Being A Trend Forecaster

victoria polaroidAfter I’ve presented a trend seminar it’s usual for several audience members to come and speak to me about some piece of information or another that particularly interested them,  and without fail each and every one of them will comment on how brilliant it must be to be a Trend Forecaster (which of course it is!) … and they will also normally ask me exactly what my day-to-day job entails.  It seems no matter where in the world I present seminars, and no matter what market sector the audience members are from, Trend Forecasting is a job that fascinates people.  So I thought it would be interesting to give you an insight into what it is I do all day:desk

final pic for blog

Basically I lead the trend forecasting and creative projects at Scarlet Opus and spend my days thinking about, discussing and writing about the future! 

Outside of the design industry few people seem to know about the work of Trend Forecasters or how our predictions help to guide the designing, manufacturing and buying activities of the world’s best known product brands and retailers.  In fact few end consumers have any idea that the vast majority of the products they buy have been created in line with the predictions of international trend forecasting agencies like ours, and that this process of forecasting all started a couple of years before the product ever became available for them to buy in a shop:  

MONTAGE workAs you read this post we’re completing our Autumn/Winter 2015/16 forecasts for some of our clients and beginning to think about Spring/Summer 2016.  I know – it’s kinda crazy!  Many of our clients want to know about trend predictions just 1 year or 18 months in advance, so whilst we work on reports looking ahead 2 years, we’re also translating trends into product ideas for our clients who want to stay focussed on Spring/Summer 2015 at the moment … and that’s fine too because we want to work at the pace that is right for our clients:

COVERABOVE cover image: New hand-embroidered fabric collection from Fameed Khalique

First and foremost being a Trend Forecaster is about research and information gathering.  Then analysis and translation of that information.  Then drinking cocktails & attending lovely events.  That’s the order of the work tasks for a Trend Forecaster.  Just to be clear – let me show you that as a diagram:



Essentially what I’m saying is that a lot of my time as a Trend Forecaster is spent online finding information on the global events planned-in over the next few years, as well as sifting through the reams of information the team gathers, reading lots of thought-provoking online articles and reports from specialists and experts in diverse fields of study, and reading-up on everything from future film releases to underwater architecture:

waterAs a team we discuss these architectural projects, hotel openings, film productions, museum shows … and a myriad of other planned events, whilst also assessing social change, examining popular culture, and the economic climate in a broader sense.  And of course we keep a keen eye on new works being created by Designers and Artists around the world.  We analyse all of this information, also taking into account current global events, in order to translate it all into a prediction of future design trends.  We need to anticipate what end consumers will want to buy way ahead of them ever developing the desire.  From our research we know what will be on people’s radars at a given point in the future and what they’ll be looking to buy into.  Our job is to help ensure that at that point, the products they want, in the colours, patterns, styles and materials they want them, will be available in stores to answer this demand.  All of the pieces of information we gather together and discuss are like pieces of a jigsaw that fit together to give a bigger and more complete picture of future design trends.  We can then begin to build colour palettes and establish the ‘look’ and key design characteristics of each of the season’s trends:

montage 1

Once we’ve established our 5 trend predictions for a season we can begin to build trend boards and create the seasonal reports for our clients.  The first step is to start image gathering – finding wonderful images of fantastic products by great Designers to feature on the trend boards that will come together to provide a clear visual of the trends.  We contact each of them directly to ask their permission to use an image of their work, and slowly but surely the trend boards begin to be built using InDesign software.  Alongside the creation of the trend boards we begin to build our seasonal Trend Report and Presentations, and record the audio commentary that our clients find so useful: 

trend board work

ABOVE: ‘The Vision’ trend board & color palette; Dress by Eri Matsui; ‘Ruined Polaroid’ by William Miller ; ‘Adrift’ (floating crystals photo) by Kirk Johnson

