Foresight, trends and materials inspiration for future products
Torben Lenau, DTU and Stine Brahm Lauritsen, Futuressence

Working paper for the 8th Nordcode seminar and workshop, may 27-29, 2009, Kolding School of Design, Denmark

For many years the functional performance in products has been used to distinguish the product in front of competing products. Examples are speed and convenience in cars, computer power in laptops, weight in bicycles, weather resistance in clothes etc. However as many of the functional properties become easier to achieve, consumer preferences and competition moves to other areas.

The semiotic properties becomes more and more important since consumers more increasingly select between products based on the meaning associated to the product appearance. Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols as described by authors like Pierce and Saussure. Customer preferences also keep changing over time and an important question to producers is therefore which appearance preferences the customers will demand in the future. A model for how to perform foresight and translate this into consumer trends is presented in this paper together with a facility called The Future Tool that support designers with inspirations and material samples. The present version of the future tool is based on the theme '(Safe) Haven 2011+' addressing the need for feeling secure in an uncertain world.

New materials and techniques are interesting when designing new products since they contribute with a long range of novel and improved physical properties like durability, weight, strength, appearance, environment and reduced unit cost. In a trend perspective the new materials open for more advanced and sophisticated semiotic properties.