Fjord Trends report predicts tensions and technology to impact 2018

As we head into the Christmas break, it’s time to take stock and reflect on the year that was; as well as beginning to focus on 2018 and the changes and improvements to be made. 

With that in mind, the annual Fjord Trends 2018 report has been released which analyses seven emergent trends predicted to impact business, technology, design and society in the year ahead, and provides suggestions as to how organisations can navigate these currents and design for positive change.

The report, from the global design and innovation consultancy, draws upon the collective thinking of 1000-plus designers and developers from around the world. It is based on first-hand observations and evidenced-based research.

This year, for the first time, it also drew upon the individual insights and perspectives from 85 clients across five continents.

Also for the first time, there is just one meta-theme in 2018: tension. 

The report stated: “Over the past year, we’ve watched a polarisation effect weave its way through many areas of our lives. Disagreement is no new phenomenon, nor are the paradigm shifts we’re experiencing across society. The current gulf between opposing opinions is remarkable and sometimes overwhelming, but also presents a moment of great opportunity.”

Mark Curtis, co-founder and chief client officer at Fjord, says each of the 2018 trends is born out of a fundamental tension — be it a shift, a collision or a parting of ways.

“Digital versus physical, human versus machine, centralised versus decentralised, speed versus craft, automation versus control, traceability versus anonymity. Winners in 2018 will be those who best navigate these tensions and seize the opportunity to collectively design the world we’ll be living in.”

The seven trends:

  1. Physical fights back: digital has had the limelight long enough – there are two brand experience headliners now. The time has come to blend the digital with the physical.

Fjord suggests: stop viewing digital and physical as separate. Create experiences that fuse physical and digital, let technology inspire you. The relationship and connectivity between devices will be critical—and should be invisible. Sharpen your design skills. 

  1. Computers have eyes: as well as comprehending our words, computers now understand images without any help from us. Imagine the exciting possibilities for next-generation digital services.

Fjord suggests: rethink services offered, rethink your approach to data and rethink the design context. 

  1. Slaves to the algorithm: how do you design a marketing strategy to win over the algorithms – immune to conventional branding efforts – that sit between brands and their customers?

Fjord suggests: get to know the gatekeepers, adapt to the new marketing environment, and beware the possible backlash once algorithms’ newness wears off.  

  1. A machine’s search for meaning: Artificial intelligence might change our jobs, but need not eliminate them. We can – and should – design our collaboration with the machines that will help us develop.

Fjord suggests: think collaboratively not competitively, design for interaction with machines, be transparent and inclusive, and future plan for staff evolution.  

  1. In transparency we trust: blockchain has the potential to create transparency that will clear the fog of internet ambiguity, regain lost trust and repair relationships with the public.

Fjord suggests: act now and take blockchain off the ‘too hard’ list, design for trust, and open up for collaboration. 

  1. The ethics economy: organisations are feeling the heat to take stands on political and societal hot-button issues, whether they want to or not. And consumers are speaking with their dollars, choosing brands that align with their core beliefs.

Fjord suggests: ethically self-audit, define your personality and purpose by making your ethical positions relevant and clear to your employees, and share ownership of goals. 

  1. Design outside the lines: design’s rapid ascendancy and newfound respect within organisations is a win for all. But in a world where everyone thinks they’re a designer – today’s practitioners need to evolve if they are to continue having impact.

Fjord suggests: giving designers space for their craft, establish multi-disciplinary teams, and to designers, take responsibility for your craft. Continuous learning is key to having a lasting impact. 

Ben Morgan, Accenture interactive lead for New Zealand, says the company believes this edition of trends will provoke and inspire, “but, above all, provide actionable advice for organisations to prepare for the opportunities ahead”.

“The challenge for New Zealand businesses is translating global changes into relevant opportunities for our local market. Topics, such as the effect of artificial intelligence on our current workforce, need to be embraced head-on so people are prepared and capitalise on the advantages. Additionally, as digital fades from being stand-alone to being embedded in our physical world, our relationships with everything around us will be redefined.”

How agencies and people navigate these tensions and design for positive, long-lasting change will be more critical today than ever before. As the report stated, in 2018, it won’t be enough to be a bystander: “We collectively have the opportunity to design the world we’ll be living in for decades to come.”

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