jason moriber

Analyzing Trends: The Pendulum

Trends swing like a pendulum, creating waves of fashion, art, culture, business, you name it…there is a cycle to trends (if not everything). In order to find, uncover and act on burgeoning innovations I visualize this cycle (as the following slides will display) and play with this visualization as a “game.” You can use almost any trend, idea, history, business for this game and see what you uncover. Let’s set-up the game-board:

Imagine a pendulum that has an ink-pen at its tip. As it swings, as seen from a frontal-view, the pendulum draws a line on the ground.

This pendulum doesn’t swing in a vacuum. It’s path is pulled by two very strong and opposite forces: the past and the future.

The past pulls on the pendulum, informing trends with all that has happened before, seeking to bring us back to the way things were. The future, which has a stronger pull towards innovation, drives us forward into the new, the cool, the hip, and the what’s next.

The magnet of the future therefore grinds forward into the future. The past, planted like a stone, digs in, but over time loses its hold and influence on the future.

When the pendulum reaches the outer reach of its swing, its speed slows down, to a near “stall” before it begins its return. These stalls are the weakest part of the swing, where the pendulum is most sensitive to the tug of the past. The fastest part, in the direct middle, is where the pendulum speeds up, frees itself from the past, and is attracted to the pull of the future.

This causes the shape of both magnets to be modified in relation to the pendulum swing. The past becomes a “C” shape, reaching for the stalls within the pendulum swing. The future begomes an oblong “egg” shape as it pulls more strongly on the middle of the pendulum swing.

This unique magnetic field pulls the pendulum swing out of a straight-line trajectory (where it would seem to be drawing a line over and over again in the same place) and forces it to “wave.”

This model displays trends as having two past-influenced “edges” where the swing stalls, with a forward-tugged “middle” when the swing is most free from the past. When I use this model I label the top edge as “neo” and the bottom edge as “retro.”

Neo = a reconsidering of a past idea brought to life in a new and current way. Retro = a revival of a past trend, staying close to the original. This is my game board where I try out trends, seeing if I can place them as either Neo or Retro and find their partners on the edges of the waves, and by doing so see if I can predict new trends. BUT, even more important than the edges, is the forward-pulled middle as this is where the innovation is taking place.

Because the stalls of the pendulum-swing last longer than the speedy middle of the swing, our collective cultural attention is typically focussed on them. These trends are easier to define because we have more time to consider them. BUT that doesn’t mean it’s where all the “good stuff” lives. In my mind the good stuff lives in the harder to pin-down, but innovative middle. When analyzing trends I try to find what was happening in the middle-period.

As an example, let’s take two music trends. The Neo-Soul of Maxwell and Erykah Badu in the mid 90’s and the mid 00’s Retro-Soul popularity of Amy Winehouse and Sharon Jones + The Dap Kings. Both looked back in time to a past (and reoccurring) trend, “Soul.” BUT what was going on in Soul music in between these “edges?”

Another example are the Air Jordans (sneakers). The design moved radically from the original style towards a futuristic idealization of a sneaker. BUT over time the demand for the original model grew and the design veered back towards some of the initial elements. I can play this game all day.

Try this game out yourself. Use popluar trends and see how you can make them fit the model, or try your skill-set, business, favorite foods. Map it out on the waves and then consider what was happening inbetween the Neo and Retro edges. Even if fleeting, the great innovations are happening there, and are probably more forward-advancing than the trends we see most apparently.

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  1. Jason Empire » Blog Archive » We Are Now Post-Disruption. We Are Now Creative Innovation.