Episode 22 – Digging into the Craft of Trend Spotting w/ Dr. Michael Berens

It is a well-known fact that the media loves trends reports. After all, they give us so much to report on: experts providing clairvoyant insights into what they think will happen in the near future; pointing out observable changes in people’s behaviour; identifying key drivers, challenges, threats and opportunities that are influencing industries; and so on. All professions and industries employ trends reports, and the interior design industry is no exception. For example, just recently the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) released its 2023 Trends Outlook report, examining societal shifts and economic trends impacting the design profession and the role of design in addressing issues in our world.

There is a lot of good content in that report, but I decided to take its release as an opportunity to “peek behind the curtain” as it were and speak to its author to get an understanding of how such a document is created. That author is Dr. Michael J. Berens, a writer, editor and researcher with 30 years’ experience in research and knowledge management, over 14 of which as the director of research and knowledge resources for ASID.

In this episode of Bevel, I enlist Dr. Berens to help unpack the nuts n’ bolts of conducting a survey and the approaches to different types, for example industry metrics surveys versus trends surveys. We discuss how a trends analyst handles paradigm shifts like COVID-19, which literally came out of nowhere, and how often does “fallout” become “trends.”

I also tap into some bigger philosophical questions: for example, where do value-based assessments like “what should happen” fit into reporting “what is happening”? Lastly, we all know that trends report are tools for preparation, but I ask: can they also be tools for challenging one’s own perspective? Preparing for the future is one thing, but how do “trends” help those who want to create the future?