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Trends and characteristics of a period

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rött och orange glas ljusreflektioner3 065 words, 3 april 2007, translated February på svenska 2014

 A journalist asked me about the trend for the year. I hid a sigh –  the answer is long.

I do not do trends.
But I do, and still, I do not do trends. I mean, when designing, I do not think “Now I will do something trendy”- it would be a distraction and make it all fall flat, it would be an artificial construction, something stiff and strange, in worst case a bad copy.
When designing, I use my senses, I feel, I use my intuition, listens and put questions to my client, the one the design is for.
It might turn into something trendy. If not trendy it surely will be characteristic for its time.

Content

characteristics for a period
trendy
Multiple trends –moral clashes?
Technical possibilities and development of products
The commercial economic aspect
We buy trendiness – we do not create it
Contradictions?
Whose expressions
What trends 2009, my guess
Environment and Health
The basic
Honesty
Change
Magic
The Tale
Some other trends I simply have to mention:
An expanding here and now
Here:

Characteristics of a period

The characteristics of a period is something we can distinguish after ten, twenty years ahead, looking back. Even design not considered trendy when it was made can in a retro-perspective be perceived as very characteristic for its period of time.
What is characteristic (typical) of the period is an expression of what I, you, we, felt important and accurate then and there, at the current time. It was something we actually chose and left as a tangible evidence for the world to come.
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Trendy

A trend, on the contrary, is something ongoing now, heading forward to what not yet have become. The world is buzzing of people who do, think and have opinions. All intertwined, affecting each other and we express it through our bodies, our ways of living and all our choices.
To find or guess a trend in this buzz, is to distinguish what we have in common and what drives us, motivates us, in our choices.
The word trend is also used in a more constricted meaning, solely to point at the tangible things we choose and not the motives. Either way, trends interplay with our common motives and how we choose to express them to each other.
The word “trendy” also points at what we perceive as new and if something is trendy can only be judged from a contemporary point of view.
For example, even if the environmental issues nowadays are a basic part in many people’s choices, it is no longer anything new. The environmental issues become more and more obvious and self-evident in our society and the reasons why are questioned less and less. Many of its expressions have found their form and look and are not perceived as new and trendy even if reinvented over and over again. Looking back we will probably consider them as characteristic for this period.
So, what is the new? What do we all long for? What issues and problems do we have in common? What can be expressed in an approximately similarly way?
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In the buzz it is hard to distinguish simply one trend. We can distinguish various sets of values about what is right and wrong and it is expressed differently. Different sets of values, moral, has always followed mankind, but maybe there is a trend to express the meeting and conflict between them?
It is shown in humorous ways in media – I guess it is one of the benefits with different sets of moral – it can be very funny. (As long as there are no injured victims because of them, of course) In TV-series like Chuck, Sopranos and the Swedish ”Hjälp” (en. Help) In Sopranos the caring, psychoanalytic, empathic moral clashes into mob moral, and in Chuck the stereotype MI6/CIA agent clashes with the moral in a “normal” domestic lifestyle.
One growing set of moral in Sweden, (a trend?) is that it is no longer accepted to recklessly selfish gain profit on others behalf through bonus system and outrageously beneficial golden parachutes – for some. Deals made during 1980 and 1990 when the moral was different. (I guess it is important to point out that it was before the media landscape had developed through internet.)
I guess this is what is illustrated in the movie “The Wolf of Wall street” that was released recently, or if it was another movie … anyway, in the trailer, one of the main characters says something that goes like this “ – …the dubious things we did to … in the 1990:s , – now it is legal!”
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Technical possibilities and development of products

Today we all have, at least in the western countries, a big opportunity to express our posture, our moral, our self-image… with technology, music, education, clothes, furniture, interior design and not to forget, food. We can choose, buy and consume in a way man never have been able to do before. (Well, as far as I know.) Compared to only fifty years back, we have so much more to choose from which of course will have an impact on the visibility and the number of trends.
(At least those of us who still can afford it – and as long as we are many enough to keep up the industry.)
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The commercial economical aspect

