January 2, 2020

It's January 2nd. Do you know where your trends are?

Hey, here we are in 2020!

We have big plans for this year, and we bet you do, too. In fact, expectations are so high for the new year/decade, it can seem a little overwhelming.

Want to know what’s going to happen this year? We do, too, and we also want to make things happen. So we’re scanning the landscape for useful trends, making plans, and trying some new ways to hit our goals. We’re sharing our research, which we’ve organized into a cheat sheet below.

So Many Megatrends

Our favorite sweeping overviews of 2020 trends are those that identify shifts that cut across sectors and disciplines. LinkedIn has a nice roundup of big ideas that touch on work (time, focus, value), technology (facial recognition, post-meat), startups (good-bye unicorns; hello zebras), and the impact of climate change on a whole bunch of things.

Future Today Institute’s annual Trend Report for Entertainment, Media, and Technology is a meaty exploration of how tech and other structural shifts are affecting specific sectors. If you want to understand the implications of synthetic media or what one-to-few publishing means, you could spend hours with this well-designed resource. But it’s also a masterpiece in how to manage uncertainty: the report categorizes every trend in terms of impact and likelihood—a strategic planner’s dream.

Say what you like about forecasters who make their predictions once we are already into 2020, but we will be tuning in to at least one latecomer: Scott Galloway, Pivot podcaster famous for predicting WeWork’s actual value (or thereabouts). Galloway will share his predictions via livestream on January 14. You can access it here.

Design Is Strategy

It’s easy to overlook how essential design has been to the staggering changes of the last decade. Thoughtful design has created superstar platforms like Instagram and propaganda villains like Cambridge Analytica. The concept of design thinking has expanded the scope of design beyond the narrow channels where it used to operate.

Design, in other words, has become a critical part of strategy. If your offering can’t turn a head, stop a thumb, and solve a problem, you don’t have a strategy.

Spark No. 9 is a tight team of designers, strategists, and analysts, and we all pay attention to trends in design (we have a Slack channel devoted to the topic). One recent posting was this excellent guide to the State of UX in 2020, which examines topics like “designing for the post-truth era” and “great products do less, but better.” It’s a great read for designers and non-designers alike.

But we also like to drool over the latest graphic design trends, so we’re grooving on roundups like this eye-candy-filled blog post from Graphic Mama.

Trends We're Tracking

Trends we are particularly focused on in 2020:
-Post-materialism culture, as evidenced by the rise of the rental economy, growth in secondhand sales, and increased transparency in supply chains.
-Shifts in job structures and the way that work is done. Yes, robots and AI are taking jobs, but at the same time there is growing demand for work that synthesizes across disciplines (HT to Bill Triant, CEO of Stripes Learning, for turning us on to the notion of hybrid jobs). At Spark, we offer a lot of flexibility in where and how our work gets done, but we feel the strain in balancing that flexibility with productive teamwork, which benefits from occasional face time. In 2020, we’ll look to gurus like Cali Yost, CEO of Flex Strategy Group, for inspiration.
-Social media as the world’s biggest creative playground. Among other things, get ready for short video on social channels to drive ecommerce, says Andreessen Horowitz.


Go Hard—But Not Too Hard

Are you making goals for 2020? We’ve written before about the perils of New Year’s resolutions—most end up in the mental dustbin—and we are now enthusiasts for a new approach: tiny wins. The idea is to break your big goal into smaller, more manageable goals, and our 2019 experiment with this method paid off.

But how to keep track of it all? Self-management is never one-size-fits-all, so here are some options if you are seeking new systems or tools:
A system. Karen Borchert, COO of Flywheel, has developed a goal-setting system that she explains in this podcast. (Like us, she loves 2x2s and applies the quadrant approach to managing oneself.)
An app. Trust The Wirecutter, with their rigorous testing processes, to make solid recommendations: Tick Tick or Things 3 top their list.
A planner. Thanks to the rise of bullet journals, paper planners are making a comeback. We are giving the Ink & Volt version a try for 2020.


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