The Role and Value of Trend Reports for Product Designers

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MPhil Thesis submitted to the University of Cambridge, March 2011.

ABSTRACT
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.

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The Role and Value of Trend Reports for Product Designers

  1. 1.  The Role and Value ofTrend Reports for Product DesignersThis  dissertation  is  submitted  to  the  University  of  Cambridge  for  the  Degree  of  Master  of  Philosophy  30th  March  2011  Nani BruniniF it zw illia m Co lle geSupe rv iso r: J a me s Mo ult rieU n iv e rsit y o f Ca mbrid geD e pa rt me n t o f En gin e e rin gI n st it ut e fo r Ma n ufa c t urin g      
  2. 2.  Abstract  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.     5  
  3. 3.  Index  Preface ..................................................................................................  01Index ................................................................................................................................  02Abstract ..................................................................................................................  05  Chapter 01 – Introduction1.1  Background  ..................................................................................................................  06  1.2  Research  objectives..................................................................................................................  07  1.3  Research  focus    ..................................................................................................................  08  1.3.1  Product  designers  ............................................................................................................  08  1.3.2  Trends  reports    ................................................................................................................  09  1.4  Structure  of  this  thesis    ..................................................................................................................  10  Chapter 02 – Literature review2.1  Overview    ..................................................................................................................  11  2.2  Available  literature    ..................................................................................................................  12  2.2.1  Futures  studies  ..................................................................................................................  12  2.2.2  Forecasting  and  trends  ..................................................................................................................  12  2.2.3  Coolhunting  ..................................................................................................................  13  2.2.4  Futures  and  trends  research  in  design  ................................................................................................  14  2.3  Literature  gap  and  research  questions  ...................................................................................................  17  Chapter 03 – Research design3.1  (quant+)  QUAL  =  enhanced  experiment........................................................................................................  19  3.1.1  Embedded  design  ..................................................................................................................  21  3.2  Benefits  from  each  methodology  .........................................................................................................  21  3.2.1  Why  we  needed  quantitative  data  .........................................................................................................  21  3.2.2  Why  we  needed  qualitative  data  ........................................................................................................  22     2  
  4. 4. Chapter 04 – Web survey4.1  Survey  design    ..................................................................................................................  23  4.1.1  Writing  the  questionnaire  ..................................................................................................................  24  4.1.2  Selecting  and  recruiting  the  sample  ............................................................................................................  28  4.1.3  Piloting  the  survey  ..................................................................................................................  29  4.1.4  Finding  the  survey  engine  ..................................................................................................................  29  4.2  Data  compilation  ..................................................................................................................  30  4.2.1  Filter  from  378  to  200  responders  ...............................................................................................................  30  4.2.2  Cross-­‐analysis  ..................................................................................................................  31  4.3  Results  ..................................................................................................................  32  4.3.1  Group  02  vs.  Groups  1  and  4:  how  the  use  of  trend  reports  can  be  affected  by  the  characteristics  of  person  and  company.  ..................................................................................................................  32  4.3.2  Group  03  vs.  Groups  1  and  4:  how  the  opinion  on  trend  reports  can  be  affected  by  the  characteristics  of  person  and  company.  ..................................................................................................................  33  4.3.3  Group  05  vs.  Groups  1  and  4:  how  the  investment  in  trend  reports  can  be  affected  by  the  characteristics  of  person  and  company.  ..................................................................................................................  35  4.4  Discussion    ..................................................................................................................  36    Chapter 05 – Qualitative interviews5.1  Overview  ......................................................................................................................................  38  5.2  Some  considerations  on  qualitative  interviews  ............................................................................................  39  5.3  Designing  the  interview    ..................................................................................................................  