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Predict the future

Rhizome selects a trend-forecasting agency from hell who write brand strategies from nightmares

This is part of a series of articles about creative online subversion, #HackYourFuture, on Dazed Digital. A different guest-editor will discuss a different discipline everyday. This is part of online art organisation Rhizome's Heather Corcoran's comment on artists, hacking and action. As part of today's #HackYourFuture Art Takeover Rhizome's Heather Corcoran selected K-HOLE - a trend forecasting report released as a PDF - respectively on USBs inside dog tags, Livestrong bracelets and launched alongside a hand-made, organic, aluminum-free deodorant.

With their reports, K-HOLE are fleshing out the new language of trend forecasting – developed by marketeers and branding agencies to ascertain trends, then contextualize and capitalize on them. The language in these corporate reports is often laced with hyperbole and the anxiety of a post-internet culture – fitting, then, that K-Hole’s own latest is titled The K-Hole Brand Anxiety Matrix. It’s a language that combines visuals and text in a way K-Hole have described is ‘beguiling’ to them.

Their reports are not quite a subversion, or a co-opting of the corporate trend forecast lexicon – rather an exploration or an extension of this new communication format. It sits well in an internet culture where emerging ‘vibes’ are often quicker to articulate with images, or widely-circulated memes, than waiting for textual language to catch up. A trend report, full of images and new word-hybrids, is a fitting tool for expression in a fast-moving culture – why should brands be the only one to use them? Here they speak to us about the identification of strategies and pseudo-science:

Dazed Digital: As artists, how do you approach trend forecasting, and why do you think it's important for you to participate in this realm through your practice?
K-Hole: Of the five members of K-HOLE, only two or three of us identify as artists — but we also identify as writers, brand strategists, designers, developers, assistants, etc. We approach trend forecasting as individuals trying to make sense of the world around us: identifying strategies that are being enacted onto us and the way that decisions are made in the world. Then we can react to these strategies accordingly.

DD: How do you conduct the research that goes into your report - how much of it is science versus pseudo-science versus intuition?
K-Hole: Our reports emerge from personal and observational research. Like traditional branding, almost none of our research involves science.

DD: How accurate is trend forecasting in this manner? Does it matter?
K-Hole: Trends forecasts are structured to end on an actionable note: "What this means for your brand." So the question isn't if it's accurate, but who is it accurate for? In a corporate context, trend forecasting is accurate only if it helps you make money. Since we’re working outside the corporate sphere, our forecasts are successful if they make you just a little bit more confident in your grasp of culture, or a little less unhinged.

DD: What's next?
K-Hole: Moving beyond the PDF format, we’ll be working on a large scale project researching the current state of the American Dream.