11 Trends for 2011— Interpreting Trends for Fun and Profit

2 02 2011

Unless it’s your full-time job, it is nearly impossible to figure, find and follow consumer product trends.  We see clear trends displayed in stores.  But by then it is almost certainly too late to present similar ideas to a licensing agent or manufacturers. So professionals, including professional artists, often take a step back and attend trade shows in an attempt to see the latest trends and fresh ideas. At this stage in the process, most products haven’t yet hit the stores. However, many of the products have already been produced and are ready for retailers to purchase and in some cases are even a continuation of last years’ designs. The point is that a trade show is actually only a very small step in bringing you closer to trend sources. While I find them very valuable, I don’t consider a trade show a trend show!

So with most burgeoning artists having limited time and money, how do they stay ahead of the trend curves? I’ve been asked this over and over and two things are very clear:

1) To be on the cutting edge of trends you must learn how to interpret early patterns, signs, stages and information into artwork which satisfies your vital need  to create and style of creation, while also satisfying the current trends of the marketplace and the needs of manufacturers. THIS IS HOW MOST ARTISTS ACTUALLY MAKE MONEY!

Let me explain a little further. No one is going to hand you the art licensing trend list on a melamine or ceramic platter. It just doesn’t work that way; it’s not that simple.  Trends are created by collections (large massive groups) of people moving in a certain direction.  Trends are always evolving, as well as circular. To be ahead of a trend, an artist has to be willing to take global, cultural, economic or demographic information and concepts, and then give them life through art and design for a product or series of products. You, as the artist, have to think about what these upcoming trends mean to you and to others (i.e. the buying public) and then make it symbolic and attractive to consumers through your creativity. It’s all about translating and illuminating life details, activities, feelings and events for others to enjoy.

The aging of the American population is an over-used but very valid example. This demographic trend, often referred to as the ‘Graying of America,’ predicted years ago that the United States would see a dramatic increase in those 50+ as the baby boomer population got older, resulting in major economic, social and cultural changes. To illustrate, we have seen this trend interpreted in music with more ‘oldies’ stations, fashion with vintage clothing styles,  and retro home decor tapping into the 50’s, 60’s and now 70’s. The current popularity of owls in gifts and decorative accessories is certainly a resurrection from the 70’s. (Several colleagues attending AmericasMart have expressed dismay at the continuing growth of this fowl trend.)

So when you hear marketers, the news media and others expounding about this trend or that, don’t ignore it—noodle it.  Let it roam around in your head and heart and see how you might interpret that trend into art. And think about how that art can influence products — YOUR LICENSED PRODUCTS.

Which leads me to my second point:

2) Don’t track trends. This is so imortant that I’ll say it again. Don’t track trends! On my web site are several trend-related links, which you’ll find in my Resources Directory. Utilizing these resources will save you oodles of time and money. However, I have to confess my favorite trend site is trendwatching.com.  Read their February 2011 Trend Brief on the CITYSUMERS trend and you’ll learn more about why they state “the future consumption arena is urban.” There is so much incredible information in this one article that can be culled into visuals, attitudes, designs, and eventually products. And if you are up for more, their 11 Trends for 2011 is beyond brilliant!  

Try expanding your creativity by reading about an upcoming trend and then letting your imagination soar. See what inspires you. See what your spirit comes up with. You will find yourself in front of the curve, and even ahead of all those artists who read this blog, but never actually do the work.



6 responses

27 04 2011
Shari Warren

I really enjoyed your post! I am always reminding myself to think out of the box with trends and keeping an eye out for what is going on. I still need to bring myself to tackle the “Owl” phenomenon 🙂


3 02 2011
Ronnie Walter

Excellent post, Jeanette! Trend spotting is so much more than just “seeing what’s out there”—it’s about cultural shifts, demographic info and how we relate to each other in the world. If you are chasing what’s already been done, you’ll be following, not offering a new point of view! In other words, rethink that owl collection on your desk!

3 02 2011
Pat Cook

Great blog. Thanks for the tips. I just subscribed.

3 02 2011
Beth Rommel

Thank you Jeanette for the great information. I am very new at this so am trying to absorb all of this that I can…thank you for contributing to my new knowledge.

3 02 2011

Great information on trends – thanks for the links!

2 02 2011
Joan Beiriger

Great information Jeanette and an approach that I’ll try to implement!

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