40  5.3.1  Sampling  ..................................................................................................................  40  5.3.2  Visual  prop  and  exercises  ..................................................................................................................  42  5.3.3  Interview  guide  ..................................................................................................................  45  5.4  Data  compilation  and  analysis..................................................................................................................  46  5.4.1  Transcription  ..................................................................................................................  46  5.4.2  Coding  ..................................................................................................................  46  5.4.2  Analysis  of  exercises  ..................................................................................................................  48  5.5  Interpretation  of  findings..................................................................................................................  50  5.5.1  Trend  reports  as  sources  of  discoveries  .....................................................................................  51  5.5.2  Trend  reports  as  boundary  objects  .......................................................................................................  53  5.5.3  Trend  reports  as  brand  compasses  ................................................................................................  58  5.5.4  Trend  reports  as  sparks  .....................................................................................................  59  5.5.5  Trend  reports  as  recipe  books  .....................................................................................................  61  5.6  Summary..................................................................................................................  62         3  
  5. 5. Chapter 06 – Synthesis6.1  Back  to  the  main  question  ..................................................................................................................  63  6.1.1  Divergent  expectations  ..................................................................................................................  64  6.1.2  New  challenges  for  trend  reports  ................................................................................................  65  Chapter 07 – Conclusion7.1  Contributions    ..................................................................................................................  66  7.1.1  Contributions  to  theory  ..................................................................................................................  68  7.1.2  Contributions  to  practice  ..................................................................................................................  67  7.2    Limitations  +  Future  research  ..................................................................................................................  67    Bibliography ..................................................................................................................  68Appendices  App.  01:  LinkedIn  groups  to  which  invitations  were  sent  ...................................................................  73  App.  02:  Coroflot  groups  to  which  invitations  were  sent  ................................................................  73  App.  03:  Final  demographic  of  web-­‐survey  ...................................................................  74  App.  04:  Questions  from  survey  used  for  analysis  .........................................................................  75  App.  05:  Definitions  of  SME  (European  Commission,  2003)  ......................................................................  76       4  
  6. 6.  CHAPTER  01  Introduction  1.1 BackgroundToday’s  global  economy  is  a  very  complex  and  hard  to  read  environment.  Competition  is  fierce  and  especially  in  delicate  times  as  we  are  living  now,  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.  Whole  departments  and  disciplines  have  been  created  to  help  companies  think  in  an  open-­‐minded  way  and  to  create  new  products  that  could  succeed  in  this  busy  marketplace.     1Trend  reports  come  then  as  one  of  the  most  popular  vehicles  for  trend  research.  Top  management  are  usually  the  main  targets  of  these  expensive  strategic  documents,  which  commonly  provide  quantitative  data  and  rich  scenarios  of  how  the  future  might  look  like  in  a  determined  timeframe.    Most  literature  on  innovation  and  trends  research  is  also  written  from  a  management  point  of  view  (Raymond,  2010;  Courtney,  2001),  and  it  seems  that  economics,  marketing  and  advertising  are  the  most  common  audience  for  that  type  of  publications.  But  where  does  design  interact  with  trend  research?  Design  is  a  discipline  that  is  always  concerned  with  the  future  (Lawson,  2005;  Evans,  2010)  since  designers  are  constantly  being  asked  for  innovation  (Kelley  and   2Littman,  2004).  Designers  are  noticeably  key  to  the  process  of  new  product  development  since  they  are  ultimately  the  ones  that  execute  the  ideas.  Thus  delivering  trend  reports  to  just  marketing  and  company  executives  without  the  buy-­‐in  of  the  design  team  can  be  potentially  a  huge  waste  of  effort  and  money.  Despite  that,  there  seems  there  to  be  a  lack  of  understanding  on  how  designers  take  that  sort  of  information.                                                                                                                                        1  “Trend  reports”  will  be  also  referred  here  by  its  acronym  “TR”.    2  “New  Product  Development”  will  be  also  referred  here  by  its  acronym  “NPD”.       6  
