MPhil Thesis submitted to the University of Cambridge, March 2011.
Today’s global economy is a very complex and hard to read environment. Competition is fierce and being the first to ‘get it right’ when designing new products could be decisive. With so much at stake, many companies have turned to trends research as a way to differentiate their products. This work starts by looking into the current theoretical evidence that is available, aiming at making sense of how the issue has been portrayed in academic and commercial literature.
The research itself was conducted in two steps: a quantitative study and a qualitative one. In the quantitative strand the aim was to understand how trend reports have been used in new product development and what opinion was had held about them by their users. The results indicate that trend reports were frequently being used but not thought of as an essential tool. In the qualitative step the aim was to drill down specifically on the opinions and expectations of product designers for trend research and reports. The results show that there was a discrepancy of expectations between designers and management about what trend reports are, how they should be used, and what they should be used for. And finally, five possible roles of trend reports for product designers were identified: source of discoveries, boundary objects, brand compasses, sparks and recipe books.