Trends play an important role in today’s cities. Not only because of the ubiquitous presence of hipsters on today’s streets, but also in a broader context trends are an indicator for societal change. Brands do everything to get in touch with influentials and innovators, to hear about new ideas for their business and to get their most innovative products sold to the right group. Whereas brands try to keep up with the way society changes, most urban professionals are sceptical when it comes to trendwatching. Most of them argue that trends are short term regurgitations of hipness, while their profession is creating a profound and long term grid for future living. Well, they are wrong. First, urban planning practice of the last 50 years has proved not to be able to create a longlasting physical context for urban life. Second, people saying to ignore trends mostly adhere to an old trend, you better refresh insights sometimes. Third, well read trends predict new societal demands and behavior, which is the key in making cities better. Therefore I would like to review The Trend Forecaster’s Handbook by Martin Raymond, co-founder of The Future Laboratory, a London-based trendwatching agency.
What is a trend? How does a trend work? And what are its social dynamics? The Trend Forecaster’s Handbook aims to provide answers to these questions. The book is a scientific approach towards the psychological, emotional and social economical presence of the trend as a phenomenon, and provides skills to understand and track trends and use them to inform research, design and (product) development. The book combines sociological theory with examples from diverse trendwatching practices. As a conclusion to the main question, if everybody can become a trend watcher, the book implicitly concludes with a big NO. One needs a special talent, ‘an eye’, to be a good trend forecaster. You should compare it to a perfume maker who needs a ‘nose’. A trend forecaster is keen on everything happening around and is able to understand this in a bigger context. He or she recognizes patterns in societal changes and knows how to describe these patterns.
The book is a real handbook, meant to teach on an educational level. Highly visual, the book takes us through the world of trend forecasting and consumer insight in a step-by-step way, with quotes, interviews, and case studies from key players. Each chapter concludes with a lesson plan, or summary panel, which reviews the key issues covered, and describes a course of action or a project-based activity that allows students to experience the techniques or methodologies explored.
The theoretical parts of the book are inspiring and eye-opening, as well as the examples from diverse trend forecasting agencies such as PSFK, Henrik Vejlaard, David Carlson and Carsten Beck. On the other hand, the book — that should be sold in style bookstores all over the world — tries to make the whole a little less heavy by providing trend insights illustrated with pictures and designs. Here the book takes a bi-polar approach. In essence, this book should not be bought to get inspired with new trends, but to learn about the practice of trendwatching itself. The given examples are not amazingly eye-opening, and some of the illustrations miss the point when it comes to trends. Nevertheless, The Trend Forecaster’s Handbook is a well published and intelligently written book for starting ‘forecasters’ looking for theoretical background and interesting experiences. The four main methodologies — intuition forecasting, network forecasting, cultural triangulation and scenario planning — give an interesting perspective on different approaches.
Although the book is very much written in relation to marketing and business trends, it provides interesting insights for urbanists and planners. Most interesting here are the four methodologies. In the regular urban practice only ‘scenario planning’ is used as a forecasting technique. It would be worth the effort to take a close look at other techniques, such as intuition forecasting, to forecast the future of cities.
—Click here to order The Trend Forecaster’s Handbook.