  7. 7. Furthermore,  the  idea  of  following  trends  is  not  really  attractive  to  designers,  since  they  are  often  expected  to  create  the  future  themselves  (Lawson,  2005).  The  use  of  trends  research  by  designers  sounds  natural,  but  do  they  need  someone  else  to  look  at  the  future  for  them?  After  all,  designers  have  always  been  able  to  keep  up  to  date  by  researching  their  fields  and  being  connected  to  the  latest  developments.  Thinking  about  the  designers’  role  in  trends  research  has  not  been  much  of  an  issue  for  designers  so  far.  In  the  case  of  product  design,  which  is  the  focus  of  this  study,  futures  research  is  particularly  relevant  as  issues  with  product  longevity  and  production  costs  can  bring  some  interesting  challenges  to  product  designers  in  developing  products  that  cater  for  a  future  audience.    Investments  in  future  forecasting  and  trends  research  are  growing  very  rapidly  as  a  form  of  managing  risks  and  uncertainty  (Evans,  2010;  Scott,  2004;  Raymond,  2010;  Courtney,  2001;  Gloor,  P.  &  Cooper,  2007;  Gladwell,  2001),  but  the  “pink  elephant  in  the  room”  seems  to  be  that  designers  may  actually  not  be  using  the  content  of  those  reports,  since  they  could  potentially  not  be  relevant  to  them.  Despite  their  growing  prominence,  there  is  very  little  scientific  research  on  how  trend  reports  are  being  created  and  used  (Evans,  2010;  Scott,  2004).  Moreover,  no  publications  were  found  on  what  designers  think  about  those  types  of  reports.    It’s  due  to  these  reasons  that  this  research  aims  at  focusing  on  the  impact  of  trend  reports  in  the  work  of  designers.  Our  main  question  is:  What is the role and value of trend reports for productdesigners?  We  intend  to  obtain  an  answer,  or  at  least  some  first  indications  to  an  answer,  mainly  from  designers  themselves.    1.2 Research objectivesThis  study  is  not  intended  to  be  prescriptive.  Our  goal  is  not  to  give  a  detailed  description  of  ‘what  to  do’  or  how  trend  reports  are  used  and  produced.  We  want  to  know  from  some  specific  users  of  trend  reports,  what  kind  of  relationship  do  they  see  between  product  design  and  trend  reports.    Thus  the  main  objectives  of  this  research  are  to:   • Look  into  the  current  theoretical  evidence  and  understand  how  the  issue  has  been  portrayed  in   academic  and  commercial  literature:  How  do  both  strands  differ  from  each  other?  How  is  design  and   futures  research  portrayed  in  each  domain?   • Explore  specific  issues  relating  to  product  design  and  trend  reports:  What  do  designers  think  about   trend  reports?  Do  they  think  they  need  them?  Can  they  be  useful  to  their  daily  practice?  In  what     7  
  8. 8. ways?  What  are  their  expectations  towards  trend  reports?  What  have  been  their  experiences?  What   could  be  improved?    As  a  result  of  fulfilling  the  above  objectives,  this  paper  also  aims  to:     • Encourage  further  research  on  trend  analysis  in  the  design  field.   • Stimulate  conversations  within  design  practice  about  what  could  be  done  to  improve  forecasting   processes  for  product  design.    1.3 Research focusSince  this  study  focuses  on  the  experiences  of  ‘product  designers’  with  ‘trend  reports’,  it  is  important  to  first  establish  how  those  terms  were  interpreted  throughout  this  research.  1.3.1 Product designersThis  research  focuses  on  the  opinion  of  product  designers  on  trend  reports  -­‐  an  area  positioned  by  Moggridge  (2007)  in  the  quadrant  of  Human  &  Subjective/Physical  design  (Figure  01).    Fig.  01:  Areas  of  design  and  the  focus  of  this  research  –  adapted  from  Moggridge’s  (2007)  axis  of  disciplines  in  product  development.  The  area  noted  here  as  “product  design”,  is  called  “industrial  design”  in  the  original  version.     8  
  9. 9. The  area  of  Product  design  itself  is  vast  and  encompasses  a  whole  sub-­‐set  of  areas  –  such  as  lighting,  furniture,  digital  appliances,  electronic  devices,  apparel  and  fashion.  Thus  to  keep  our  scope  more  manageable,  this  study  approaches  the  term  ‘product  design’  in  a  rather  broad  sense,  as  the  creation  of  tangible  objects  which  fulfil  particular  human  needs  and  desires  (Moggridge,  2007),  originated  from  a  design  process  -­‐  sketches,  prototypes  and  models  (Slack,  2006)  -­‐  and  created  through  industrial  processes  (Löbach,  2001).      It  is  also  important  to  mention,  that  although  we  refer  to  the  opinion  of  non-­‐designers  as  a  comparative  counter-­‐point  (see  Chapter  04),  the  idea  is  to  look  at  trend  reports  from  the  product  designers’  contexts  –  their  experiences  and  visualizations  of  an  ideal  document  for  them.  1.3.2 Trend reportsIn  a  broader  sense,  a  report  is  an  official  document  that  summarises  the  assessment  and  analysis  of  a  certain  topic  (Bowden,  2011;  Lichtenberger  et  all,  2004).  Each  type  of  report  serves  a  very  specific  purpose  and  is  aimed  at  a  very  particular  audience.  Bowden  (2011)  and  Lichtenberger  (2004),  describe  some  of  the  main  purposes  of  reports  in  general:  describe  and  explain  a  certain  problem;  evaluate  products,  situations  and  practices;  inform  decision  making,  provide  recommendations  and  instruct  and  even  provoke  debate  and/or  persuade  someone  or  a  group  of  people.      In  design  practice,  that  list  could  also  go  on  and  on.  For  reasons  of  clarity,  this  study  revisits  the  way  some  distinguishing  authors  (O’Grady  &  O’Grady,  2009;  Laurel  &  Lunenfeld,  2003;  Tidwell,  2011)  describe  the  most   3common  types  of  research  in  design  and  it  proposes  the  following  descriptions  as  a  first  attempt  to  distinguish  the  types  of  reports  in  design  practice:     TYPES  OF  REPORTS   FOCUS   COMMON  CONTENT  User  research   Human  behaviour  and   Heuristics,  ethnography,  ergonomics  and  usability  tests,  colour  reports   product  experiences.   and  typography  psychology,  patterns  of  (present)  behaviour.  Market  research   Consumption,  brands  and   Demographics,  ethnography,  segmentations,  customer  reports   market  dynamics.   satisfaction,  sales  and  pricing  data,  projections,  competitor   analyses,  brand  equity  and  strategy  analyses.  Trends  research   Behavioural  shifts  and   Timelines,  ethnography,  trends  analyses,  (indication  of  future)  reports   evolution  in  society  as  a   behaviour  patterns.   whole.    Table  01:  Differentiating  the  most  common  types  of  reports  in  design  practice  (suggested  by  the  author).                                                                                                                                    3  The  author  of  this  study  recognises  the  limitations  of  table  01  and  indeed  encourages  further  scientific  research  on  the  differences  and  commonalities  of  research  reports  in  design  practice.       9  