Then it’s time to get out and present our latest forecasts to clients – Manufacturers (Like Kimberly-Clark, Le Creuset, Quick-Step, Interface, Steelcase and sappi), Retailers (like Lakeland), Service Providers, Product Designers and Interior Designers (like Show Business Interiors), or Trade Associations (like BHETA).   Sometimes our trend presentations are held at their offices for just their in-house teams to attend; sometimes our clients invite some of their suppliers along (and that’s fine with us – the more the merrier!); sometimes we give trend presentations on behalf of our cleints to groups of their clients or potential clients!  Whatever works for them works for us, and we LOVE talking about future design trends, and sharing our expertise – informing and inspiring groups large and small:

trend presentation montage

When I’m back in the studio I write posts for our blog (I especially like our ‘Today I Love …‘, ‘Hot Spot‘ and ‘Exhibitions‘  posts), and I write articles and quotes for magazines and newspapers, as well as doing interviews for trade magazines and exhibitions.  Recently a trend forecast feature was published in the 2014 Interior Design Yearbook (pages 170-175) and it’s also going to be featured in the consumer edition out in December.  I’ve also given a telephone interview about ‘Wellbeing & Design’ to the team behind 360° magazine which will feature in their January issue (67).  And earlier this week I did an interview for a feature entitled ‘Gearing Up For SURFACES‘ for the December issue of Floor Focusmag montageAnd that rather neatly reminds me to mention our involvement with both the SURFACES show in Las Vegas and The Flooring Show in the UK.  For both of these trade exhibitions we design and curate the Trends Hub (an open space for show visitors to learn about the trends for the year ahead and see inspiring products from their industry … as well as being a space to relax, work or hold a meeting).  We also present Trend Forecasting seminars, and at the moment I’m working on our events for Designer Day at SURFACES on Jan 29th 2014 (full details HERE) which includes: a 90min seminar on Design Trends for 2014/15; leading 2 ‘Speed Trend Tours’ out on the show floor of exhibitors booths (ably assisted by Phil as our navigator); PLUS daily Live in the Hub talks from the team across the durarion of the show (28th – 30th Jan 2014).  Phil & I have selected the exhibitors who will be on the Speed Trend Tours and now I need to start writing the tour script and building the seminar slides.  Meanwhile Catherine (our Intern) & I are devising, purchasing & making props for the Trends Hub.  It’s a really creative and exciting time in our studio.

Last year (as you can see below) we went with a Lab styling for the Trends Hub that was bright and industrial-looking with a scientific twist.  The 2014 Trends Hub theme is VERY different and I can’t wait to get to Vegas in the New Year and start working with the fantastic builders to put it all together and make our design a reality!

hub montage

So that’s essentially what it’s like Being A Trend Forecaster i.e. completely fascinating and completely all-consuming!  But I feel completely privileged to have spent the last 10 years helping people around the world to have a clearer view of the future!

You can read more about all the stuff we do, and can do for you, HERE.

miss v jpg

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Do Trend Forecasters have too much influence?

iStock_000008810724XSmallAs part of the promotion of our Trend Seminars at INDEX – Dubai in November, the folk at Fifth Ring have been setting-up interviews with the regions Press.

It’s been really interesting to discover the different angles the magazine and newspaper feature writers want to take; mostly I’ve been questioned on the Recession – it’s current & future effects on consumer attitudes and interior design, and of course the usual probing about key colours and styles for home décor in the future.  However I have been delighted that most journalists have also wanted to gain an understanding of the actual process we go through to forecast the trends and this is a topic we have always been very open and enthusiastic about sharing at Scarlet Opus because we believe that Knowledge Sharing is crucial.

iStock_000005708581XSmallLast week I was asked during an interview with a newspaper if trend forecasting companies can artificially force a trend into the consumer market.

Rather than discussing whether we could do this I think it’s more important to discuss whether we should!

I believe that trend forecasters must attempt to practice a degree of modesty – the minute you start being arrogant enough to think its ok to alter the natural course and rhythm of a trend, you have lost focus and integrity.

We’ve already discussed the issue of whether trend forecasting has an element of self-prophecy in a previous post which you can read here:

Good trend forecasting requires a genuine interest in societies needs and the needs of individual consumers.  It’s about solving peoples problems, making life easier, making it more pleasurable…making things better.  Yes trend forecasters can influence things but our influence should be used to encourage our clients to improve and have a more considered approach to their designing, manufacturing and retailing activities.

