Future brand trends uncovered

The shift towards softer, more emotional and intuitive brands and products will be just one of the trends that designers need to be aware of next season, says trend research group The Future Laboratory. ‘Womenomics’ – or ‘soft branding’ – is just one of five trends that will be explored at Future Laboratory’s forthcoming bi-annual Trend Briefing Day in April.

Chris Sanderson, creative director at Future Laboratory and Viewpoint Magazine, says, ‘We don’t want to suggest that designers should be reinventing the wheel every six months. What we are concerned about showing are the ideas and issues that are relevant to design and designers.’

One suggestion is that designers should prepare to welcome ‘soft branding’ with an awareness of the rise of the feminocracy and indulgence decade. Tom Savigar, strategy and insight director at Future Laboratory, says that this does not mean that branding and packaging should be pink, but it is about making products more intuitive – like the ‘feminine’ Apple Mac, in contrast to the more masculine Dell design.

He adds, ‘The Apple iPod introduced an emotional element to its design which men love.’ The Nintendo Wii is another example of design being used in a female way.

Another trend under discussion will be the rise of concierge-style services dedicated to wooing consumers. Savigar says, ‘Shoppers enjoy using Net-A-Porter because of the way the products come gift-wrapped.’

One of the shops to embrace this is Liberty where the goods are boxed and the feel of concierge culture is evident in the central atrium’s Liberty of London boutique, designed by Universal Design Studio and Liberty of London creative director Tamara Salman (DW 31 January 2007).

The briefing will also suggest that one of the challenges for branding designers today is that people’s jobs are not for life, a trend that has been termed ‘the slash/slash generation’.

This can make it hard for a designer to know who they are designing for, says Savigar. ‘Brands need to be more flexible in their output and appeal to consumers from different angles,’ he adds. Brands will also be rated according to the criteria of truth, transparency and trust at the trend-briefing event. Savigar explains that when it comes to food and cosmetics, consumers have a deeper relationship with these products and want to feel that they are using a ‘clean brand’ they can trust.

Sanderson also suggests that design is moving away from the playful, and towards a more rational approach. He says that at the Cologne Furniture Fair he noticed student designers’ products seemed to be moving towards the serious and away from frolicsome, baroque design. The point of the day, says Sanderson, is to look at design and examine the reasons behind these things happening, and why they might be relevant.


Up-and-coming brand issues:

• Soft branding
• Womenomics
• Concierge culture
• Food futures
• New mass affluents
• The slash/slash generation

Future Laboratory’s trendbriefing day takes place on 9 April at Wilton’s Music Hall, London E1. For further details, visit www.thefuturelaboratory.com.

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