  10. 10. These  three  types  of  reports  are  very  commonly  used  in  a  more  or  less  interchangeable  way.  As  a  way  to  explain  why  that  happens,  this  study  also  presents  the  following  matrix,  which  illustrates  how  closely  intertwined  the  three  reports  are:    Fig.  02:  Exploring  differences  and  similarities  between  user  research,  market  research  and  trends  research  reports  (suggested  by  the  author).  In  summary,  this  study  describes  trends  research  reports,  or  trend  reports,  as  “strategic  documents  that  track  down  the  behaviour  and  evolution  of  notable  shifts  in  society,  culture,  aesthetics,  technology,  environment,  consumers,  etc.  Contrary  to  user  research  or  competitive  analysis,  trend  reports  go  beyond  what  is   4happening  now  and  always  present  patterns  suggesting  directions  to  future  projections” .    1.4 Structure of this thesisThis  work  is  organised  in  eight  chapters.  Chapter  02  (literature  review)  and  03  (methodology)  lay  the  groundwork  for  the  research,  while  Chapters  04  and  05  have  the  main  body  of  the  research  itself.  We  start  with  a  quantitative  approach  (Chapter  04)  to  help  inform  our  work  during  the  qualitative  stage  (Chapter  05).  Chapters  06  and  07  have  our  synthesis  of  the  results  and  our  conclusions  respectively,  while  Chapter  08  has  a  list  of  all  the  references  utilised.                                                                                                                                      4  Despite  being  proposed  by  the  author  of  this  research,  the  definition  of  trend  reports  is  presented  here  in  quotation  marks,  as  that  was  the  way  they  were  presented  to  responders  in  the  quantitative  web-­‐survey  (see  chapters  03  and  04).     10  
  11. 11.  CHAPTER  02  Literature review  2.1 OverviewExploring  current  literature  was  the  first  step  taken  to  collect  data  on  the  issues  we  wanted  to  investigate.  As  the  exact  research  questions  were  not  clearly  established  at  first,  the  review  of  the  literature  went  through  a   1rather  broad  spectrum  of  issues .  The  objective  was  not  only  to  get  better  acquainted  with  the  subject,  but  also  to  also  find  possible  avenues  to  focus  on  that  could  be  aligned  with  personal  interests.  The  starting  point  was  to  look  at  what  had  already  been  published  in  the  academic  world  about  trends  research  and  design.  Among  these  were:  various  journals  on  design,  product  development  and  futures  studies  that  were  accessed  via  academic  databases  such  as  Science  Direct,  Google  Scholar  and  CUED  from  Cambridge.  Some  of  that  material  was  also  obtained  via  personal  requests  for  copies  to  academics  when  the  literature  was  not  readily  available.  In  order  to  achieve  more  breadth  there  was  also  an  attempt  to  search  for  this  topic  in  other  languages.    However,  putting  potential  language  barriers  aside,  very  little  was  found  about  the  penetration  of  trends  research  in  the  design  world.  In  the  academic  field,  it  seems  there  is  a  recently  growing  interest  in  trends  research  and  design.  Interestingly  they  all  came  from  the  United  Kingdom  –  an  MPhil  dissertation  (Scott,  2004)  and  a  doctoral  thesis  (Muir  Wood,  2010)  from  the  University  of  Cambridge  and  a  PhD  thesis  from  Lancaster  University  (Evans,  2010).  Unfortunately,  besides  a  few  sporadic  papers,  little  other  scientific  effort  was  found.  In  the  commercial  world  however,  publications  on  trends  research  and  design  related  issues  are  getting  more  and  more  popular.  The  corporate  world  is  used  to  following  trends,  mostly  through  business  figures  and  market  research,  but  it  seems  there  is  also  a  growing  interest  in  the  very  alluring  world  of  “coolhunting”  and  in  the  possibilities  of  becoming  “cool”  and  “trendy”.                                                                                                                              1  In  order  to  allow  for  a  greater  focus  on  the  results  of  the  study,  whilst  maintaining  scientific  robustness,  the  researcher  made  the  deliberate  decision  of  presenting  only  some  key  authors  and  topics  in  the  literature  review.  This  was  decision  was  a  compromise,  taken  in  consideration  the  word  count  allowed  for  MPhil  theses.     11  
  12. 12. This  section  presents  how  some  of  the  most  relevant  issues  to  this  study  are  portrayed  in  current  available  literature.  It  starts  with  giving  an  overview  of  literature  on  ‘forecasting’,  inside  and  out  of  the  design  field.  Then  it  narrows  to  summarise  what  experts  say  about  ‘trends’,  which  is  seen  both  from  a  perspective  of  a  phenomenon  and  as  business  opportunities.  The  chapter  is  then  finalised  with  how  the  construction  of  this  study’s  research  questions  as  an  attempt  to  fill  up  a  gap  in  current  literature.  2.2 Available literature2.2.1 Futures studiesFutures  Studies  as  a  formal  discipline  is  now  well  over  50  years  old  (Sardar,  2009).  In  fact,  some  scholars  trace  it  back  much  further  as  trying  to  guess  what  the  future  holds  is  quite  a  fundamental  part  of  being  human.  According  to  Wendell  Bell,  professor  emeritus  of  sociology  at  Yale  University,  currently  a  “consultant  futurist”,  futures  studies’  main  purposes  are  "to  discover  or  invent,  examine  and  evaluate,  and  propose  possible,  probable,  and  preferable  futures”  (Bell,  1997).    Godet  and  Roubelat  (1996)  suggest  that  the  role  of  futures  studies  has  to  be  rethought,  as  in  the  1980s  and  1990s  a  number  of  errors  in  forecasting  were  made  based  upon  two  mistakes:  “overestimation  of  the  pace  of  change  (of  technologies)”  and  the  “underestimation  of  inertial  factors  (structures,  behaviours)”  (Godet  &  Roubelat,  1996).    In  a  similar  vein,  Sardar  (2009)  makes  the  point  that  future  studies  should  not  to  be  about  getting  it  right  since  this  is  not  possible;  instead  it  should  be  about  “exploring  and  developing  creative,  novel  and  inclusive  solutions”  (Sardar,  2009).  2.2.2 Forecasting and trendsThe  great  majority  of  texts  on  forecasting  and  trends  come  from  fashion  and  economics  (Muir  Wood,  2010)  –  two  worlds  at  first  seen  as  completely  different  from  each  other.  With  regards  to  how  they  apply  forecasting  and  the  finding  of  patterns,  usually  they  also  behave  very  differently:  the  first  relying  more  on  instinct  and  visual  observations,  such  as  the  change  of  preferences  in  colours  and  materials  (Kim  et  al,  2011;  Diane  &  Cassidy,  2005),  whilst  the  other  searches  for  certainty  in  numerical  projections  in  different  demographics  and  sales  figures  (Friedman,  2010;  Gordon,  2008;  Watson,  2009).  Some  authors  even  try  to  combine  both  worlds.  Chan,  C,  for  example  tries  to  measure  style  by  creating  complex  mathematical  formulae  (Chan  2000).       12  
