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Artifacts: Managing the new now to build the next normal

By Mike Fox

A mid-year check-in on our 2020 trend projection: Conformity is dead. The formerly marginalized will become the majority, flipping social structures on their heads.


Our application for you and your business was to embrace the uncomfortable questions in society and find your niche in the tension. 

Josh Hild on Unsplash

At the beginning of the year, we used the trend-forecasting STEEP model to make the projection seen above for 2020. As we passed the halfway mark of this transformative year, we didn’t simply revisit this prediction, we were confronted by it. 

The world has changed dramatically since January, of which the progress and perils aren’t bubbling at the fringes, ignored or mislabeled as exceptions and outliers. They’re being reckoned with in real-time — inescapable and necessary — brought to us by tiny but revolutionary things: a lethal parasite plaguing the globe, and a phone’s camera lens. This is the upheaval of social order — historically routine, and yet, like nothing we’ve experienced before.

The complicity of convenience.

In our January projection, we insisted that businesses embrace the uncomfortable questions in our society. Six months later, the word “embrace” here already feels antiquated. It implies that discomfort is something you can grasp and let go of as your business sees fit. What 2020 has made abundantly clear is that if we are participants in a system that deprives people of health and equality then we don’t get to “embrace” that discomfort, we’ve always been in it. Refusing these conversations is to be complicit in the inequities that built the very structures being upended.

The responsibility of change.

In May, we wrote that brands should lead with vulnerability and that organizations have an awesome responsibility to impact the greater good. Consumers don’t just know this, they demand it. Companies are a collection of diverse resources that can action major change. The solutions to do so are often found when we reckon with the spaces we ignore. We can’t simply embrace the uncomfortable questions. We are required to answer for them. Is this an ethical proposal from a place of righteousness? Maybe. But it’s also cautionary. Choosing to opt-in and out at your organization’s convenience is just bad business.

The vigilance of today.

The job of Artifacts is to look at the sociocultural shifts driving deeper connections between people, brands, and businesses. In 2020, these patterns of change aren’t found in the margins. They’re right in front of us, galvanizing us in ways that are difficult, tragic, unyielding — and beautiful. We are surrounded by courage, action, and inspiration. Choosing to be silent, to be terrified, or worst of all, to be apathetic, is to willfully undermine your business and neglect the lessons of this moment. The STEEP model helps us forecast what’s to come, but we need to be vigilant in what’s going on right now. We are not innocent in the aforementioned complicity. We are dedicated to being present and listening to those who have felt unjust discomfort long before the spread of a virus or the circulation of a video. It’s not enough to embrace these challenges, we need to own our role in fixing them.

Photo Credit: Stephen T. Photography

The resilience of hope.

2020 has been a painful year, but pain is what shapes a soul. It strengthens our tenacity in the wake of struggle, both random and self-inflicted. But mostly, it anchors our hope, and hope endures. It’s what makes something feel right even when we’re drowned in uncertainty. What do you hope for in all of this tension and how can your business activate it and inspire it in others? This isn’t necessarily about having an answer, it’s having the strength to go find it. 


We all possess that strength. Hope is the most courageous thing we do.

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