(An excerpt from The Journeyman online service design course “Developing New Service Ideas.)

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.