The how and why of design trends can be hard to pin down. Trends reflect global and local events, grow out of specific movements or reflect wider global feeling, develop over several years or disappear within months. Some trends develop in reaction to previous trends: muted colours rise in popularity after a season of vibrant shades. Other trends reflect serious global events: as consume awareness of eco issues rises, consumer behaviour – ranging from where they spend to how they spend – changes to reflect that.

How do these facts change when the world faces a huge disruption? When almost every continent is gripped by one topic – COVID-19? The pandemic has brought the hospitality and leisure sectors across the world to a grinding halt. People in most countries face restrictions on how they meet, interact, eat, drink, shop, travel, relax and more. Global connections have largely gone online-only. For example tourists are blocked from visiting many countries. Also, international tours for artists, performers and other cultural influencers are largely cancelled. So, without this ebb and flow of social life, how will design trends develop?

We asked our audience of cruise interiors and hospitality creatives – designers, product suppliers, cruise line execs and more – how they thought the global pandemic would impact the development of trends. They could pick three potential answers. These were: styles will come and go as usual, trends will be more static and unexpected trends will emerge. Trend watching is our audience’s bread and butter and we wanted to know what they thought.

Trends will stay static

This was the least popular option, with only 14 percent of the vote. Although for many it may feel as though their lives are ‘on hold’, experts know that in fact people are forming new habits and developing new trends. For example, garden retailers across the UK, US, Canada and Russia have all reported a significant rise in seed purchases over the course of the global pandemic. It is possible to track that there has been a significant uptick in interest in gardening worldwide. It seems less likely that as people change their behaviours, their style and trend preferences will remain on hold, ready to pick up when ‘normal’ life resumes. How this will translate to the design trends of early 2020 – what will continue and what will be left behind – remains to be seen.

Styles will come and go as usual

This option nabbed a reasonably sized 32 percent of the vote. Experienced trendspotters know that even in the most unusual circumstances humans can be expected to act, well, human. Although people may not be experiencing the colour of 2020  splashed across the walls and furnishings of the hottest hotels, restaurants, venues and pop ups, many products available will have been designed far ahead of the pandemic. Consumers will still be experiencing popular colours, styles and finishes on clothes and homeware. Social media platforms such as Instagram allows fashions and styling to be disseminated to a large global audience. With this in mind, is it likely that trend development will follow usual patterns across 2020 and 2021?

Unexpected trends will emerge

The prediction that ‘unexpected trends will emerge’ garnered the largest percentage of the vote, with 55 percent. Consumers’ needs and desires have changed and brands have adjusted to meet these needs and desires. The boundaries of what constitutes a ‘safe environment’ have changed dramatically in light of COVID-19. Consumers have a new awareness  of hospitality elements such as sanitation, room ventilation, customer/passenger flow, customer/passenger capacity and more. These are not only customer needs but governmental regulations. This has lead to a significant shift in hospitality spaces, from marketing to layout and products.

Most consumers lives will have changed significantly too. For example those who now mostly work from home under lockdown will have experienced a different work/life balance. They may have shifted spending away from leisure activities to spending on the home or garden and may have picked up new hobbies. In short, the ingredients for new and unexpected trends to develop are all there. Our audience of designers, product designers and creatives will have already seen these societal changes impact their briefs and the demand for their products.

What do you think? How do you think COVID-19 will impact trend development?