INTERVIEW •• JOANNA FEELEY (TRENDBIBLE) - 3 May 2012
Kids Lifestyle Trends – Joanna Feeley (Trend Bible)
The subject “Making Worlds” of the last Second Sight issue inspired us to invite a trend forecaster specialized in children’s environments: Joanna Feeley, founder of Trend Bible, a UK based trend forecasting agency specializing in the home interior, was delighted to share her ideas about creativity, fresh ideas and open mindedness with us.
“Children can teach us a lot about the aspects of human nature that we have brushed aside as adults” What’s the driving force behind your love and fascination for trend forecasting? Trend forecasting goes beyond the realm of design, it encompasses the social, cultural and behavioral, meaning that you have to have an inquisitive mind as well as a creative ability, being commercially savvy so that you can be really sure about what is going to appeal to the consumer. There can’t be many jobs that require such a diverse set of skills … never a dull moment!
You are one of the few in the world specialized in forecasting trends for children’s lifestyles. This issue’s topic of Second Sight is about “Making Worlds”. How do you create lifestyle environments for the children’s market as an adult, what is your main inspiration? I firmly believe that kids trends cannot and should not be derived from adult fashion influences. We look at how children are behaving in the home, what parents and grandparents are doing, in things like innovations in nutrition and education worldwide and this in turn informs trend concepts and visual indicators. My main reason for creating our Kids Lifestyle Trends book was that the choices that existed for nursery and bedroom products, tableware, games and toys seemed to be so limited, with a very simplistic ‘pink for girls and blue for boys’ approach. In my research I was finding examples of all of these intelligent, bright children, but it felt as if their choices, and their parents choices were being marginalized with the domination of licensed character products being plastered over everything from cups to pencil cases, and with the presumption that children only wanted two colours. I just knew there was a market in terms of parents and kids, who wanted to be offered something that reflected their intelligence, that gave them more choices, and that weren’t so gender limiting. I think it’s important that we engage with children, let them explore their senses, provide them with products that challenge and inspire them, from textures to storytelling to colour.
Grown-ups tend to transform the creative children’s mind into a “real life” rationalistic one. Given the fact that in todays complex world different “realities” can exist along side each-other. Don’t you think that living life with a child’s mind might come in handy now-and-than? Absolutely! In fact, interestingly we’re finding that the trends we’ve forecasted for our kids books often crop up a season or two later in adult home and lifestyle trend books, so in many ways, with a continuing global financial crisis, rising unemployment a social unrest, adults are very much wanting to escape to a child-like world. Children can teach us a lot about the aspects of human nature that we have brushed aside as adults, particularly things like using our imagination, daydreaming, finding time to play instead of feeling the pressure to always set objectives or trying to find meaning in everything we do. Children are far more in touch with their senses and their exploratory, abstract approach to the natural world in particular is becoming a big influence. Adults are emulating children all the time; in design we are seeing child-like characters creeping onto cushions and plates, enjoying fantastical fairytale films and stories, and becoming increasingly responsive to the simplistic, whimsical and spontaneous.
What are the main characteristics of a child that we should preserve in order to profit from it while dealing with today’s complex world? Companies and individuals designing and making products for children have a responsibility to make sure they engage, inform and inspire children and parents. I think some of the limitations in colour and design for kids is insulting the intelligence of the customer, ‘dumbing down’ design and giving children very rigid messages about what is and isn’t appropriate for girls or boys. This is part of the social and cultural tapestry that influences a child’s life, and must be taken seriously. Maybe 20 years ago it was ok to say dolls were just for girls, but I think this is inexcusable today, with more fathers than ever actively parenting. Boys are seeing their fathers at home contributing to the household in a way that wasn’t so widespread 20 years ago, yet this isn’t being reflected in the toys available for boys who are growing up to see that being a parent isn’t purely the domain of the mother.
Which global, social trend triggers you the most at this moment? What interests me most at the moment is that governments, educators and parents are exploring the framework for education, questioning once again what constitutes an education. With young people making up a huge percentage of the unemployed in the UK and Europe, we have to ask ourselves questions about educational content and methods of delivery. In the UK, a number of Free Schools are opening up in 2012, whilst the Hayground School in Bridgehampton, USA is creating some ground-breaking strategies for teaching departing from the traditional modes of teaching. The school leaves room in its lesson plans for spontaneity and experimentation. In the spring, students will delve into the topic of sustainability by raising chickens and learning the ins and outs of foraging and searching for edibles.
In Bangalore, India, residential summer camps offer children unique experiences that are not easy to come by in the fast-paced cities. Vineet Singh, one of the founders of United Arts Society discovered that the idyllic summers of his childhood had been lost to today’s children, plugged in to their iPods, e-readers and PCs. He created a six-day residential summer camp called Granny’s Courtyard on a three acre organic farm. “We have naturalists and wild life experts on site to help teach and motivate the children,” he says.
Which book(s) are you reading at the moment or want to read and you could recommend to our readers? I have just finished reading the autobiography of Everest explorer Bear Grylls, who is also Chief Scout of the Scouting Association. I love the fact that such a spirit of adventure, and such a love of the outdoors is so alive in a world where everyone seems to be obsessed with spending more time on social networking sites and screen-based activities. I am also currently re-reading the wonderful Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson- who writes the ultimate escapist fairytales for adults.
Interview: Truus Dokter for Second Sight
More information: www.trendbible.co.uk