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Decoding Next: Five trends you need to know – emoji candy, functional furniture, grown-up gaming, female expression and hyper-targeting

sparks & honey tracks trends by drawing on dozens of data sources, hundreds of scouts and cultural strategists in our London, New York and Los Angeles offices. In March alone, we covered 750 signals with 138 specifically identified for the UK. Here are the top five trends we observed.

Fluid, functional furniture will save us

Two weeks ago, Londoners scanning the news read that living rooms will soon vanish from London homes. But it’s not just here. By 2017, the World Health Organization estimates the majority of people living in urban centres will live in smaller homes. With space and money already at a premium, this trend should reassure.

Stepping up to save us from dwindling square metres, Ikea has plans to introduce smart furniture with multiple functions, starting with lamps that wirelessly charge gadgets. Marcus Engman, head of design for Ikea Sweden also predicts the death of storage and more fluid furniture.

It makes sense that Ikea is encouraging functional living, but did you know that Virgin is too? Its new hotel in Chicago features rooms packed with multi-functional surprises including: a cushioned, bucket seat attached to the bed, a Bluetooth soundbar, a clock that projects the time onto the ceiling and a swivelling cafe table and chair (only £140/night).

When complex problems are being solved with simplicity we call this simplexity, a bursting aesthetic, but also lifestyle trend.

Hyper-targeting is about to really hit home for media companies

There’s always too much to take in at SXSW, but, this year, one story was on the lips of anyone from above-the-line or media companies: Google has started an irreversible television revolution.

Google Fiber was announced a few years ago in the U. and there have even been talks to launch it in Britain, but this month SXSW guests tasted what Kansas City, Provo and Austin already enjoy: internet 100 times faster than standard broadband, and only advertising you might want to see. It’s only in the US right now, but this combination of turbo internet and the most hyper-targeted advertising television has ever seen will mean spending less on guesswork media demographics, like Super Bowl ads, and allow brands to get more intimate with customers, and hopefully more creative.

Last week Facebook revealed it is talking with publications – including Buzzfeed, National Geographic, and The New York Times – to let people read their content without leaving Facebook. Publications will share ad revenues and we will only see one ad. One!

If you’re creating ads or selling them, both of these shifts will impact your business.

Unsexualised female expression

One of the trends we track is called Power Woman. This month we saw significant evidence of it across traditional and social media.

To court more women, Vice will be launching Broadly, its first female-focused channel this spring. Run by women, including ex founding editor of Jezebel Tracie Egan Morrissey (pictured above), the channel will feature stories on politics, culture, lifestyle, sex and fashion. Time Inc. also launched Mimi a beauty platform designed to read like a constant stream of chatter.

In social media #freethenipple is still going strong throughout Europe. A tide of posts emerged from Iceland last week and when brave users were trolled, i-D magazine helped to fight back. Even the French singer Soko chimed in, tieing off her European tour in London with a sold out, very free, #freethenipple show.

If your brand touches 50 per cent of this planet, you might not get naked, but women are directing a whole new unsexualised expression. Celebrate it like Cannes will this year with its new Glass Lion award.

Gaming is growing up

Another SXSW story we picked up was the emerging genre of ‘world games.’ The video game landscape is maturing to include stories that break stereotypes and take us on global, diverse, highly-designed adventures. We call this armchair exploration.

Cook Inlet Tribal Council presented a new vision at SXSW to make new kinds of games to attract new kinds of gamers after success with Never Alone: the story of an Iñupiaq girl and her fox as they romp through Alaska, teaching you about Native culture.

We also noted that the London creators of Monument Valley, an ‘illusory adventure of impossible architecture and forgiveness,’ are bringing their simple, intuitive design skills to the industry of automotives, having been hired to redesign car dashes for Mercedes Benz.

My emoji mania

Last but not least, the most popular trend we tracked this month was how emojis are enjoying the mass commercial spotlight. In our hyper culture lives, we crave ways to express our intimate emotions. We call these new language systems “new semantics”.

It’s been 32 years since the first emoticon but over the last 30 days, we’ve seen an explosion of incredibly playful emoji campaigns, keyboards and apps.

Mentos unveiled an ‘ementicons’ campaign (pictured above) illustrated by Genevieve Gauckler, using the candy as the centre of each emoji and created a custom emoji keyboard for fans (BBH London).

Ikea released a charming emoji app to ‘ensure universal love and understanding in your home.’

Burger King responded to online requests to bring back chicken fries by creating an emoji chicken fry keyboard (David Miami).

Can’t find the perfect emoji for your feeling?

You need a Hug app. Just hug your phone and the duration of the hug plus your personalised emoji becomes a cuddly, physical emoji.

Memoji Keyboard lets you create animated variations of popular emoji with your face.

Decoded Next is written and compiled by Alison Bracegirdle and Maxwell McBride Peterson

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