Trend forecasting isn’t about selfishly forcing purple paisley into fashion just because you happen to like purple and paisley and it isn’t about creating a pseudo desire in consumers for things they could have happily lived without.

Without getting too deep…for us trend forecasting is about getting to the truth of where we are at right now….and where we want to be in the future – and then setting a course with our clients to get us all there!

We’d love, love, love to know what you think….Leave a comment to let us know if you think trend forecasting can have a positive or negative effect on design and consumerism?

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Sourcing Trend Board Imagery & Contributors

I was recently asked how we go about finding all of the images and samples that appear on our Scarlet Opus trend boards each season.  It’s a good question and worth taking a moment (or a post) to explain.  It will also help to complete our Forecasting Process category (accessed in the right hand sidebar).

So how do we find all of our lovely contributors?…..

Once we have completed stages 1 – 5 of our trend forecasting research process for the coming season, we then begin to gather together inspiring, trendsetting and relevant product images, designs, photographs and samples via a variety of methods:

  • We visit trade shows and exhibitions like New Designers, NY Market Week, Index, 100% Design etc… 

    These exhibitions are an opportunity for us to see designers work and discuss the inclusion of their work on our trend boards.

    We met Claire Coles at 100% Design a couple of years back and one of her wonderful wallpaper designs will feature on one of our Autumn / Winter 2010 / 2011 trend boards.

  • Oftentimes we have a very strong idea of the type of product we want to include and then we have to set about finding it!

  • For example, we wanted to feature patterned wooden furniture on our Autumn / Winter 2010 / 2011 trend boards so we dug about on the internet until we found Duncan Gowdy.

    Duncan incorporates subtle patterns from nature into his beautifully crafted furniture pieces and his creations are exactly right for next years interior trends when consumers will be looking to add pattern into interior schemes in more intelligent, unobtrusive and less obvious ways. 


  • Actually we do an awful lot of general surfing…..checking-out websites and blogs, seeing who is doing what and what is being said about it.   This is how we came across the photographic work of Manny Rodriguez and we’ll be dedicating a Showcase post to him very soon!

  • In fact the work of exciting photographers and interior designers is a key source of imagery for our trend boards.  Sometimes we see something that fits in with our forecasts on image sharing sites like flickr, or a particular image will strike a chord that we see in a photographer’s online portfolio.  Then we contact them to gain permission for us to include the image on our trend board.

  • Sometimes it works the opposite way around and contributors contact us.  In these cases we are mostly contacted directly by designers but we also receive a lot of Press Releases from PR companies and Marketing Department people letting us know about projects, exhibitions and products that may be of interest to us.  If the info is of interest then we might request images for a trend board, or include it as part of a magazine article……or include it as a posting on our blog – like we did last Wednesday (29th July) when we posted about the cool new skyscraper that is planned for Bangkok. 

If you are an interior product designer, textile or surface pattern designer, photographer, interior designer or stylist and would like to submit images or samples of your work to be considered for inclusion on our future trend boards…please read our Submission Info page (accessed at the top of this page or in the right hand sidebar) and then email us at




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Is Trend Forecasting Self-Prophesising?

Last week the Producer of Channel Five TV show ‘I Own Britain’s Best Home’ got in touch with us to request information on what the home trends will be in 2010.  They are going to provide a Top 10 run down of the key 2010 home trends on the final show of the series.   We were happy to help and for good measure provided them with a few of the key colours for Spring / Summer 2010 which included Coral, Greys, Malachite, Maroon & Indigo…not all used together though!

















Our involvement in the tv show started a discussion amongst the Scarlet Opus team about the degree to which trend forecasting can be said to be self-prophesising.  It’s an interesting debate.  After all there aren’t that many trend forecasting companies in the big scheme of things.  There are lots of companies and individuals who comment on what’s Now or coming Next season but relatively few true trend forecasters who are looking ahead in terms of years not just months.  So if there aren’t that many trend forecasters and we each have our own clients (designers, manufacturers & retailers) who we provide information to…and they all take on-board what we say and design, make and order according to our forecasts…and that’s what ends up in the shops and mail order catalogues and that is what is available for people to buy – then maybe our forecasts have an element of inevitability about them?  Maybe trend forecasters predictions come to fruition partly because trend forecasters help to drive the trends in a certain direction?  You can see how the cycle works in the flow chart below starting from ‘Forecast Design Trends’ (top right):

