Spotting a trend doesn’t require the services of a professional prognosticator.  However, it does require knowing the difference between a trend and a fad.

A trend — using its most restricted definition —  is a demonstrated pattern of growth.  We tend to use the term more loosely, however, to describe swells of popularity.

Researchers tell us that groundswells in popularity are primarily driven by functional needs. A fad, on the other hand, is driven by emotional need. We tend to make purchases based on fads that spike and fade. We alter our behavior in view of trends.

One of my daughters, an emerging luxury fashion executive who keeps her thumb on the pulse of trends and fads, describes subscription video streaming services as a trend, but some of the popular content that these services carry are fads, such as Hunger Games, Squid Games, and Tiger King.

Because trends are much more reliable indicators of what’s to come, as service designers we focus on them for devising new service ideas.

Trends For Ideation

A trend is defined as a gradual pattern of change over time. For ideation, trends can be spotted through gradual changes in process, output, or conditions.

Motor Trends

Some trends are easier to spot than others. However, one obvious trend is the growth in electric vehicles.

Auto manufacturers have long focused on satisfying the experience of drivers. Promotional messages from early on describe cockpit layouts in superlatives, with such things as comfortable driving seats, easy-to-read dials, responsive controls, safety accessories, and the use of exclusive textiles.

Changes Ahead

But nowadays automakers are retooling their efforts in recognition of the growing need to shift design focus.

Semi-autonomous cars, which accommodate a driver who can intervene when necessary, are not far off from today considering that cars that self-park, change lanes, and automatically apply brakes to prevent collisions.

The shift to fully autonomous vehicles, without a driver, is underway being led by the needs of long-haul trucking. We can assume cars won’t be far behind.

With the shift toward autonomy, the bulk of cars manufactured will be owned and operated by ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. The transformation will convert the auto industry from product-based to on-call services.

This will create market disruption with ride-sharing services filling the role of auto consumers and the general public as service users. As a result, auto manufacturers will sell to ride-sharing services rather than users.

Auto manufacturers are hoping to meet the new paradigm by redirecting resources from the cockpit to the backseat.

Holger Hampf, Head of Customer Experience Design at BMW said, “The vehicle of the future will cater to those who may never sit behind a wheel.”

Rear passenger compartments, based on demonstrations at auto shows around the world, will look more like meeting spaces, with ride-sharing services competing for users by offering amenities such as fold-down working tables, minibars, and interactive displays.