Features, Trends

Recalibrating: The State of the World & the Consumer in 2018

One of the most powerful human attributes is our ability to be contemplative and to observe our actions in the broader context of society and time. The end of a calendar year serves as a symbolic pause to ruminate on what has happened to date and to dabble in the subjective exercise of forecasting what the New Year will bring.

A Look Forward to 2018

As we look to the year ahead, we expect a solid continuation of some of the emerging shifts we’ve been seeing in 2017. This vibe will continue with a sense of recalibration and the settling effect coming from big geopolitical jolts such as Brexit and Trump’s inauguration. The accepted notion resulting from these big shifts is that uncertainty and volatility are the new normal. We’re getting used to disruptive shakeouts and are now focused on pragmatic ways to find meaning and thrive in this modern complexity.

One of the most powerful ways in which consumers, brands and organizations will wrestle with change is by seeking to simplify things. We’ve reached the point where there is too much of everything — and we want out. Simplification will also drive conversations in design and the user experience. Its focus on effortlessness will usher in greater consolidation of services (i.e. CVS buying Aetna); the rise of smarter, AI-driven customer service; fewer apps and more comprehensive mobile experiences; cleaner and lighter design experiences; and a premium on systems, products and experiences across many industries that give individuals back the luxury of time, our new currency.

With this pivot towards simplification, there are four significant shifts my colleagues and I at Doneger Creative Services are tracking in society, consumer lifestyle and culture.

 

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Playscape

Coping with today’s human condition is taking its toll on us. The digital amplification of our anxieties demands a stronger form of escapism. We expect to see the continued rise of play across everything we do. The intended play effect will create an unwinding, relaxed state that will allow us to be more creative, more collaborative, and, overall, more open to change. Playfulness will also inform design, consumer journeys, branding and experiences. Colors will be more vibrant; marketing language will be shorter and wittier and brand conversations will ignite more engaging interactions. Growth areas will include augmented reality and gaming experiences; fandom-based communities and activities; expressive multi-sensorial experiments bridging categories such as food and beauty; and short-form expressions such as poetry. Nostalgia will play heavily in this movement, with the 80s and 90s decades continuing to influence. Related to nostalgia, a childlike mindset will increasingly be the norm as we seek to revert to a simpler time. In fashion, we will see this trend play out in the continued rise of retro inspired modernism and in the newer youthful, lifestyle street expressions such as Gorpcore’s extreme alpine-centric color mash-ups.

Playscape is characterized by: surprise, serendipity, intuition, conversation, interactivity, community.

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Frontierless

Modern technology has empowered mobility. In a digital era where authenticity is in question, we are looking for ways to affirm ourselves experientially in the larger universe. This results in adventuring out into new territories. Think: the deep outdoors, more extreme sports, hyper-local travelling (not tourism) and ephemerally-themed journeys such as chasing the northern lights. Design informed by frontierless will be more gear-led, hard-edge, sleeker, more multifunctional, intelligently lighter — all with a high-tech sheen. Tonality will be more bold, decisive and urgent. Brands will be authentic, bold and true to their integrity. Think of Patagonia’s recent campaign against the Trump administration’s removal of protected status of large swaths of our national parks. And true frontierless will literally push us further into the beyond. We expect a rise in space-inspired innovations, designs and conversations. The cosmos will serve as a timeless muse, and cosmology and astrology will serve up a new form of modern boho aesthetics for consumers looking for alternatives to meaning defined by institutionalized religion.

Frontierless is characterized by: quest, challenges, recognition, intuition, protection, projection, extreme wanderlust, otherworldliness.

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Disruption

There is an anti-establishment energy emerging across all sectors in our society. Seeded on a distrust of power structures that may not have our best interests in mind, we are looking to cut free of externally imposed constructs. We see this in the continued shift against middle players and rise of new systems and platforms that deliver security and value. Think: more tools that will expand our need for transparency, peer-to-peer trust building and hyper-niche, personalized products and services. In terms of self-identity, there will a conflicting tug between multiculturalism and a newly emboldened sense of nationalism. Fundamentalist religions and group-think behavior will re-emerge, putting extra pressure and tension on local cultural tribes. Brand experience in this shift will favor the emotional, urgent and participatory. Design will be more urban-skewed, angrier and more discordant.

Disruption is characterized by: expression, innovation, protection, unbundling, simplification, empowerment.

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Augmented Me

Individuals are looking to recalibrate their sense of self immersed what they consider to be a hyper-fluid, often stressful environment. We see the rise of a more contemplative era that favors the humanist versus the techie, yet smarter tech silently provides the wallpaper of convenience. The home will continue to drive most innovations as we seek cocooning for protection, replenishment and a more immediate, warmer way of connecting. Accelerated innovations will continue to emerge from the Internet of Things, with appliances and gadgets communicating with each other to deliver smarter outputs, all the while looking increasingly stylish. This connected approach will carry over to other realms of design, including fashion where the now ubiquitious athleisure movement will spin off to a more elevated athluxury. We will also see an emerging neocraft movement which borrows from loungewear, outdoors gear and activewear. The wellness economy will evolve from the purely natural to include design-centric tech. This will result in more performance-heavy, yet stylish, fabrics, wearables and interfaces. Overall design surfaces will be softer, warmer earth tones elevated through the slight sheen of tech and design.

Augmented Me is characterized by: pragmatism, introspection, empathy, elevation, craftsmanship, education, guidance.

Endnote

I wish you the best in your strategic and creative endeavors. May the guiding star of curiosity lead to inspiring and profitable horizons.

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