  13. 13. In  the  business  sector,  there  is  a  huge  volume  of  books  on  forecasting.  From  ‘how  to  do  it’  (Raymond,  2004  and  2010;  Highman,  2009;  Brannon,  2005;  Kim,  Fiore  &  Kim,  2011;  Taleb,  2008;  Gordon,  2008)  to  ‘what  trends  are  relevant  for  a  certain  year’  (Friedman,  2011;  Dixon,  2007;  Watson,  2009).  Although  authors  are  very  careful  in  saying  you  cannot  really  predict  the  future,  the  atmosphere  is  more  about  ‘getting  it  right’  (Raymond,  2010)  and  having  “decision  making  power”(Lindgren  and  Bandhold,  2003).    Martin  Raymond,  co-­‐founder  of  one  of  the  most  influential  trends  agencies  in  the  design  world,  The  Future   2Laboratory ,  says  in  his  latest  book  for  example:  “Yes  accurate!  If  a  company  hires  you,  invests  in  you  and  asks  you  to  identify  the  next  social,  cultural,  ethical  or  environmental  trend  that  is  set  to  impact  on  consumer  behaviour,  they’ll  expect  you  to  get  it  right.”  (Raymond,  2010)    A  quick  look  to  Amazon.com,  the  largest  online  book  retailer  to  date,  can  illustrate  how  commonplace  the  words  ‘forecasting’,  ‘prediction’  and  ‘certainty’  have  become  in  titles  of  economics,  business  strategy  or  even  fashion  books.  According  to  Sardar  (2009),  ‘forecasting’  is  a  term  that  should  be  carefully  used,  as  they  ‘seduce’  readers  with  the  illusory  idea  of  being  able  to  see  what  is  coming  next  and  control  the  future  (Sardar,  2009).      2.2.3 CoolhuntingCoolhunting  is  a  recent  popular  term  for  identifying  trends  and  is  related  to  spotting  new  and  unusual  ‘triggers’  in  society  –  from  products  to  behaviours.  Being  “cool”  is  generally  understood  as  being  different  and  unique  and  companies  are  very  interested  because  this  is  something  they  can  capitalise  on.  “Cool”  is  the  ultimate  point  of  difference  and  appeals  to  very  broad  audiences  –  “young  people  gravitate  towards  it  and  older  people  covet  it  because  it  makes  them  feel  younger”  (Kerner  &  Pressman,  2007).    The  term  ‘coolhunting’  was  coined  by  the  noted  writer  Malcom  Gladwell,  who  in  1997  wrote  an  article  in  The  New  Yorker  (Gladwell,  1997)  about  Deedee  Gordon,  an  American  coolhunter  with  an  impressive  list  of  clients  -­‐  from  manufacturers  of  apparel,  footwear,  health  and  beauty,  cosmetics  and  fragrances;  movie  studios;  sports  associations;  electronics  companies  and  advertising  agencies  (Gordon,  2001).  Some  suggest  that  the  rise  of  coolhunting  was  heavily  influenced  by  the  record  amounts  of  disposable  income  in  the  past  10  or  so  years  (Kerner  &  Pressman,  2007).  Combine  that  with  a  growing  commoditisation,  fear  of  competition  and  an  increasing  difficulty  to  differentiate  products,  and  suddenly  the  hunt  for  the  next  trendy  thing  can  raise  immense  interest.                                                                                                                            2  www.thefuturelaboratory.com     13  
  14. 14. Nowadays  coolhunting  is  such  a  ‘hot  topic’  that  there  is  not  only  a  growing  number  in  print  publications  on  the  subject,  but  also  a  huge  selection  of  influential  blogs  and  websites  from  experts  and  amateurs  alike.  In  Italy,  for  example,  there  is  even  a  “school”  dedicated  to  coolhunting,  preparing  professionals  from  all  over  the  world   3with  theories  and  techniques .  On  the  other  hand,  even  though  it’s  such  a  young  topic,  there  are  already  some  critics  on  the  subject.  Kerner  &  Pressman  for  example  are  really  emphatic  on  their  opinions;  they  describe  the  outcomes  of  focus  groups  and  trend  reports  as  “short  sighted,  artificial  and  gimmicky”.  They  strongly  believe  that  companies  shouldn’t  be  chasing  cool,  but  rather  be  inspired  by  it.  “Do  your  research  but  spit  it  out  in  your  own  way”,  they  argue  (Kerner  &  Pressman,  2007).  Tom  Ford,  a  celebrated  fashion  designer,  goes  as  far  as  to  say  “if  you  have  to  pay  someone  to  tell  you  what  the  next  trend  is,  then  you  are  in  the  wrong  business”  (Kerner  &  Pressman,  2007).  2.2.4 Futures and trends research in designFutures  research  is  a  very  mature  discipline  and  one  can  find  a  vast  array  of  material  on  philosophical  considerations  on  the  importance  and  consequences  of  future  studies  to  society  as  well  as  to  corporate  environments  and  product  development.  Conversely,  only  very  few  of  these  consider  the  influence  of  forecasting  in  design  practice  (Evans,  2010;  Muir  Wood,  2010;  Scott,  2005).  The  design  industry,  despite  recognizing  trends  research  as  an  important  topic,  has  largely  failed  to  formally  adopt  it  as  part  of  their  processes  (Scott  2005).  Also  there  seems  to  be  a  fair  amount  of  confusion  around  the  nomenclature,  as  it  often  uses  the  term  “trends  research”  as  an  umbrella  term  for  many  types  of  research  (Muir  Wood  2010).  As  noted  earlier,  that  gap  seems  to  be  filled  from  the  academic  side.  The  first  material  encountered  on  the  subject  was  an  MPhil  thesis  from  the  University  of  Cambridge,  which  investigated  the  possibility  of  product  trends  being  predicted  and  how  the  trends  research  process  was  being  applied  in  design  companies  in  the  UK  (Scott,  2005).  The  author,  Natalie  Scott,  uses  practical  and  real  life  examples  by  conducting  eighteen  “highly-­‐structured”  interviews  with  manufacturers  and  design  agencies  in  the  UK.  She  concludes  the  study  with  a  very  interesting  tool  designed  by  the  author  (Fig.  03),  which  “combines  all  the  proposed  models  used  to  represent  the  patterns  identified  from  the  interviews”.                                                                                                                            3  From  their  website:  “TrendsGymnasium  is  an  online  Coolhunting  training  course  designed  to  help  people  effectively  learn  how  to  spot  and  analyze  short,  medium  and  long  term  trends,  by  interpreting  their  impact  on  society  using  the  technique  of  coolhunting  to  originate  fresh  ideas”.  http://www.trendsgymnasium.com/     14  
