terms of the human subjects, with emotion (add: imperfect skin) getting extra marks. The trend towards active, sports-inspired wear continues (cementing the general trend towards informality)

Despite the smell of truth about the causes that drive these trends, designers (which includes communicators, marketers and policy makers) should continue to take the trends themselves with a grain of ethically-produced, iodide-rich, rock or sea salt.

For one thing, many of these trends are old and long-running. Look at restaurants that have opened in the last ten years in your metropolis, and note how similar many of the trends you spot in the concept and the design of the space. Exposed air conditioning ducts, cocktails in jam jars (Deep Design’s pet peeve), rope, rough-hewn wood, local produce and food fusion. And watch for authentically brush drawn lettering on menus, coming soon to a grubhouse near you.

Further, trends forecast are popular because they feed our confirmation biases; many may well have other less (or more) obvious causes, preventing a proper understanding. Several trends run concurrently and play out differently depending on cultures (defined by geography and age).

LONG-TERM TRENDS MAY EXERT A MORE STRATEGIC FORCE WITH WHATEVER YOU ARE DESIGNING. BUT IT’S BEST TO BE ALIVE TO THE BABEL OF THE CONVERSATIONS WITHOUT BEING IN A HURRY TO ISOLATE ANY ONE SIGNAL, IS THE GOLDEN PATH.

This means paying attention to the invisible drivers behind the trends. For example, the most valuable lesson from post-truth is an ancient one: that the tendencies of people to think through the filter of their identities, anxieties, and pride trump all others. In this state, they will ignore ‘good design’ as a source of meaning. That’s what Trump’s diabolically plain election identity conveyed—nothing—which may have resonated with his voters as authentic, much better than the professionally designed, pointing-ahead, promise-laden ‘H’ from a Capitol-ist they didn’t trust.

Issue 45

Published in Issue 45

When celebrations are all around for the new year, everyone is curious about what this new year will bring. So, the rounds of looking back to the past year and trying to predict the new one starts. We started the same exploration through this issue by reaching various experts for their take on the trends for their respective fields. And with many expert interviews, we got various unique viewpoints, as Elephant Design shared the importance of having a well-thought packaging design for products. And on another hand, VGC gave an insight into, how a brand should be created for the Millennials. But to top it all, with very deep logical design thought, Itu Chaudhuri says that the trends are a modern seasonal disease, and we designers should continue taking it with a grain of ethically-produced, iodide-rich rock or sea salt. All-in-all this issue is a very interesting and a must-read, if you’re looking for greater clarity and want to start your year with a lot of deep design knowledge about the brand development to packaging design, user experience design, to storyboarding and more.

 

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