IT'S WHAT YOU'D LIKE TO BE

My Journalist self follows fabulous people into fabulous places.

Tag: commercialism

You’d Like To Be Peter Firth

“It was enthusiasm that did it, rather than any degree of talent.”

Probably a bit of both. Senior Journalist Peter Firth from the Future Laboratory – one of the world’s most renowned and respected trend forecasting consultancies speaks of the beginning of his career in the most understated fashion. Citing the article “Doormen in it for the kicks” in the Guardian as his first commissioned piece, having just graduated from London School of Journalism, his articles can be seen in Total Guitar Magazine, Songlines and the Hackney Gazette. But it wasn’t until he joined LS: N Global of the Future Laboratory, did he witness exponential personal and career growth. On some occasion his words are heard by an audience of 400-500 people including clients from Microsoft and Harrods in Tate Tanks. Firth in a telephone interview speaks to me about what the futures industry entails.

Firth has given Trend Briefings to brands including Marks & Spencer, Estée Lauder, Microsoft and Harrods, examining consumer behavior through case studies, quantitative data and expert analysis.

F: “Future Laboratory has developed a reputation for being accurate.”

Trend forecasting as an industry seems to resonates with the ideas of many contemporary cultural theorists. Michel Foucault, Friedrich Nietzsche and Pierre Bourdieu to name a few have all made their prophecies on what the western societies could become and underpinned the principles that fuel the subsequent commercial affluence. In Firth’s work however, it is not as taste driven or theoretical like you’d except. Firth’s predictions are based on empirical data, the results of think tanks, and a congruence with the opinions of industry experts such as Stephan Sigrist from Wire and Steve Vranikis the creative director of Google. These foundations underpin the accuracy and confidence in the trend future forecasting.

F: “The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” Firth quoting William Gibson.

Tactfully exploring social shifts and human behavioural patterns, LS: N Global clears the visions of the lucky and selected few who bare the privilege of seeing life from the other side of the microscope, by subscribing LS :N Global‘s reports – some of which are often adorned hilarious and intentionally self-referential and peudo-scientific titles such as the upcoming one in New York called “The Polarity Paradox”.

A sneak peak into the near future

LS: N Global present their briefings to clients such as Harrods, Marks & Spencer and Harvey Nichols which for members of the public are trends’ driving force and taste makers. When asked about the balance between finding/forecasting trends and creating trends when reporting to clients of such profile:

F: “There’s a self-perpetuating quality about these things. When you think that something is happening you will have an selective eye. When you buy an iPhone, other people start buying iPhones and when you start smoking, other people seem to start smoking. It’s not that more people are smoking but it’s just that you notice it more. Things to watch out for. The way we get around that is by having a network of forecasting. It’s not just me on my own forecasting because we are a range of diverse thinkers.”

N: “What is it like to forecast trends knowing that what you like may be very subjective to your own taste. Do you fight the tendency to project your own taste into the work in hopes that it will turn into something big?”

F: “Actually I had this discussion with our visual editor a while ago. Certain things are subjective. Seeing the emergence of certain design over the course of certain time, you can talk things over chronology, rather than taste. One of our jobs is to find stuff, which can be fashion, a poster, an advertising campaign, something about the consumers’ way of living, that we can create and mimic.”

Since April 2012, Peter has been technology publication T3’s futurology columnist, examining the big questions surrounding our long-term relationship with technology.

Firth on BBC World Service, "The Hub", December 2012 Discussing the future of human communication, as well as the first wifi linked communication between two people's pulses.

Firth on BBC World Service, “The Hub”, December 2012 Discussing the future of human communication, as well as the first wifi linked communication between two people’s pulses.

Trend forecasting has definitely taken journalism into new grounds as the newly “taken off” form of journalism aims to drive commercialism within a codependent club as oppose to the old fashioned extra extra that’s just in. We are definitely witnessing a divisive industry which trades information about who wears what, what sells where, where likes whom secretively and hyped-up more than stock prices.

N: It seems to me that your work is closely tied in with commercialism and your findings are targeted at the middle class, which casts out a big sector of the bigger society. Do you ever feel that your work may carry some social responsibilities? Do you ever feel a bit detached from traditional journalistic work?

F: There are a lot of independent factors that weigh in here. First of all you become a journalist, you kind of want to believe in free speech and the idea that the public has the right to know about what goes on internationally, their locale and all the rest of that, which is what I completely agree with. It is kind of interesting to be on the business side. Essentially it’s not doing the same thing. It’s the same set of skills, you are doing it to empower organizations, which is kind of strange, but those organizations are not always the big and frighting ones, quite often some of them are small design studios and starting up ad agencies, people that are doing interesting work, the work itself might have an element of social responsibilities to it. That’s definitely an angle. Also that form of journalism is taking off. You are using the skills of a journalist to pursue other angles.

The angle I should take with my skills learned in school as a journalist may not be as arbitrary as I might believe. The girl who makes my coffee in Shoreditch Grind calls herself a writer/blogger/journalist. I’d imagine becoming a barista was probably not the best angle for her.

LS:N Global senior journalist Peter Firth explored the topic of Millennial luxury consumers with 22-year-old Amber Atherton, founder of online jewellery and accessories boutique MyFlashTrash.

“You are here because of your enthusiasm.”

It took me 3 weeks and at least 10 emails to get Mr Firth on the phone. Judging by the sound quality, he was talking to me on a mobile phone while walking in the cold streets of London. As a journalism student who has yet to get an article commissioned, and I know I am not alone on this, I had to ask what it takes to break into the industry.

N: There’s this tweet of yours, “There’s often a no before a yes.” I certainly had a bitter sweet taste of what that quote entails. Can you tell us about your experience in some of the hardships or disappointments on the road to success?