  15. 15. Fig.  03:  “Design  map  for  capturing  trends”  designed  by  Natalie  Scott  (2005).  Martyn  Evans,  a  senior  lecturer  from  the  University  of  Lancaster,  also  presents  the  issue  from  a  practical  perspective,  considering  the  role  of  futures  thinking  in  design  (Evans,  2010).  He  refers  to  the  long  established  field  of  future  studies  to  serve  as  theoretical  base  for  his  investigation.  One  of  the  major  outcomes  of  the  research  is  the  construction  of  a  theoretical  framework  drawn  upon  the  results  of  a  series  of  qualitative  interviews  with  top  management,  designers  and  researchers,  mostly  from  coming  from  design  agencies.  Evans’  study  concludes  on  a  note  of  the  “growing  need  for  organisations  to  engage  designers  to  consider  the  future  in  the  design  process”  since  that  is  a  requirement  that  is  becoming  more  and  more  frequent  in  a  very  uncertain  world  (Evans,  2010).  He  also  finds  out  from  the  literature  and  the  interviews  with  design  practitioners  that   4although  futures  thinking  techniques  are  increasingly  being  employed  in  design  practice,  this  is  not  a  field  designers  are  very  knowledgeable  about  (Evans,  2010).                                                                                                                              4  Common  techniques  in  design  practice  include  trend  monitoring,  Delphi  methods,  scenarios  building,  etc.     15  
  16. 16.  Fig.  04:  “Design  Futures”  framework  designed  by  Martyn  Evans  (2010).  Picture  merely  illustrative.  Please  refer  to  original  work  for  more  details.    A  month  after  Evan’s  publication,  a  further  important  thesis  is  submitted  by  Andrew  Muir  Wood  (2010),  this  time  from  the  University  of  Cambridge.  To  a  certain  extent,  Muir  Wood  also  considers  the  influence  of  futures  thinking  in  the  design  environment,  except  he  approaches  the  topic  from  the  perspective  of  the  product,  rather  than  that  of  the  designer,  consumer  or  firm.  His  focus  is  on  understanding  and  explaining  the  phenomenon  of  “change”  in  the  design  of  consumer  products  (Muir  Wood,  2010)  and  he  does  that  by  analysing  the  relationships  between  the  aesthetic  and  technical  qualities  of  products.  Andrew  applies  a  series  of  qualitative  interviews  with  design  experts  and  conducts  a  case  study  on  the  evolution  of  mobile  phones,  providing  some  novel  approaches  and  a  very  visual,  thus  also  very  “designerly”,  way  of  depicting  the  evolution  of  a  trend.  Similarly  to  Evans  and  Scott,  Muir  Wood  summarises  his  investigation  in  a  theoretical  framework,  which  depicts  how  form  is  developed  in  the  context  of  design  (Fig.  05).         16  
  17. 17.   Fig.  05:  “Theoretical  framework  of  change  in  the  design  of  products”,  designed  by  Andrew  Muir  Wood  (2010).  Picture   merely  illustrative.  Please  refer  to  original  work  for  more  details.    2.3 Literature gap and research questionsGoing  through  the  available  literature  has  shown  there  is  already  a  reasonable  amount  of  material  (mostly  from  commercial  literature)  on  the  creation  and  use  of  trends  research  in  non-­‐design  environments.  Some  literature  on  how  trends  have  been  introduced  in  the  design  process  was  also  found  (mostly  from  academic  literature).    This  study  did  not  attempt  to  be  prescriptive  or  to  go  too  deep  into  the  making  of  reports.  It  should  be  noted,  however  that  this  is  also  an  area  that  deserves  more  attention.  The  only  reference  that  was  found  that  talks  directly  about  the  making  of  trend  reports,  Martin  Raymond’s  book  “The  Trend  Forecaster’s  Handbook”  (Raymond,  2010),  mainly  acts  a  ‘how-­‐to  guide’  and  only  leaves  three  pages  (out  of  216)  to  the  subject.  As  seen  in  chapter  2,  though  not  exhaustive,  there  is  already  some  evidence  on  how  design  practitioners  set  about  creating  and  using  trends  reports.  However  little  attention  has  been  put  onto  the  actual  value  of  trends  research.  Thus,  the  primary  research  question  that  this  study  seeks  to  address  is:  What is the role and valueof trend reports to product designers?       17  
  18. 18. As  that  seemed  a  rather  large  question  to  answer,  we  have  decided  to  break  that  question  into  two  semi-­‐independent  subsets  with  two  research  questions  each:    Fig.  06:  The  two  sub-­‐sets  of  research  questions.    As  figure  06  illustrates,  these  two  sets  were  approached  by  two  different  methodologies.  The  reasons  why  we  have  taken  a  multi-­‐method  approach  is  going  to  be  explained  in  detail  in  the  methodology  section  (chapter  03),  but  the  abovementioned  figure  can  give  a  brief  overview  on  how  the  investigation  of  our  primary  research  question  was  tackled:  a  quantitative  path  for  the  first  one  and  a  qualitative  for  the  second.  These  came  sequentially  and  the  qualitative  phase  had  more  weight  in  the  data  analysis.    The  next  chapter  will  open  up  the  discussion  about  how  that  mixed-­‐methodology  was  approached.       18  
