Sarah Thomas, Plascon Trends Contributor
The rise of the 21st century Maker/Hacker and the “internet of (every)thing” are the two major cultural trend predictions that will significantly impact our lives, as predicted by leading local trend analysts.
Held on the 18 March 2014, the recent quarterly trends panel discussion, trendtalk (#8 in the series), was dominated by two particular topics: the distinctive 21st century archetype of the ‘Maker/Hacker’, and the increasingly pervasive “internet of things”. All three presenters at the trendtalk#8 event – Chris Reid, Louise Marsland and YENZA – touched on the notion of the Maker/Hacker, framing it as a prominent and influential trend for 2014/15.
Trend Predictions 2014 and Beyond
For professional trend researcher Chris Reid of ITI (International Trend Institute), ‘The Maker’ is a rising star on the trend forecasts for this year. He began his trendtalk presentation by noting an important change – the increasing importance of connectivity and collaboration in an era that is still very much catering for the individual. He described emerging group identities as the new “21st Century Archetypes” and went on to describe the two most exciting and relevant types: The Maker/Hacker and The Surrealist.
According to Reid, we are entering a new phase where the line between maker and consumer is gradually fading. Maker/Hackers are consumers that aren’t necessarily satisfied with an existing product and are happy to improve or adapt it to their needs. They strive to modify their environment in order to achieve a higher level of self-sufficiency.
The act of ‘Hacking’ one’s life is multifaceted; Maker/Hackers alter and augment all kinds of objects – from re-modelling Ikea furniture, to fixing their bicycles with versatile silicone putty, to experimenting with wearable technology. Another major element of the Maker/Hacker trend is the integration of the internet into daily life – for example, the introduction of smart appliances that can be controlled wirelessly via apps, such as temperature or thermostat monitors.
Reid describes this phenomenon as ‘the internet of things’ – a phrase that attempts to explain the way in which objects in our daily lives are being connected to the internet in order to improve their efficiency. Reid states that brands should embrace the archetype of the Maker/Hacker and build adaptability into their products, harnessing the same kind of creativity in order to evolve.
The second archetype that Reid discussed was ‘The Surrealist’. This is an equally important type to monitor in 2014. Surrealists are creative innovators as well as inventors, yet they employ fantastical strategies to communicate their vision to the rest of the world.
Their powerful infiltration of the mainstream marks them as important to watch. ‘The Surrealist’ approach is useful to brands, as seemingly bizarre and experimental campaigns have recently shown to be more effective than traditional branding strategies. A great example of such a successful collaboration would be that of luxury brand Louis Vuitton’s Marc Jacobs and Yayoi Kusama:
Touching on similar topics to Reid in her trendtalk#8 presentation; media, marketing and consumer insights commentator Louise Marsland emphasised the importance of trends and explained their migration from fringe culture to the mainstream, guiding our tastes and informing the decisions we make. Marsland, who is the current editor of TrendAfrica, also focused on ‘the internet of things’ – an idea similar to Reid’s, yet she dubbed it the “internet of everything”. She predicts a total integration of the internet and our daily lives.
Lastly, Marsland spoke about what she terms the ‘YOUniverse’ – a rising culture of the self that permeates all facets of culture in 2014. The role of the “selfie” portrait, the Oscars Selfie, and the theme of individuality in relation to commerce and branding was explored extensively throughout Marsland’s presentation.
Also on the speaker programme for trendtalk#8 was social entrepreneurial group YENZA, formed by architect and designer Rene Rossouw, art director Charl Edwards, stylist Kara Furter and architect Lucie de Moyencourt. The group exemplified a lot of the trend predictions discussed by Reid and Marsland. YENZA is part of the official WDC2014 calendar and has curated a collection of design products sourced from various townships across South Africa.
The group essentially searches for ‘Hacker/Maker’ types in underprivileged communities across the country, bringing their innovative design solutions to the forefront of the design world. They have sourced a wide array of objects, from recycled metal candle-stick holders to decorative mats and bowls woven out of shopping packets. These objects reveal an existing Hacker/Maker culture in South Africa, and an approach to design that is inventive and self-sufficient.
The trendtalk#8 speaker panel revealed a wealth of insights into the zeitgeist and what is forming it. The event, which is supported by Inhouse Brand Architects and Plascon, is accredited by the IID (Institute of Interior Design), and takes place every quarter. The next trendtalk is set to take place on 6 May, and will feature a report back from the Salon d’Mobile in Milan.
trendtalk was founded by Lauren Shantall, at the beginning of 2012, in response to repeat requests for a talk on trends she first gave at the DCI network. Aware of the ongoing need for this kind of forum, the trendtalk sessions have since been expanded into regular events. Lauren is also one of the directors of the design-led charity Rock Girl and sits on the advisory committee for the proposed Museum of Design, Innovation, Leadership and Art (MODILA) and has her own marketing and communications company Lauren Shantall (Pty) Ltd.