Who is interested to find those issues many of us have in common, the trends, apart from that general interest for what is going on which we all probably share more or less?
A not so wild guess is that it is the business industry, since they produces the products we use to express ourselves with and produces what ”we need”. They need to know what we probably will prefer, what we will choose. With accuracy close enough to make us buy it. They want to know how we choose to live, to make sure the services and goods provided feels right in all kind of ways.
So, they need to make a good guess.
Fashion industry seems interested in having many trends going on at the same time who quickly supersedes one another into new trends, so they sell more.
It is these commercially launched trends I am thinking of when I hear the word “trend”. (This means that they actually do a really good job – since they have been able to claim the word.) Maybe that is why I hesitate and say that I do not ”do trends”.
When it comes to design a garden, to do the layout, it is not a product you buy or sell. The garden is not a ready-made thing. It is a piece of land to be cultivated. But of course you can buy garden furniture, pots, mirrors and other things to decorate your garden with. To some extent the choice of plants is about trends – but it is easier to change pillows and curtains than changing your plants and slates.
Trends, how they are exposed in commercials, is an expectation of selling products – and trends in my meaning are so much more, especially when it comes to planning environment in a larger scale, but even for the private garden, it is about more than simply selling products.
The commercial interest, the mass production, turns to the many and I often turn to my specific client and her or his wishes.
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We buy trendiness – we do not create it

Since we today, compared to fifty years ago, at a higher extent are buying us our expressions, buying us trendiness – we also become more dependent of what is offered on the existing market.
In that way, the commercially launched trends becomes self-prophecies since the market is ruled by trend-guessers and there is nothing else to buy.
Do you remember the 1980:s,- or if it was the 1990:s – anyway, you could buy boots with ready-made dirt on, clothes and tan to look like you were living a rough outdoor life, while you in reality was sitting as a pale office rat on an ergonomically adapted “flip-chair” all year round. – Such a ”lie” expressed through your “outfit” would be completely outdated today, would it not?
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Contradictions

How our finance system works rules our business industries. The need, to sell more and more, is a consequence of how it works. (A system now in serious crises.) To sell more they reinforce the trends to supersede one after the other. But since developing and launching new products all the time also is a cost, how does that work together with the aim to gain profit? Would they not earn more from selling the same product to all, all the time, with no changes? Which really would not contribute to manifold and various designs.
But, we consumers do not want old stuff, looking outdated, since it do not fit with our self-images or the appearances we want to uphold. (I come to think of the British TV series “Keeping up the appearance”.) A feared stiffness to the manufacturing process and bland monotonous design to go with it, which the aim for profit in the business could cause, seems to be eased up by the demand in the “trend industry”, even if it may be a bit excessive.
Unfortunately a service intense production as for example small-scale furniture manufacturing is not favored by the way our financial system works.
(In Sweden we started early (1960) to favor big scale industries using political tools. The aim was to make a larger part of the population into an active part of the money flow – so would industries and welfare grow. By that time around 50% of the people were farmers, which meant that they could live on the land they owned. Today we are going back to that situation since many are cut off from the money flow but the difference today is that we do not have a piece of land to live on – we will simply be sitting in our apartments til thrown out. Farming in the cities are a trend 2014 (not yet in Sweden but in south America.)
When the mass-producing industry cannot produce and deliver the personally and skilled craft or handiwork we want, we still have a market of second-hand and vintage to turn to.
The interest taken in the market of second-hand and vintage is not only because it meets the demand for crafts, personal handiwork and quality in details. It is also a way for customers who wants to show an active statement about re-use, without being limited in their choices, on the contrary, they have, in my opinion, a vast and inspiring market to choose from.
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Whose expressions?

Does the fact that much of what I consider as “my trendiness” is bought and created of someone else gives a false impression of who I really am? Buying my expression means that what I show is not really a true expression of my hand and body? The clothes I wear are not designed by me, not the furniture I use, not the…can this be profound for self-delusion?
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What trends 2009, my guess

I do not worry so much whether my choices are trendy or not since what I consider to be good-looking, is contemporary and I and my client chooses intuitively, probably will be considered as characteristic for this period of time, even if not in a way we expected it to be today.

So I lick my finger, put it up in the air, close my eyes and feel the wind blow.
Out of the buzz I choose five trends. First environment and health since they are two basic trends still of current interest and their special ways to be expressed still are around. Health together with environment is not a new trend.
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Environment and Health
The environmental thinking is more and more integrated in what we do and with it the way to express your awareness about it changes. The awareness can today be shown in more ways than by choosing natural, soft and earthy colors and textures; organic shapes and materials. Materials as wood, stone, plants and paint made from natural raw materials.
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The basic
In the yearn for the basic, the environmental awareness and its expressions has a part. The financial crisis accentuates the question, IF there is any basics and what it is.
Up till now our way to deal with environment and people has been, with no questions, adapted to the economic playground. The economic crisis may involve that the economic playground is set to be adapted to environmental terms and people’s need, since our environment, after all, is the foundation and origin of our survival – which imply the financial systems survival as well.
We do not know yet. I think it is a trend beginning with this financial crisis. The climate threat and the financial crisis is shaking the Western world’s foundation. Add to that the dismantle of welfare.
It creates a vast anxiety, socially and existential. An anxiety in the political sphere as well as for individuals. And it hurries. We can relate to this as individuals in very different ways.