  19. 19.    CHAPTER  03  Research design  Having  established  the  research  questions  in  the  previous  chapter,  we  will  now  introduce  our  process  in  selecting  the  most  appropriate  methodologies  to  guide  our  investigation.  This  chapter  contains  an  introductory  discussion  on  what  methodologies  have  been  used;  first  it  describes  the  multi-­‐method  approach  that  was  taken  and  then  it  goes  over  the  rationale  behind  those  choices.  For  clarity  reasons,  a  more  detailed  description  of  how  those  methodologies  have  been  assessed  will  only  be  provided  in  the  upcoming  chapters  4  and  5  within  the  context  of  their  use.  3.1 (quant+) QUAL = enhanced experiment1As  we  have  seen  in  the  previous  chapter,  this  research  poses  two  independent  sub-­‐sets  of  research  questions.  The  figure  below  illustrates  how  the  design  of  this  research  builds  up  from  the  results  of  the  literature  review  and  starts  with  the  collection  and  analysis  of  quantitative  data.  The  first  set  of  research  questions  (RQ01  and  RQ02)  is  assessed  via  a  web-­‐survey  and  followed  by  a  subsequent  collection  and  analysis  of  qualitative  data  through  interviews,  which  then  refer  to  the  second  sub-­‐set  of  research  questions  (RQ03  and  RQ04).      Fig.  07:  Research  stages.  1  Notation  based  on  the  system  suggested  by  Creswell  &  Plano  Clark  (2001).     19  
  20. 20. As  it  will  be  explained  in  section  3.2,  the  results  from  the  quantitative  phase  were  mainly  used  in  this  study  as  a  way  to  better  inform  the  design  of  the  next  qualitative  phase.  They  were  analysed  both  as  a  “recheck”  (not  as  statistical  validation)  of  the  researcher’s  previous  assumptions  and  as  indicators  for  further  inquiries.  During  the  final  analysis  a  higher  priority  was  given  to  the  results  of  the  qualitative  interviews.  Some  of  the  findings  from  the  quantitative  phase  were  indeed  further  investigated  in  the  interviews,  but  the  rationale  for  this  approach  was  that  both  strands  of  methodology  would  remain  independent.  The  results  from  the  first  phase  provided  a  more  general  understanding  of  the  research  problem,  whilst  the  second  phase  explored  more  focused,  less  generic  problems.  The  outcomes  of  both  strands  were  then  collated  once  the  qualitative  analysis  was  done.    The  following  table  presents  a  detailed  comparison  between  both  lines  of  study:     QUANTITATIVE   QUALITATIVE  RESEARCH  QUESTIONS   RQ01:  How  have  trend  reports  been  used  in   RQ03:  What  do  people  who  work  with   NPD?   product  design  think  about  trends  research   and  trend  reports?     RQ02:  What  do  users  of  trend  reports  think   about  trend  reports?     RQ04:  How  do  people  who  work  with   product  design  see  the  role  of  trends     research  and  trend  reports  in  their  field?    LEVEL  OF  EXPLORATION   Shallow,  illustrative.   Deep,  exploratory.  TYPES  OF  QUESTIONS   Simple,  closed.   Complex,  open.   Who,  what,  when,  how  much   Why,  what,  how  come.  REASONING,  OBJECTIVES   Indication,  insights  and  observations.   In-­‐depth  investigation,  insights  and   observations.   Recheck  on  assumptions  based  on  the   literature  reviewed  and  on  the  researcher’s   previous  professional  experience.  ONTOLOGIES   Real  experiences.   Real  experiences  and  ideal  conceptions.   Use  and  opinion  from  professionals.   Use  and  opinion  from  professionals  working   with  product  design.  UNITS  OF  ANALYSIS   Personal/individual  +  company   Personal/individual  +  company   Trend  reports  (concrete)   Trend  research  (abstract)  +  trend  reports   (concrete)  SAMPLE   Breadth  (200  participants).   Depth  (11  participants).   Different  types  of  professionals.   Designers  working  with  product  design.   Users  or  user/creators  of  trend  reports.   Users  or  user/creators  of  trend  reports.   All  levels  of  seniority.   Mid-­‐weight,  senior,  managers  and  head-­‐of-­‐ department.   B2C  products,  durables  and  non-­‐durables.   B2C  products,  durables.   All  countries.   London  (UK)  and  São  Paulo  (Brazil).  Table  02:  Comparison  between  used  research  methodologies.     20  
  21. 21. 3.1.1 Embedded designThe  mixed  method  approach  we  have  used  for  this  study  was  what  Creswell  &  Plan  Clark  (2011)  would  call  as  “embedded  designs”.  According  to  the  authors,  these  types  of  methodologies  occur  when  “the  researcher  combines  the  collection  and  analysis  of  both  quantitative  and  qualitative  data  within  a  traditional  quantitative  research  design  or  qualitative  research  design”  (Creswell  &  Plan  Clark,  2011).  They  are  mostly  suitable  for  cases  when  the  researcher  has  questions  that  require  different  types  of  data.  In  our  case,  we  needed  a  more  generic  strand  in  order  to  contemplate  the  big  picture  as  well  as  more  specific  view  of  the  use  of  trend  reports.  The  authors  also  point  out  that  in  some  embedded  designs,  one  data  set  could  provide  a  supportive  or  secondary  role  in  the  study,  which  was  indeed  the  case  with  this  research.  They  also  explain  that  this  type  of  design  is  appropriate  when  “the  researcher  has  little  prior  experience  with  the  supplemental  method”  and  when  “the  researcher  does  not  have  adequate  resources  to  place  equal  priority  on  both  types  of  data”  (Creswell  &  Plan  Clark,  2011).    A  particular  aspect  to  embedded  designs  is  that,  because  the  two  methods  are  used  to  answer  different  research  questions,  integrating  the  results  later  can  be  very  challenging.  Conversely,  an  advantage  to  the  design  is  that  the  two  sets  of  results  can  be  kept  separate,  so  the  “pressure”  of  converging  their  results  is  very  low  (Bryman,  2004).      3.2 Benefits from each methodologyThere  are  several  reasons  why  is  good  to  choose  quantitative  and  qualitative  approaches.  Below  we  list  the  ones  that  were  most  relevant  to  our  selection.  3.2.1 Why we needed quantitative dataUnbiased informationHow  much  and  what  questions  are  more  easily  identified  by  fixed  or  quantitative  approaches  (Robson,  2003).  However  the  decision  to  include  a  quantitative  method  to  this  thesis  actually  came  only  a  bit  later  in  the  process.    Our  initial  planning  was  to  answer  the  research  questions  only  through  qualitative  interviews,  but  in  the  first  attempt  at  writing  the  qualitative  questionnaire  there  was  some  concern  around  the  possibility  of  a  biased  approach  due  to  the  researcher’s  previous  professional  experience.  This  fact  was  very  critical  since  the  sampling  for  the  qualitative  phase  would  be  done  via  the  researcher’s  personal  network.     21  