F: I know what you mean. I think it’s really tough to try and break into journalism. It’s kinda infamous. You know what, it’s probably even tougher now than it was when I was trying in 2009 or 2010. I think it’s just about perseverance. I think you should just TRY (X5), that’s how I sort of did it. I started as an intern at LS: N Global and it was kind of position swoop and I guess it was enthusiasm which did it rather than any degree of talent. At the beginning for a certain time, I didn’t particularly believe in my talent, or actually I think I did, but it was that [enthusiasm] which was attractive. Remember I said “you are here because of your enthusiasm”.

The next LS: N Global Trend Briefing – The Polarity Paradox takes place in New York on March 19. What does this mean for brands, stores and products? What does this mean for Peter Firth? And what does this mean for student journalists? I’d certainly want to be him, especially on that day.

Report by Nate

Follow Peter Firth on Twitter @PJFirth


LS: N GLOBAL

The Future Laboratory

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You’d Like to Be Carl-David Granbäck

Humans all need to be rescued. As I am writing this feature about a person who lives life defying hegemony in all forms, it brings me incredible shame that I have been so absorbed in commercialism and flunked in life by never challanging its possibilities. I’ve had the pleasure to study alongside this gentleman, who despite all other accomplishments, will be an inspiration to many for his courageous and extraordinary ventures into a world we may never be able to see for ourselves. He tells stories that will make us question. His camera bestows photographs of nature and culture, which are such works of art that will melt the hearts of the cynical. He will rescue us by rewinding us back into innocence. I will let his own words tell who he is:

“My name is Carl-David Granbäck and I am a 28 year old guy from Sweden.”

Granback in France. Days in after his cycle journey from Sweden to Africa. Photo by Granback

Granback in France. Days in after his cycle journey from Sweden to Africa. Photo by Granback

“In 2009, I embarked on a great journey and cycled across South America, from Tierra del Fuego in Argentina all the way up to the Caribbean Coast of Colombia.

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Dinner never looked so good! Granback on his previous cycle journey “South America by Bike“. Janurary 2010. Photo by Granback

Ever since I came back from that trip, I’ve felt a strong desire to get back in the saddle and head out into the unknown. So this time I have decided to cycle from Sweden to Africa!

Granback in Copenhagen, days into "Sweden to Africa" by bike. Photo by Granback

Granback in Copenhagen, days into “Sweden to Africa” by bike. Photo by Granback

With this blog, I want to share my experiences from the road with the rest of the world, and hopefully make you feel inspired!”

Granback's Photo of Him self at crossroads Featured in National Geographic

Granback’s photo of himself at crossroads Featured in National Geographic

 Granback’s South American triumph began with a question that needs not asking. In his words,

“I simply do it because I can, because I have the opportunity and because I think it’s a great challenge! But of course there’s more to it… Our planet is an amazing place! There is a lot of beautiful nature and interesting cultures to experience. In comparison to the size of Earth, and everything there is to see, a lifetime is actually quite short, and that’s why I want to travel and explore places and cultures when I have the opportunity to do it.”

He may not have anticipated the impact it had on him upon returning to civilization, where he was welcomed and cited by fellow adventurers as their inspiration to cycle. Some even followed his routes for their travels. The bravery to search for a life that won’t be bound by fear is what Granback has accomplished and he certainly has reached the sublime.

Granback at 6,542 m above sea level on the top of Sajama, Bolivia. "South America by Bike" July 2010. Photo by Granback

Granback at 6,542 m above sea level on the top of Sajama, Bolivia. “South America by Bike” July 2010. Photo by Granback

A year since his triumphant return from South America, I met up with him in Gothenburg and relived his memory of this significant venture. 4 years had passed since our youthful time in university, Granback seemed more responsible of his role in the world. There had been talks on farming techniques, cycling and fitness as well as reading. Playing back some of his photos on TV, it’s incredibly melancholy to see him indulging the beauty of nature as I have never imagined that imagery could exist outside television. One of books that he showed me was one about cultivating a farm that could be self-sufficent in a miniscule civilization. Of course he brushed off my suggestion of making plans to make it happen and credited such ideas of less reliance on industrialization and commercialization as “interesting”, showing immense devotion to a life driven by goodwill and environmental conservation.

A reminiscing night in Gothenberg with Granback. October 2011. Photo by Nate

A reminiscing night in Gothenberg with Granback. October 2011. Photo by Nate

The world was not shocked when Granback made the announcement of leaving tire marks from his birth place Sweden to Africa last year. Having aquired survial skills that put Bear Grylls to shame, the world welcomed Granback’s return to a life he knows best and we envy the most – a life of freedom, self-exploration and nature.

“Whether it might scare you to get hooked on the feeling of travelling this way and have difficulties returning to a normal life, then I’d question that big time. I mean, after all, life is all about doing what you like and what makes you happy! And I think that if you can motivate whatever activity by exactly that, then what you have in mind won’t pose a problem for you in future.”

Granback in Sahara Desert. Janurary 2014. Photo by Granback

Granback in Sahara Desert. Janurary 2014. Photo by Granback

Granback was in Senegal when we had our last conversation regarding my request to use his images. He said, “Of course – you’re welcome to use whatever you want!” Can you imagine a more perfect man? As of today, he is over 6000 kilometers in his journey and has covered Demark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Gibraltar, Morocco, and Senegal as well as everything else in between. Let’s follow his bike marks now, shall we?

Wouldn’t you like to be Carl-David Granbäck? Do you dare to be Carl-David Granbäck? I believe I speak for him when I say this, Yes you can!

See more of Granback on his original blog “Sweden to Africa by Bike

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Granback rock climbing in France. Aug 2013. Photo by Granback

Follow Granback on Sweden to Africa by Bike here!