Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Future Is Now

The spectre of Christmas future is haunting us. I sat in a two-hour client meeting with a group of designers on Friday. We are all consulants for Christmas 2009. I presented current packaging, font, color trends, marketing; Suzanne — patterns, fabric trends; Roseanne and Maria — hosting/home-entertaining trends; Jan and Marc — last years production v. sales. I can't disclose the client, breach of interest, non-circumvent situation, et cetera. This topic is not unique, it's what every retailer is trying to resolve by the end of August.

As a group we gave each other valuable insight for Christmas 2009. "Cocooning" (circa 1989) is back, but it's now called "home entertaining". Our American life-styles are greatly influenced by the currrent state of the economy, the Iraq War, patriotism, fuel costs, job lay-offs, and declining realstate values and home sales. In this meeting we hung up our NYC know-how to observe a Heartland America that is addicted to plastic, online and off.

The Social Climate
Wealthy and average folks alike are spending more practically and less luxuriously. Most have just purchased real estate and new cars. Catalogs (online and off) compete heavily with the brick and mortar shops since they usually don't get taxed and shipping is free. Consider that gasoline is now at an average of $4.00/gallon, online shopping lets the store come to you. Maybe part of the solution is to create a mobile store task force and really let the store come to you — a retail RV armada? The more practical things that surround living and maintaining a lifestyle have come to the surface. Is this so bad? We do live in a wasteful society, and our disposable incomes are less disposable.

Trends
"Green Living" or the semblance of being green is even more popular. But in terms of development it means wearing something green, making products the color of green tea, and using the recyle symbol on the back of a carton. I guess that's no differrent from McDonalds offering Mc-salads. Most people would rather buy something "green-ish", since it's too hard (and expensive) to go fully green.

"Home Spun" — not just a concept for hand-dyed yarns. Heartland America wants something hand-made and personalized, but in the end they'd rather buy it half-assemble. The solution is kits and gift sets: cake decoration, scrapbooks, place setings, frames that one can personalize.

"Americana-Nostalgia" particularly current movies and late 70's to early 80's television. As a country that looks fondly on the good times, our recent history portray simpler times and super heros. A pop-culty salad bar made from the Dr. Sues, the Peanuts Christmas Special, Happy Days, Starwars, Batman (any era), Spiderman, Angels, Santa, Disco, Glitter/Glam Rock, so on. It's prevelant from the fashion runway down to us.

We played a little gestlat marketing game. One person would name a Holiday and someone had to yell a movie or TV show off the top of their head. Something like this:
Halloween = "The Adams Family", "Batman", "The Great Pumkin"
Christmas = "The Grinch", "Rudolph", "Frosty the Snowman"

"Color Schemes/Patterns", it's safe to say that the European jewel tones are completely out. Colors are somber, textures are flatter, patterns are cleaner. Stripes and dots are big at the trade shows, same as with clean simple typography and graphics. I honestly believe that most new desingers don't know what clean really means. It's not just a look, it's a design approach and ergonomic philosophy of placing the essentials as opposed to the subtracting the obvious. "Faded Glory" is back — traditional patriotic red, white and blue will be at our tables far beyond the 4th of July and Memorial Day.

I'm not certain where any of this goes but we have to plan on Christams '09 in August '08. It reminds me of a chapter from "The Handmaid's Tale" where no one can remember their own history, so they reconstruct a generic era by assembling a party where the women wear costumes that include nuns, Playboy bunnies, cheer leaders and 1920's flappers.
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