  22. 22. Thus  in  order  to  decrease  that  risk  of  partiality,  a  quantitative  web-­‐survey  was  conducted.  The  idea  is  that  by  giving  more  breadth  to  the  research  and  reassessing  our  preconceptions,  we  could  potentially  prevent  the  following  of  unfruitful  leads.    Far-reaching and cost-effectiveAn  online  survey  is  a  cost-­‐effective  way  to  include  participants  from  all  over  the  world.  That  could  potentially  grant  us  insights  to  major  influential  factors  such  as  cultural  and  economical  instances.  Moreover,  it  makes  it  easier  to  add  non-­‐designers  in  the  analysis,  which  could  give  some  indication  on  how  much  the  problems  reported  in  the  reviewed  literature  relate  exclusively  to  the  design  field.  3.2.2 Why we needed qualitative dataIn-depth knowledgeHow  and  Why  questions  are  more  difficult  to  pin  down  and  often  indicate  the  need  for  a  qualitative  approach  (Robson,  2003).  We  were  also  looking  for  more  personal  statements,  going  beyond  the  participants’  real  experiences.  Real,  spontaneous  and  almost  unconscious  commentary  was  expected  to  help  paint  a  richer  idea  of  who  has  been  using  trend  reports  specifically  in  design  environments.    The real dealThe  great  majority  of  trend  reports  contain  confidential  information.  The  way  we  would  be  most  likely  able  to  refer  to  that  sensitive  material  would  be  via  personal  contact,  thus  making  a  qualitative  method  necessary.  By  referring  to  real  examples  of  trend  reports  we  would  have  a  better  idea  of  what  kind  of  trends  reports  and  what  kind  of  trends  information  product  designers  are  utilising.  Furthermore,  that  documentary  analysis  could  also  give  us  stronger  hints  on  what  product  designers  actually  understand  by  the  term  “trend  reports”.    Previous expertiseThe  researcher  has  been  conducting  qualitative  research  as  well  as  qualitative  interviews  in  design  environments  for  over  7  years.  Although  there  was  a  substantial  research  on  the  scientific  approach  to  qualitative  interviews  (Creswell  &  Plan  Clark,  2011;  Robson,  2003;  Mason,  2002;  Bell,  2005;  Gill  &  Johnson,  2010;  Collins,  2010),  the  previous  experience  of  the  researcher  and  thus  her  familiarity  with  the  tools  was  also  an  important  decision  factor  in  the  choice  for  this  methodology.         22  
  23. 23.    CHAPTER  04  Web survey  In  the  previous  chapter  we  have  seen  the  rationale  behind  the  overall  design  of  this  study.  This  chapter  and  the  following  will  now  provide  a  more  detailed  discussion  on  both  methodologies  that  were  used  –  quantitative  and  qualitative.    We  now  focus  on  the  creation  and  development  of  the  quantitative  phase  of  this  research.  First  some  considerations  will  be  made  with  regards  to  using  that  kind  of  methodology.  We  will  discuss  the  key  strategies  employed  to  overcome  the  usual  challenges  of  an  online  quantitative  survey.  We  then  consider  the  survey  design  –  how  the  questionnaire  was  made,  how  it  relates  to  the  research  questions  and  what  type  of  sampling  strategy  was  selected  to  achieve  our  goal.  Once  that  is  established,  we  demonstrate  our  process  of  data  analysis  by  showing  how  the  results  from  the  survey  matched  our  previous  hypotheses.    The  chapter  concludes  by  discussing  the  results  and  their  relation  to  the  research  questions  as  well  as  by  making  some  observations  on  the  limitations  and  caveats  of  this  quantitative  phase.  4.1 Survey designPutting  the  survey  together  was  a  rather  complex  undertaking.  Four  main  tasks  had  to  be  managed  in  a  more  or  less  simultaneous  manner:   1. Writing  the  questionnaire  and  ensuring  that  the  captured  data  was  as  reliable  as  possible.   2. Choosing  and  recruiting  a  relevant  sample.   3. Piloting  the  survey.   4. Choosing  a  survey  engine  and  making  sure  technicalities  were  not  in  the  way  of  survey  completion.  We  now  look  at  those  tasks  with  some  more  detail.     23  
  24. 24. 4.1.1 Writing the questionnaire Quantitative  questionnaires  traditionally  require  a  strong  pre-­‐specification  as  well  as  a  substantial  amount  of   conceptual  understanding  about  a  phenomenon  before  starting  the  actual  data  collection  (Robson,  2003;  Gill   &  Johnson,  1991;  Collins,  2010;  Bell,  2005).  For  this  thesis,  some  elements  were  crucial  in  selecting  which   1 variables  could  lead  to  fruitful  results:  the  researcher’s  professional  experience ,  the  reviewed  literature  and   the  feedback  from  pilot  phase.   From hypotheses to questions As  Robson  states,  “the  researcher’s  central  task  is  to  link  research  questions  and  survey  questions”  (Robson,   2003).  So  a  lot  of  effort  was  put  to  find  the  most  relevant  variables  to  answer  research  questions  01  and  02:   RQ01: How have trend reports been used in NPD? RQ02: What do users of trend reports think about trend reports? Robson  suggests  the  use  of  frameworks  to  providing  descriptions  to  explanations,  but  also  to  prevent  survey   questionnaires  to  be  reduced  to  “a  fishing  trip  where  questions  are  added  simply  because  it  seemed  a  good   idea  at  the  idea”  (Robson,  2003).    Taking  this  advice  into  account  the  following  structure  was  created,  which   would  support  data  collection  and  analyses  throughout  the  whole  research:   Questions  from  the  groups  in  the  upper  row  would   refer  to  instances  from  individuals:  their  personal   characteristics  (group  01),  use  of  trend  reports   (group  02)  and  opinion  on  trend  reports  (group  03).   Questions  from  the  groups  in  the  lower  row  would   refer  to  what  individuals  report  about  the  companies   they  currently  work  for:  their  companies’   characteristics  (group  04)  and  how  much  they  invest   in  trend  reports  (group  05).   All  groups  would  later  be  correlated  in  a  series  of     cross-­‐analyses  between  selected  variables  in  order  to   find  interesting  relationships  between  variables.            Fig.  08:  Relevant  questions  from  survey.                                                                                                                               1  The  researcher  has  been  working  for  over  seven  years  with  design  and  trends  research  at  market  leader  companies  in-­‐house  and  design   consultancies.     24  

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