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How to identify trends: signals & patterns 💫

Why do you need to identify trends?

If you want to drive innovation into your business, you may want to know what signals to observe. Identifying trends is a process that involves ‘connecting the dots’, understanding which signals create a pattern that can indicate a change in people’s needs, desires, or expectations. By observing and analysing signals and patterns, we can identify the hidden changes around us. Much like sailors and ancient Greeks needed to look at the stars and study the constellations to define their next direction, identifying trends will help you inform your future decisions towards innovation.

In fact, you will discover in this article that detecting signals and patterns to identify trends can be pretty similar to finding constellations (no previous astronomy knowledge is needed 😜).

How to identify trends with signals & patterns

What are trends, signals and patterns?

Let's take a step back! Trends manifest when there is a change in the behaviour or attitude of people. As we explained beforehand, through the process of observing the past and understanding the present, we will be able to inform our decisions in the future.

“The key aspect in recognizing a trend is to look for signs that some aspect of human behavior is changing. “ — Henrik Vejlgaard, Anatomy of a Trend, 2008

What is a SIGNAL?

A signal is a manifestation of change. It can be exemplified with a product, service, behaviour, or attitude that is different from previously ones.

⭐ You can imagine each signals as ‘stars’.

What is a PATTERN?

Patterns are the repetition of signals. It can be identified when people repeat behaviours, attitudes, and preferences. To spot them, it means to “connect the dots” towards potential future opportunities, finding patterns will lead to identify trends.

✨ If we consider signals to be stars, then the patterns are constellations. 🤯

But, what causes these changes?

Unfortunately, we are not here to explain how our universe is in constant motion 😉, but to better understand the universe of signals and patterns, you must also consider the drivers of change.


They are the factors that are motivating the change in people’s behaviours, and they can manifest in two ways:


Disruptive changes that have sudden reactions or consequences.


Progressive and gradual changes that can have an impact for a long period of time.

How to identify trends?

If you wonder or worry about the future of your business, product, service, career, you name it, you need to start by collecting signals (stars ⭐) that are appearing around.

🤓 Stargazing: collect your signals

Start observing your surroundings and your customers’ or users', understand what is happening now.

Collect any type of information that can be a signal that something is changing, for example: a new product from a lead competitor or a new technology available. News, articles, or reports that communicate shifts (i.e. the life expectancy in 2030) or triggers (example: News about the latest anti-COVID measures).

Find as many signals as you can, do not stop to check if each of them is relevant now, just keep your eyes open and keep collecting signals. 👀

⚠️ Make sure you organize your information (saving links is not enough 😂), define your system, create, tags, topics, sources to easily find your signals.

Here you can find a Notion template that we use to collect and organize information, and inform decisions for different products and services, we use this template with clients like Colvin, Altima, and others. 😉

To keep track of your process to identify trends and make your research fun, we designed this Miro board for you 💕, duplicate it and start identifying your trends.

Once you found your signals that something is changing, get started with the following actions.

👉 Bring the best 5 to the Miro board. Make sure you add:

✅ What is it?

✅ How is it relevant for our users/business?

✅ The link of the resource

✅ An image of the change

✨ Find Constellation: search for patterns

Find Constellations: look for patterns. Start by discussing what changes you have found, then see how you can group them and identify the common underlying topic that connect your changes. Not all of these changes can have an impact! Place the changes you found on the scale to measure if they have zero or maximum impact on your users. Example with the changes identified of: Accessibility, Universal/Human centered design, 'All in one' remote platforms, Senses experiences (audio, touch, visual), NFTS and New ways to spend time after the pandemic.

Now it's time to find the constellations that can guide your decisions.

What changes do we have?

👉 Discuss the signals of change you have found and add any other insights that come up during the discussion.

How can we group them?

👉 Identify the changes that are similar to others, and try to connect them with each other.

What could be the impact of these changes? How is it impacting our users?

👉 For each of the changes, add the impact that they will have on the users.

👉 Then, prioritize the topics you identified from:

😶 Zero impact

🥳 Maximum impact

💫 Remember that the most important changes for your business are the ones that impact your users the most!

🌌 Find a Direction: identify trends

You found constellations of change like Cassiopeia, or maybe the Big Dipper, now what? It’s time to find the trends that will give a direction to your future decisions 😎. As we discovered in one of our previous articles, trends are the result of a change in your users' needs or behaviours.

Find a direction (identify trends). Identify the main topic of your pattern and see how your business and users could be impacted by it. Then, bring the main references of signals of change that are connected to that pattern. Example of identifying the trends of: Accessibility in design, Remote ‘all in one’ platforms and Universal/Human centered design.

👉 Bring the most impactful changes you found and connect them to the resources you had at the beginning.

👉 Identify the major changes that your users will have to go through with the trends you identified.

🧭 Your trend compass: next steps

Wait, you are almost there! Before you leave:

Now that you have identified your trends, bring them in this step with their references, images and why they matter. Then, define the next actions you will take!

💫 Bring the main trends you identified with their references, images and why they matter.

🚀 Define the next steps will you take!

You did it! We know that informing your future decisions it's reassuring, but now it's time to find how to activate your trends. Have a look at our article 'How to activate trends to inform future decisions '😎.

Did you like what you read?

Do you need further information?

Do you have any questions? 🤓

We will be happy to meet you! 🎉


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