November 3, 2022 •
The Tangible Intangible
In an uncertain world, it’s all about experience and mood
Trendwatching has dramatically changed over the past few years. Whereas I used to walk a market and after a while, easily be able to isolate an emerging color story, or product category, the terrain has greatly shifted.
Instead of trying to attach themselves to a larger design trend, both makers and shops — as well as makers who maintain retail spaces — are seeking to differentiate themselves as they strike a chord with as many customers as possible. So, rather than 10 gift and stationery vendors each releasing a pretty pocket notebook range, 10 makers will share their perspective on a more elusive concept — say, home — with heartfelt yet wildly varying effects. Just like a strong assortment of Thinking of You cards, no two will be alike except in the broader category they share, with a larger function of bringing clarity and connection to sender and recipient alike.
The American mindset has changed too. According to the Bazaarvoice 2022 Shopper Preference Report, 98% of consumers said there are certain cases where they would buy something based on experience vs. price, even with rising inflation. “And 93 percent say a positive shopping experience is important to them,” the report noted. “Shoppers want to feel like they’re part of something, and creating a great experience helps drive affinity and loyalty to your brand.”
In the case of stationery, that experience often boils down to feeling seen, and bringing these positive qualities to our relationships and loved ones. If this all sounds complicated, sit back and let my abecedary break it all down!
A. Assertion. This colorful enamel pin reminds all who see it to “Pick yourself first,” helpful advice to those getting used to speaking their truth.
B. Biodegradable. Single-use plastics are disdained, and accordingly, personal care ingredients and processes are now under the microscope. Makers are responding with offerings like these sheet masks, which are made of cupra, an organic, biodegradable cotton material that’s typically discarded.
C. Conceptual. On the avant-garde end of stationery, cards are becoming anthropomorphized, living breathing objects that care for loved ones when we physically can’t. It’s an interesting direction just begging to be explored.
D. Diversity. Want to increase your customer base, encourage repeat sales, and be a welcoming haven? Try to ensure that your card wall reflects the faces, backgrounds and lifestyles of most individuals viewing it.
E. Energy. Do you want to sell intangible qualities like calm, love or clarity in physical form? Then consider all that falls under the powerful crystal umbrella.
F. Flow. This state arises when energy meets inspiration; the mindful, creative concept has birthed not just a desirable approach to life, but a magazine and lifestyle too, complete with licensed stationery.
G. Group Efforts. Collaborations, often demarcated with an ‘x’ as seen above, became sparse during lockdown, but have begun reappearing. It’s always interesting to see what arises when great minds think alike!
H. Home. Here’s another concept I’m seeing repeatedly referenced and explored, with exquisite, thoughtful results.
I. Introspection. Some look outward at the larger world to make sense of it, others seek to go within to become their best selves.
J. Just Color. With all this reflection and conceptualization, to say nothing of current events, sometimes the beautifully decorative — as in, the very colorful — is the ultimate palate cleanser.
K. Kind of Unhinged. Perhaps the world we see depicted in the media has enabled zany antics to become more mainstream — and perhaps even appropriate and understandable.
L. Luxe Craft. Upscale, design-driven pursuits are about more than just being handmade or feeding a passion. These yield pristine results and a polished experience step by step, justifying the higher prices for some.
M. Manifest. This heady concept is currently running rampant through pop culture, and appropriately stationery. The larger goal is to use thoughts, feelings, and beliefs to bring something to physical reality.
N. Neon. This vibe tips its hat to the 1980s as it struts the ‘22 couture catwalks; presented in the gift and stationery arena, it’s both stylish and fun.
O. Original. Some of the freshest voices I’m seeing aren’t afraid to take a risk; this young maker for example presents Christian-themed offerings from her less traditional, more artful perspective.
P. Patches. Want to calm down, feel more awake, or maybe it’s CBD you’re seeking? These smartly packaged patches promise just that, in 12-hour, plant-powered, vegan form.
Q. QR Codes. These have become omnipresent in the larger world, so it’s only fitting that they grace stationery too. In our world, they generate a custom song to delight yet another sense.
R. Retro, Updated. This nostalgic trend receded for a few years, but is definitely back, summoning the greatest hits of the past, repurposed for today’s aesthetics.
S. Somewhat Homespun. With Cottagecore and Coastal Grandmother impacting the gift and home domain, the rustic and the simple also make a showing in stationery.
T. Time for Riso. With a little help from the neon trend, risograph printing is getting more and more attention.
U. Unsoiled. When a plague is present, cleanliness is extra-desirable. Thus the most personal of personal cleanliness becomes tantamount; this product turns toilet paper into an ultra-sanitary wet wipe, with all-natural ingredients of course!
V. Victoriana. This is truly an evergreen trend since its austere approach is always an interesting counterpoint to current times. These days it offers a welcome alternative to minimalism.
W. Weighted and Elated. When gentle pressure, like a hug, is applied to the body, better sleep and relaxation result. Meanwhile vendors like this one also tackle the eyes and add upbeat color.
X. Xtremely Mod. There’s a good reason why this particular design segment feels so suddenly relevant; it references the last enormous cultural upheaval, the Sixties.
Y. Yuletide Simplicity. The winter holiday market always offers scores of design trends, most of them somewhat flashy, but when Christmas goes minimal, the meaning behind the season often comes to the forefront.
Z. Zodiac. This is not the first time ‘z’ has stood for zodiac in this feature, but when makers like this one present these offerings as its own bona fide category, you know this theme’s got legs — to say nothing of claws!