The Stories of Trends

I got some great inspiration for this week’s class lecture by going to see Ridley Scott’s new film The Martian with my budding botanist 13-year-old daughter. It is a great film and a great a great piece of mundane science fiction by Andy Weir. It also comes off as a deeply relevant story for 2015. It connects to this moment. Why is that? Perhaps we have worked through our zombie apocalypse and are finally ready to “science the shit out the problem” and get to work.

The fact is that great stories are not simply told — they are received. For a story to resonate it must connect in our minds with other information as a way of contextualizing existing cultural dissonance. That connection makes it stick in our minds and we process information going forward as an updated schema.

The lecture this week is The Stories of Trends. Stories are critical for design. To design effectively, we must build brand stories that trigger discovery and engagement. Great design is completed in the mind. Understanding that cognitive process helps us determine everything from materials and how things are made to how the design can be best displayed and sold to connect with these evolving internal human narratives.

“…what I enjoy in a narrative is not directly its content or even its structure, but rather the abrasions I impose upon the fine surface: I read on, I skip, I look up, I dip in again. Which has nothing to do with the deep laceration the text of bliss inflicts upon language itself, and not upon the simple temporality of its reading.” — Roland Barthes

I use Levi’s as a case study for this week reviewing how the brand has evolved from the fast-fashion boom in 2006 through the recession of 2009 to today where it is at its “Martian moment” of finding the brand voice to inspire us to get back to work and move forward into the future. Effective design strategies are multidimensional. Brands need to master the narratives of our lives well enough to get beyond having just one big idea, but rather a series of evolving better ideas that are sync with people as they change and adapt over time.