Charting The Trend Forecasting Cycle

Charting The Trend Forecasting Cycle

When making your own mind up on this issue it’s important to remember that trend forecasters can’t go it alone!  We can’t just decide what the trends are going to be on a whim (or based on what we’d like to see in the shops) and then tell our clients that.  The strength of our individual forecasts becomes stronger by other forecasters predictions being very similar to our own.  Why?  Because, as explained in our Forecasting Process category, all trend forecasters are researching very similar areas and discovering very similar information as each other.  Therefore all trend forecasters predictions should be very similar….or they’ve got it wrong!  If you are a trend forecaster, being different in your predictions from everyone else is not a good sign.  All singing from the same hymn sheet gives credibility to the information we individually provide.

At seminar events we are regularly asked if all trend forecasters get together each season (in a darkened room) and decide what the coming design trends are going to be.  Ermmm….No!  To start off with trend forecasters are like most other creative people i.e. they aren’t big on associating with their competition.  It’s silly but it’s an attitude we come across at trade shows and exhibitions all the time.  We’d like to think that such a meeting of creative minds could be really productive and that a spirit of sharing could give reassuring confirmation of our ideas if nothing else.  But we’ve had no invitations to pop ’round for a cup of tea with any other trend forecasting companies as yet.

We’ll be sure to remind you nearer the time when the final episode of  ‘I Own Britain’s Best Home’ is going to air.  But in the meantime if you want to watch the episodes that have already aired you can do so by visiting:

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Trend Forecasting Stage Five

Finally we come to the last stage in the trend forecasting process – you can read through the whole process from start to finish by clicking on the ‘Forecasting Process’ category over in the right hand sidebar.  The first stage is at the bottom…then just work your way up.

Tea Sets by Claire Coles

Tea Sets by Claire Coles

Once we have completed all of the research and information gathering described in the previous stages it’s time to sit down together and analyse everything.  A nice cup of tea will aid this process!

What we are aiming to do in this final stage is put all of our information together in an ordered way and as a team make a judgement on how society (particularly 1st world nations) might be influenced and change by the time we reach the season we are trying to forecast.  We think about this in terms of peoples shifting attitudes, values, interests, hobbies, desires, requirements, problems, concerns and obsessions etc…  By looking at society in this way we can then consider how consumers wants, needs & desires might change.  Finally we can then translate this into a forecast, that takes into account all of the other stages in the process we have previously covered, and predict the colours, themes, patterns, materials, products etc… relevant to a specific future season.

thread1We are always looking out for Common Denominators – at Scarlet Opus we think about this in terms of a physical thread that runs through the information we gather and binds the trends together.  More often than not there are reoccurring issues that are connected to other issues or events in some way. 



For example – when we were conducting our research for Spring Summer 2010 interior trends we found that during the Summer of 2010 Chile, Argentina & Mexico will all celebrate 200 years of independence.  In fact in addition to this bicentenary Mexico will celebrate a centenary relating to the Mexican Revolution which began in 1910.  Events and celebrations are planned to take place across South America and the USA (The Mayor of Chicago has even declared 2010 ‘The Year of Mexico’) including art gallery & museum exhibitions, new commemorative architectural projects and films.  These events and other issues thread together and will influence a shift in the current European Folk trend towards a South American interior trend in 2010.


 All of the information that we gather is recorded on spreadsheets and during this final stage we discuss each piece of information and colour code it so that all the information becomes grouped into common families.  It’s a bit like a detailed tally chart.  Generally we end up with about a dozen colour coded groups which each have 10’s of different pieces of information in and we then identify if any of these groups can be merged into another.  So for our Spring Summer 2010 interior trend forecast we eventually ended up with 8 final trends that incorporated the information from all of our five forecasting stages.  We have completed the same process for Autumn Winter 2010 / 2011 and we are now building the trend boards that visually support the information in our report to inform, inspire and guide the work of product designers, interior designers, manufacturers and retail buyers.

To leave feedback or ask a question just click the word ‘comments’ at the top of this post.

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