Kate Franklin (le.) und Caroline Till (r.) lead the multidisciplinary design research agency FranklinTill.

How much trend should it be?

The design of the Theme Park and Trendbook for the upcoming Heimtextil is once again in the hands of British design research agency FranklinTill. Which trend matches to whom – and how to work with it? Caroline Till in the conversation.
by Anna Moldenhauer | 11/20/2017

Anna Moldenhauer: Ms. Till, what is your approach as a design research studio?

Caroline Till: We are a multidisciplinary design studio and research agency and are particularly interested in providing inspiration and information that has context. That means we ask questions such as: Why do specific design directions, or visual movements if you like, become relevant at a specific point in time? What drives them in terms of a socio-cultural context? To this end we investigate which influences are decisive by looking at emerging scientific and technological innovations. The overarching idea comes first and then we carry out really broad research, which we filter down, creating sub-themes. We then find ways of basically bringing that information to life. So we produce magazines, exhibitions and events – all as platforms, I suppose, to communicate our findings.

When is a trend a trend?

Caroline Till: I always think of it as very similar to the scientific definition of a trend in that it’s effectively mapping a correlation, i.e., when you can spot multiple examples across the world of something emerging. I suppose you’re looking at similarities and then starting to ask why that seems to be recurring.

How should the Trendbook for the Heimtextil be used – is it kind of a manual?

Caroline Till: Yes, I think for this Trendbook, in particular, we’ve almost tried to deal with it in two different speeds, if you like. One is the Lifestyle Trends section, in which we look at a larger macro-trend, like the focal issue of urbanization, looking at that as a statistical phenomenon. We describe the forms global urbanization can take, what consequences it has and how it will impact on the spaces we live in. Looking at a more micro-scale, we explore how this is starting to influence specific design and color trends on a purely aesthetic level. What are the trends in terms of design, color, form, material and patterning, or of developments in interior textiles in the next 2-5 years, and what influences them?

How do I know which trend in the book is relevant for my own work?

Caroline Till: A significant trend for a furniture manufacturer, for example, is that we are living in ever smaller spaces in cities owing to a shortage of space and increasing apartment prices. The number of home owners is sinking – people prefer to rent homes, choosing to move ever more frequently. Smaller furniture and products need to be designed in accordance with users’ nomadic existence. The book offers all kinds of such insights, and readers can decide which aspects are key for their business segment.

Due to urbanization, FranklinTill's demand for flexible designs is increasing.

Meaning that the results of your research are equally relevant for manufacturers and individuals?

Caroline Till: Yes, exactly. And inspiration is important. “Relax/Recharge” as a design trend where only a single color is used appeals to many people, for instance. The idea that you have a room that is only blue, but through different combinations of blue tones and the use of different textures you get this high-impact aesthetic. I think that’s the complexity. But also it’s a great challenge of working on the Heimtextil brief in that the audience is so diverse: Some people are looking for really meaty, if you like, insightful information about how our spaces will need to perform in the future, and some people are looking for some pure visual inspiration. And I think that’s what we’re trying to deliver – that full spectrum of insight and inspiration.

To what extent should I incorporate trends in my own living space when everything is constantly changing? And how far can trends add personality and individuality to the living space?

Caroline Till: It shouldn’t be about following trends. We hope that there might be flashes of inspiration that people want to incorporate into their own homes and we seek to offer a kind of curated and condensed package of information. It’s about providing, I suppose, a picture of some of the things that are happening. For the more professional reader, whether for a company, a brand or a buyer, we say that it’s important to be familiar with trends as a reflection of evolving times and to draw the right conclusions from this knowledge for their own approach. Or it might be about curating: We frequently work with companies that have a wide selection of products that stand the test of time but, often, their consumers need help in choosing them, effectively making decisions about which to use and how to use them in their own home, how to put together successful looks that they find reflect themselves. We often suffer from a sense of information overload and suffocation, so it is helpful if we suggest certain colors or textures.

The topic of urbanization is not really new for us, so why do you think it is a leading topic for the Trend sector at Heimtextil?

Caroline Till: Of course it is true that this development began many years ago. But now it is accelerating at a very rapid pace. Urban migration means rapid changes for our cities. Some of the statistics show that the majority of people live in an urban context and spend 90 percent of their time indoors. And if we then think about the impact the interior environment has on how we see the world and our day-to-day existence, it quickly becomes clear that we need to rethink spaces and be more innovative in the way that we use smaller spaces so that they don’t feel like these micro living spaces – that they still feel like a home. Moreover we shouldn’t forget the notion of nature deficit and the effect of not having enough connection with the natural world on our physical and mental wellbeing. We wish to encourage a reconsideration of our spatial environment in the city and see what solutions designers, architects and material innovators find for this complex problem.

For the Heimtextil Trends, international design agencies leaded by FranklinTill developing a global vision of upcoming interior trends.

Is there something you would say was really important to you while you were creating the Trendbook?

Caroline Till: Yes. Irrespective of whether it involves hi-tech or low-tech innovations in the spatial environment, thinking about how we can use design to enhance our sense of physical or mental wellbeing is a key theme. And then the other key element we talk about is that everything we do is based on sustainable design. I know ‘sustainability’ is not necessarily the sexiest word, but effectively what we’re interested in is that when designing, innovation brings about positive change. One of the themes that comes through in the book is the notion of rethinking how we use materials. In the architectural context we wish to encourage architects to think of the city more as a closed ecosystem of sorts, in which the city’s waste fuels building construction. If we stopped, if we put a freeze on all of our use of raw materials now and we just considered waste, or existing products, as our raw materials, how can we reinterpret what we’ve got? That’s why the remade materials library in the exhibition is especially important to us. Here we bring together examples of innovative recycled materials. I think we’re past the point at which the sustainability of eco-materials has a sort of negative, or earthy, connotation. And this point is also relevant in relation to the consumer and from a marketing perspective. When visitors to Heimtextil see the “Remade Space” it’s not just going to be of interest because the exhibits are made of recycled material, but these will be beautiful, functional, innovative materials with exciting properties.

Were you surprised by any of your research results?

Caroline Till: We’re in the very privileged position of being able to see a lot of innovation on a continual basis. So, almost in a negative way too, nothing is very surprising anymore, because we spend our lives researching, so we see a lot. But what was very interesting was some of the research we did on the biophilia theme within the Healthy Space, and some of the research that’s been done by the Environmental Protection Agency in the US, basically showing that even integrating one or two plants into your working environment increases staff productivity and focus by 15 percent. I find that really fascinating, the idea that if you just go out and buy a plant and it actually has a huge impact on your work life.

You designed the Trendbook for Heimtextil for the first time in 2011. Was there anything in particular you said you wanted to do differently this time?

Caroline Till: Yes! I think we wanted to focus more on the experience-based elements. For example, we held a tea ceremony in a space that represented a sense of disconnectedness. People loved it, saying, ‘Actually, it’s giving me a bit of time-out from a really busy trade fair.’ We’ve also got more collaborators working with us and more workshop activity.

And is there a long-term goal to your concept?

Caroline Till: Yes, that’s a good question. I think we would always hope that there is a long-term sense of legacy in a way, some kind of positive impact. Particularly as regards urbanization we should think about how we can perhaps create more human-centric approaches. One of the problems we have in cities is that things have often been driven by economic factors, particularly in our spatial design, and, there, often at the expense of the individual. We need to think about how to approach such challenges. And perhaps we’ll be able to take something that could be quite negative and, through design innovation, turn it into a positive. It’s about igniting interest among visitors and providing inspiration – without wagging any fingers.