Creative Science | The Art of Trend Interpretation

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Science and creativity are forever at odds due to their inherent nature. The former is exact, theoretical and defined. The later being fluid, idealistic and expressive. As in politics, there are right-brainers, leftists and everyone else in between, all trying to make sense of the world we live in. Yet, if logic and art were in sync, we would most certainly arrive at a bigger, if not clearer picture.

One such organization that shares this sentiment is Utrecht-based trend interpretation agency, TrendsActive. More than simply trend watching, the bureau delves into the world of social cultural trends, translating and developing them into business strategies, communication tools and design concepts for Fortune 500 firms and non-profits alike. Their team is composed of a number of specialists with a variety of backgrounds – social scientists, researchers, designers and art directors to name a few.

At the inaugural CreativeMornings™ event in Utrecht (30 March 2012), insights strategist Tessa van Asselt offered a glimpse into this creative science, with her talk on trend interpretation and implementation. Entitled Futureproof: Implementing Global Trends in Your Work/Design, her lecture centered on the significance of social cultural trends, the process of their interpretation and their implications for organizations. While scientific research and data analysis constitute part of the equation, Ms. Van Asselt insists that creative interpretation and implementation are of equal importance. Moreover, the focus on social cultural trends is well intended.

“Social cultural trends describe the knowledge and values of people within society and can be used to explain their behavior.[1] These trends can be defined according to gender, generation and mentality of a specific group in society. Contrary to product-centric market trends, hypes and fads, trends involved in society and culture exist in the long term. Naturally, they are slow to change and remain relevant for an extended period of time, providing a wealth of insights for firms and various organizations.

To illustrate this point, Ms. Van Asselt made a reference to Generation Y, more commonly known as the Millennial Generation or Millennials for short. Born between 1976 and 1991, Millennials correspond to a precise group in society with cultures and subcultures unique to their generation. Positive and intelligent, these au courant realists are nonetheless characterized as spoiled and self-centered, acquiring a particular mindset, distinct from generations past and future. By scrutinizing in-depth the preferences, attitudes and habits of this generation, numerous insights can be isolated, interpreted and then implemented into business strategies or public services.

Millennials, for example, were raised in an exceedingly visual society – a result of abundant visual marketing, technological advancement and the penetration of screens in daily life (television, mobile phones, computers, screens in public transportation, at public spaces, etc.). This has serious implications on their behavior and their ability to interpret visual symbols that surround them. Logos such as the eponymous Nike swoosh or the mobile app icons of Facebook and Twitter are self-explanatory and easily recognizable. In contrast, previous generations cope with symbolism differently, taking the time to filter their literal and figurative meanings.

Logically, companies and institutions must adopt creative strategies in order to adequately communicate with the millennial target market. The use of visual language comes highly recommended, albeit suitably crafted through intelligent and playful interpretation. Package redesign, logo customization and brand differentiation through visual marketing are the standard. Though, the possibilities are endless, ranging from the unconventional and absurd to direct and profound. It is by virtue of this creative interpretation and implementation that art and science coincide.

Be that as it may, Ms. Van Asselt warned that the process is not as straightforward. Adequate preparation is key to proper trend interpretation. This includes defining a clear research question and further investigating its underlying reason (the “why” question). Only after basic interpretation can visual conception and actualization be executed. The outcome of which must be assessed through structured evaluation.

Needless to say, social cultural trend interpretation is an extensive process, pitting logic against creativity, right-brainers versus leftists, visualists contra rationalists. Nevertheless, the result is evermore substantial. Whatever the purpose may be, the analysis (and synthesis) of culture and society through the contrasting lenses of art and science brings greater meaning to the world we live in. Indeed, it is through a better understanding of these trends that social cultural value is created. More than plain methodology, trend interpretation is an art form – creative science in sync.✌

☞ In anticipation of the inaugural CreativeMornings Utrecht event, Tessa van Asselt shared her insights on trend interpretation, creativity and creative thinking in a brief interview for phillipqgangan and can be viewed here:

30 x 30 Q&A: Tessa van Asselt | Insights Strategist, Trends Active

For more information on TrendsActive, CreativeMornings Utrecht and CreativeMornings™, visit the websites listed below:

TrendsActive | CreativeMornings | Utrecht and CreativeMornings™

Follow CreativeMornings Utrecht, CreativeMornings™ and phillipqgangan on Twitter:  @Utrecht_CM (CM Utrecht), @Creativemorning (CM Main) and @phillipqgangan.


[1] Quote cited from an interview with Ms. Van Asselt, 21 March 2012.✍

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