INTERVIEW WITH ZUZANNA SKALSKA, 360 INSPIRATION – DIZAJN PARK MAGAZINE

Speaking at the Brand New World conference at this year’s Belgrade Design Week, she gave us a wake-up call and made us reflect on the world around us from a new perspective…

What is a Trend Watcher?

“I will never call this a profession, because it’s a way of life. I don’t cover fashion trends, I don’t work for the consumers. I’m specialized to spot business trends: what you need as a business, to create a vision for the next 5 years. When you have to make a choice about the next 5 years, we are talking about investments, about finding new partners, new technology, buying new machinery, maybe about investing in completely different markets…It involves more than just “innovation”. Not every move the company makes is innovation: if you are stuck inside the same “box”, you are not an innovative company. Trend watching means being able to make this kind of shift and see your own company from a completely different perspective. I’m finding unusual things in usual things: putting the spot on a completely different angle. If you want to advise people, companies, ministries, different clients, you have to know a lot of things. In my opinion, clients are often narrow thinkers: they think inside their own “box”, their own branch, their own business, and in the speed of their own work, they don’t have the time to take a moment to get out of the “box”. And you need to be able to get out of the box to see things differently”.

World crises and events nowadays are very sudden and they seem to pop up everywhere… How can one forecast and discover trends in an environment that changes so rapidly?

“That’s the golden question. I remember when I was working for Philips, collecting a lot of information… And you think you know everything, you are able to work with different companies… Then I went from Phillips to a private consultancy. In the meantime I took a vacation, and when I came back, it was 9/11. I had to start literally from scratch, because every forecast I have done before 9/11 was worthless. In trend watching you need to constantly have your “hand on the pulse”. If you’re only monitoring what kind of lamps and chairs are coming to the market, you will always be surprised, but if you’re monitoring completely different influences, you will not be surprised, because you know what’s going on. My colleagues and I already noticed that all political, economic, technological movements are crossing somewhere and we knew that something like the banking crisis would happen. We thought that it would be just the credit cards, but we were close – we knew that banking system would collapse. If you look at where we are in this moment, with technology, politics, it’s very similar to the atmosphere before the World War I and World War II. It’s scary, I know! This means that at this moment, something has to break. This will be either a completely different conflict of the system, or the Ukraine will blow over…”

I found another thing scary. A quote from your blog: “Today, globalization is about profit and shareholders satisfaction”.

“It’s true, definitely. This is what’s happening now, and from many sides you will hear that we are approaching the end of the Capitalism era. I am talking about the form of Capitalism we have had in the past 50 years. Before that, we had the industrial era, the entrepreneurs, people who were starting big companies, but this was not Capitalism: these were the people who were building factories, houses for people to live, kindergartens, people like Ford, Tomas Bata, Phillips… They were building entire cities, infrastructures, not only to produce something, but also to provide for workers the environment to work in. Then entrepreneurship ended and we came to Capitalism: the shareholders. They are living in different places and absolutely don’t care about what is going on in their plants and companies – they are only waiting for the financial satisfaction. And they expect that every year there will be more profit, which means that the company has to sell more. Now when you look at the consumers in the western civilization, you think: how much more we can buy? Can you buy 3 TVs in 2 years? A new digital camera every year? And that is what the shareholders expect: that you buy more and more, so that they can get more profit every year. And now we came to this “glass ceiling”: we cannot go up. The profit cannot be higher. Of course, it’s not like somebody will suddenly come up say: “Good morning, this is the News, today is the end of Capitalism”, but each country, each region, is already starting to prepare for the fact that we can’t continue with this practice anymore. Now we are coming back to the local way of thinking. We will not produce abroad, but here, from the resources we have here. We will be more local, but acting globally. I hope this way we will gain more identity, because when you look the western world today, no matter where you are, we have the same shops, the same products…It’s not even fun to travel anymore. That is why people are now looking for completely different experience, and I feel that this is the right moment for the Central and Eastern Europe, because it’s the only preserved area without this form of Capitalism. Of course, we have this flood of the big supermarkets and products, but only in certain places, the rest is still original and has local identity. Some people predicted that Central and Eastern Europe will be the next booming area in the next 50 years”.

Forecasting involves calculation, and yet, 360 Inspiration implies that emotion is what drives us…

“Each of us has these two sides: our brain both is rational and emotional. You cannot only live on the rational side: you need the emotional to understand the rational. The companies are also bodies, rational and emotional, and for me personally, trend is awareness. I never use the word trend – it’s too much about consumerism and marketing. For me it’s just awareness, because if you are aware, you are prepared to act rationally, and be quicker”.

What is the future of design?

“I remember that Josephine Green said that what marketing was in the 20th century, design will be in the 21st century. I believe that. I believe we are taking over, not by using billboards or newspapers like marketing did, but we are now taking over spaces, buildings, we are completely reshaping the meaning of the places in cities. We are witnessing the revitalization of cities, preservation of old buildings. We have to do something with it, because every centimeter of the land we have in our big cities is now very expensive. Creatives are moving into the old industrial buildings – the creative industry is taking over the old industry, and this is wonderful”.

Something like our Staklopan factory?

“Yes! I am involved in the Dutch design week in Eindhoven, and I also went to Poland, and I saw that prices for a lot of forgotten industrial places rise when designers come in. The developers are very happy because those places become kind of legendary. It’s like the touch of design is already giving them a good price!”

Do you have some advice for designers and design enthusiasts?

“We have to remember that we have a completely different generation coming behind us, and kids are redefining everything. I will not give them any structural advice, I can only say: follow your heart, be in love in what you do and be passionate about it. Try to really achieve your goal, and try to make as many connections as possible. If you don’t have a network, you will be nothing; you have to have a network, and the more you connect with people outside the design world, the better. If you have to, talk to surgeons, doctors, scientists… Every piece of information from them can enrich your focus on design. And don’t focus only on lamps, chairs and tables – make completely new ways to help people in their lives.”

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Dear design friends, Belgrade is engraved in my heart in many ways. First of all, the people - so open and interested. Than the wonderful soft organization of the event - one of the very best I ever attended. The super building. The joy to be with my dear fried Ross Lovegrove on stage and to meet Karim Rashid. All this together was unforgettable and please invite me again!

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