Designing brand experiences through trends

It’s difficult to translate research findings into innovative solutions as all the methods we have to generate ideas tend to be dependent on one thing: what we already know.

Thats why the most successful entrepreneurs are known to spend a lot of their time learning and building upon what’s happening in their industry. However as designers we don’t have the luxury of a lifetime of sectorial experience, so we at Take decided to use another approach: Trend driven innovation.

Evolution of portable music devices over the years is an example of how great innovations build upon each other, while always focusing on a core need.

Trends 101

While trends can be interpreted in a number of ways, our focus will be on ‘consumer-trends’ defined as “...a new manifestation among people—in behavior, attitude, or expectation— of a fundamental human need, want, or desire. (Trend-Driven Innovation)”. Trends allow us to tap into a ‘collective business intelligence’, understanding how customer expectations are evolving in order to take advantage of them and create new relevant solutions.

Spotting Trends - How to find relevant trends

Not only do trends help us anticipate customer expectations in the industries we are working on, but they also open our minds to new possibilities that come from different sectors as well. The famous example of this is the Apple Genius Bar that was inspired by the Ritz Carlton concierge. But it can seen more recently in Disneyland taking advantage of the growth of wearables like Fitbit to create their own Magicband, a RFID bracelet that gives you access to the different products and services they offer.

MagicBand is a result of Disney recognizing the opportunity in the growing trend of wearables.

Before researching for trends we usually break down our project into key areas that help direct our research. Then collecting innovations we begin to search for patterns that can combined to form relevant trends for our design challenge.

One example of this is a project we recently did for a digital energy management service. We outlined two key areas: energy services (think Nest) and data driven services (think Mint), and then started searching. One trend we uncovered was ‘Insights on demand’ where data driven services are focusing less on dashboards and more on delivering key insights. This trend was especially interesting for us as it targeted a problem area we uncovered in previous user research we had done.

Our trend driven innovation process: starting from our challenge we can find relevant trend directions to gain inspiration from.

Designing with trends

Once defined, trends can then be used towards designing new solutions. We feel the best way to do this is through a co-design workshops with our clients. During ideation sessions we introduce the trends and then work to come up with ideas that address the specific design challenge we established. Beyond client workshops these trends can also become a reference point as we are designing customer journeys, or specific touchpoint interactions.

Using our trends in co-design workshops can help inspire brainstorms
Example of a trend structure.

Ultimately, while trends shouldn’t be the only method you should use, it can become a powerful foundation that can help connect research insights to relevant and impactful experiences.

To summarize:

• Trends can be used by service and UX designers a way of coming up with new solutions
• Trends allow you to tap into a ‘collective business intelligence’ understanding how customer expectations are evolving and what are the drivers behind them
• To spot them break down your project into key areas and research those areas to find interesting innovations that combine to form trend.
• Once defined they can be introduced to client workshops or used as a reference point when designing brand experiences.

Antonio Starnino

21 July, 2016

Antonio Starnino is a Service Designer at Take where he uses design thinking to help brands create relevant experiences for their customers.

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