Please describe your role.
WGSN is unique in that it covers both interiors and lifestyle trend forecasting. As Editor at WGSN Lifestyle & Interiors, I look after the latter. I oversee key directories such as technology, food & drink, experience design, hospitality and wellness. I am both an analyst and an editor – I write and research things myself, but I also manage an international team of writers who pitch and write stories for me on a daily basis.
Describe your average day.
A typical office day would include taking submissions from the writers and editing them so they fit with our tone of voice and include exactly what our clients need to know. Plus I research and write articles and reports myself – keeping updated on all of the blogs on social media that I follow. I’ll also visit exhibitions and shops in London to see what’s happening in real time on the market.
We also visit a lot of trade shows, so a lot of the time I’ll be waking up in a hotel somewhere in the world, taking photographs, talking to exhibitors and then writing everything up in the evening. Next week we’re at Milan Design Week, which is our biggest event of the year. September is also crazy for us because it’s The London Design Festival.
You got a First-class Degree in Design – What made you go down the journalism route?
When I was studying I much preferred the research side of the process to actually making the final product. After graduating I did an internship at Dezeen and soon after I copy-edited a book on architecture. It was a real crash course in writing, but it all came quite naturally to me.
I came in on a temporary basis and they kept me around – six years later I’m now an editor. It really was a big break for me.
How did you get where you are today?
When I graduated it was in 2009 –a time when there weren’t many jobs around, so I moved back home and I worked in a pub while I applied for jobs, basically anything that looked interesting that was related to design or writing. I did an internship at Timorous Beasties and Dezeen. Then I saw an assistant position at WGSN’s Homebuildlife (now WGSN Lifestyle & Interiors), which was just getting ready to launch. So I came in on a temporary basis and they kept me around – six years later I’m now an editor. It really was a big break for me.
What’s the most memorable project you’ve done?
We introduced Food & Drink as a specific section on our website a few years ago and I was in charge of that, along with the Head of Lifestyle & Interiors, Lisa White. We decided exactly how we wanted the section to look, and how we wanted our coverage to be – and ever since I’ve been the managing editor of that section, which is great because it’s so different to looking at design trends.
What are you working on right now?
The reports we do for the website are very general as they have to be relevant to all of our clients, and there are hundreds of different companies all with very different products. However, I’ve been involved in a lot more consultancy projects this year. Our consultancy arm is called WGSN Mindset and here we can really go into detail and target our information to the brand and their consumers in a lot more detail. It’s a very different way of working and I’m really getting more direct contact with the client and getting more direct feedback, which is brilliant.
In your opinion, what’s key to being successful in your job?
You need to have an editor’s eye on the trends that you’re picking up and filtering out the most interesting aspects of it. You’ll take a broad trend and apply it across various areas – so if we were looking at the rise of slow living, we’ll cover every aspect of lifestyle within that; technology, food, travel. We’ll tie it together in a big picture, so whatever our client makes, whether it’s bottled drinks or dog leads, they can find something within that trend that is useful for them.
Biggest fear for the industry?
Trend forecasting used to be an industry that no one really knew existed, and the word ‘trend’ was not a word that was used very often – but now you hear about trends constantly, reported in newspapers or trending on Twitter, everything is being referred to as a ‘trend’. Although it’s good publicity for us, it’s also a challenge because the word ‘trend’ can be interpreted as ‘fad’. There’s a danger this perception could devalue what we do, but I think we’ve become good at shining a light on what trend forecasting is – showing that there’s actually a lot of rational cultural commentary behind what we do. We’re not just saying, ‘You should make your dress in pink next season’, we’re saying, ‘Here are the key colours, and here’s our thinking behind it’.
What’s next for you?
Alongside lifestyle trends, I’ve recently started to cover technology trends too, which is an industry that really fascinates me. Many of the exciting things that are happening around the world at the moment are based around technology –it’s a really interesting area to work in right now.
What advice do you have for others looking to do something similar?
I know there are trend analyst courses out there, but you don’t necessarily have to go down that route. You can come into it as a journalist and learn about design, or you can come into it as a designer and learn how to write reports.
People think journalism is the same as trend forecasting – but they require very different abilities. It’s such a unique role and it really sets you up with such a diverse skill set.
Thank you Sarah for inspiring others to create their own career story.