The other four trends I pick: change, magic, honesty and the tale all relate and deal with this existential and social anxiety in different ways.
Emotion expressed because of the crisis are cynicism, desperation, resignation, despair, denial, confusion and even hopefulness within the prospect of a revolutionary change.
Black is color of these emotions and lay the background to all the other trends expression. (Look out for banker’s blue, military green and Nazi brown.) White is the color of hope, the fair, shiny and unwritten.
Because of the vastly spread anxiety I think that the low-lying rectangle will still be with us, maybe because it does not feel so “new and hot” but because a low-lying shape or horizon in a dark color is perceived as heavy and stable which is associated with stability, which the yearning of the basic also does. Dark floors or tiling in stone give a feel of having a solid base to stand on.
A shiny black floor is associated (at least by me) to black ice and dark water and will feel very unsafe to stand on instead.
Eternal basic values are expressed with classic (timeless) geometric shapes as the circle and the equilateral square harmonically balanced. The triangle which is a more aggressive shape I really wish not to see in combination with social anxiety.
Dark and earthy colors. The pure basic colors: red, green, blue and yellow
The search for and the yearn for the basic goes hand in hand with the next trend, honesty.
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Honesty:
The yearn for honesty. Concepts like clarity, distinctiveness and courage. It leads to questions of moral and moral clashes, truth, etiquette, trustworthiness and trust.
Tough and straight, big and round shapes. Elegance and contrasts. Light and white.
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Change:
The feel of not having much time to find new solution since the current situation with climate threat and finance crisis will keep change without anyone steering it up. It just “happens” and we do not know what do to, but something we have to do. We are aware of the injustice in the world, that our way of using resources and environment are unsustainable and that our financial system is in crisis.
Added to that, as I already stressed several times, comes the anxiety, socially and individually. The dismantle of the welfare does not ease the anxiety but contribute to a yearn for change.
The feel of hurry means that big steps are taken, big shapes, no small details, we do not have the time.
Water is a strong and classic symbol/archetype and shape for change. The colors of water, its ability to reflect and its transparency, its ability to float and move in asymmetric, rounded and moving shapes, its overwhelming grandeur and smallness, from horizon to water drop, its shapes and colors as frozen as ice and snow.
The color of water and its shapes will be seen together with the expressions for the basic, honest and magical.
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Magic:
A yearn for the magical, the over natural, the supernatural lying right beneath the surface of everyday life. Ready to break through in surprising ways at any time. In this trend I also want to include the hope for rescue. The new president of USA is a good example (Obama).
Glamour and party for change, like the shift of seasons of the year, to meet, give inspiration, to show that we can be something else; the world can be something else, full of surprises. Things and details breaking off and associates to time passed and to come. Things who looks like they come from another world. Illusions of the forces of nature unexpectedly break through.
Unexpected placing of for example water, fascinating materials and shapes. Gould, silver, glass, metal, light, reflexes, intriguing patterns and shapes associated to “that other”, that who creates the magic.
Lightgreen and other clear, fresh colors are associated with hope, the new to come.
The upward striving growth is the shape and move of hope. And what comes with hope is energy and power which is expressed with upwards striving shapes in red.
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The Tale
The yearn to put yourself, your life and what is happening in a context, to create at tale. Nowadays many do research about their ancestors. The interest and the will for spiritual values is also a way to give your life and your actions a meaning which also is heading forward. (It is not only history.)
It seems to me to be an interest for politics among young people. The Tale is also expressed through values and attitudes. The Swedish commercials for the foodchain ICA is one good example. Clothes are sold by showing expression connected to lifestyle, a story about who you are.
The Tale is expressed in personalizing of interior design and clothes. Use of inherited goods, putting together your own unic story in your home and with your clothes. It does not mean that you are individualistic but that your story is a part in a greater context.
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An expanding here and now

Here: …
Now: … To be continued …
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