Aafje Nijman -trendwatcher-


When you look at photos taken in the 1970s, you notice all kinds of things. What we wore was different, the hairstyles back then now look ridiculous, and we were involved in other kinds of things, too. When taken together, the ways we express ourselves, the priorities we set, and what we are involved in are what determine the spirit of the times. For producers, it is important to know what the spirit of the times is. This way, they can make sure that their products respond to what people want. Aafje Nijman, a consultant in visual marketing, helps companies with this.

“Playing with the spirit of the times”

Aafje Nijman studied at the Academy for Industrial Design which is now known as the Design Academy in Eindhoven. She then did work experience at De Bock & Dekker, a consulting agency for visual marketing. After completing her work experience, she became employed by the same company. When the company moved to another region, she decided to start her own agency. "By then, I had a family, so commuting so far would have been a problem,” she says. Bureau Aafje Nijman, which specialises in various areas ranging from interior design to flowers, plants and gardens, was founded in Utrecht in 2001. Her activities include concept development, product line advice, and trend developments, but she also gives workshops and lectures.

People not directly involved in trend development find it difficult to understand how trends actually develop. "To find this out, you have to analyse the spirit of the times,” says Aafje. "Right now, for example, we are in a different frame of mind than we were five years ago or than we will be five years from now. By then, we’ll be making other choices and we’ll have other priorities. To get a general picture of trends, you have to pay attention to what people are talking about, what there is to see on TV, and how things are being designed to accommodate these aspects. Right now, we’re in an era of contrasts. We see products that display a contrast as being up to date. A good example of this is the concept of healthy frozen microwave dinners. We also see our society becoming more feminine. In the 1980s, women’s fashions imitated men’s with their shoulder pads and masculine suits. These days, men are using makeup and skin care products. At the same time, the advent of the real he-man is on the horizon. Even this is double-sided."

Trends are also important for the horticultural sector, emphasises Aafje. “Naturally, the product itself has to be able to appeal to a large target group. Also important, however, is how you market the product. The tone of voice, the style, and the look you use to appeal to consumers have to respond to what they think is important at that time. A product in line with the spirit of the times sells better. Health and wellness, for example, are currently hot items. So it’s a good idea to emphasise how healthy it is to have flowers and plants in your living and working environments." Many businesspeople may have tried to implement this idea before. "But it may not have caught on then because it wasn’t done at the right time. It simply has to relate to the spirit of the times.”

Aafje is involved in various projects. “I’m gathering trend information for promotional organisations such as the IBC, I’m holding brainstorming sessions with suppliers of horticultural products to develop a new concept, I’m helping garden centre chains to introduce the idea of thinking in terms of style groups, and I’m giving workshops, lectures and presentations. So I do a lot of different things." Aafje can speak with much enthusiasm about her profession. When asked what fascinates her about it, she replies, “When I look around, I just can’t help but draw conclusions and discover relationships. I’m busy analysing all day long. Trend development is a sum of everything you see. What I really enjoy doing is applying this to the development of communications intended for promising products." Aafje frequently changes her own style. "I admire a woman like Madonna who can develop a new image for herself time after time. And whatever it is, it’s always perfect!"