A great way to understand the anatomy of a trend is to use the method of the Trend Levels. Let’s dive into these three levels so you’ll understand the building blocks of a trend.



Observing change through the lenses of these specific trend levels helps you analyse and understand change better. It provides a kind of trend anatomy and it allows you to have a deeper conversation on trends with others.

The difficulty is that there is no rigid consensus on a lot of terminology in the domain of trends, and the same goes for the labels of the trend levels. Some trend professionals use a division into mega, macro and microtrends, others use labels like market and consumer trends, and still others use classifications like short-term and long-term trends. 

As I am teaching this stuff to super diverse groups of people, from 18-year old students to seasoned innovation specialists, I chose to NOT use abstract words like macro or market. Because different people have very different associations with these words. I opted for describing the levels a more concrete way (well, as concrete as I could be): manifestations, values and forces.



So as I see it, you can only understand a trend when you have taken in all 3 perspectives:

Image showing the three levels of a trend.


⚡️ Forces

This level of a trend is about the forces that are driving the emergence of the trend manifestations and their underlying needs and values. Often referred to as the mega, long term or societal trend level, these forces go beyond the individual’s power and make their way into people’s lives slowly, gradually, almost imperceptibly. This includes forces like urbanisation, globalisation and a.i..


🫶 Values

This trend level is about the underlying values and needs related to the manifestations observed. It is often referred to as the macro, midterm or consumer trend. This is the core of a trend and shows what the manifestations actually mean to individuals or groups of people. What are shifts in desires, expectations and dreams? What mindsets and mentalities are emerging? This is all about values like transparency, connectivity and balance.


👀 Manifestations

Manifestations are the signals of change you can observe in the world around you. They are often referred to as the micro, short-term or market trend level. Manifestations of a trend can take a variety of forms, ranging from a confrontational art object to a new commercial service, from a novel product to new type of language. These manifestations are concrete and empirical evidence that a trend is already emerging.

A trend is built up on all three levels. The levels are interconnected, and there is no linear way that these levels influence each other.



Understanding these trend levels is essential if you want to become more skilled at doing trend research. Now it’s your turn to practice working with the trend levels.

Did you spot something new this week? In the newspaper, online, on the street, of which you thought: wow interesting, what is it? Good! Look it up again, because we are going to describe this signal on the three levels using the Trend Levels Canvas below.


A canvas to use to dissect the three levels of a trends

You can download this canvas and many more worksheets by buying the book ‘How to Research Trends’ and scanning the QR-code in it.


🌟 A manifestation like a 4D printer is a technological product innovation. But it also shows a need for self-producing and creation and it is driven by forces like digitalisation and globalisation. This culminates in a trend we might call “creative independence”.

🌟 Or, a manifestation might also be a news item about a whistleblower sharing about online data tracking and breaches by a company, which shows a growing concern for values like privacy and anonymity and a need for controlling your own data. This is driven by forces such as digitalisation and globalisation, and it shows a trend story emerging you could call “data aware”.


To wrap it up:

Fill in the Trend Levels Canvas and you will understand the information you gathered from different perspectives. I mainly use it during the analysis phase when clustering manifestations and when deep diving into the first draft of trend clusters. This way you can interpret why a certain change is happening right now.



Read my book for more in-depth information or contact me to for trend training or trend coaching sessions.