Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Cool Hunting

I just finished reading "So Yesterday" by Scott Westerfield. He writes smart books for young adults. This one is about a cool hunter that finds the coolest shoes in the world. The shoes and his employer go missing and this leads him on a merry chase to find the kidnappers, or is it to find the maker of the shoes. The Westerfield books tend to be a fast read for me, but I enjoy them because he certainly doesn't talk down to his young adult reader. I might even say that he talks up. As an example, every so often Scott Westerfield puts in an aside as a short chapter with some facts that are both interesting and help to move the story along. These asides have caused me to do more research on the subjects of the book, I can't imagine a young reader incurious enough that they don't do the same.

The cool hunting in the book reminds me of "Bellwether" by Connie Willis about a corporate researcher that combines research on finding the bellwether, the person that the crowd follows, and chaos theory. The bellwether is the head sheep the other sheep follow, which tells you something of the humor and the tone that Connie Willis intends for the book. Willis peppers her novel with a lot of facts in a similar fashion (it's all about fashion, right?) to Scott Westerfield above. Connie Willis' supposition is that it is impossible to pinpoint the beginning of a fad, while Scott Westerfield has corporate America trying to drive the fads for their own purposes. Both authors feature the originators of the fads themselves, though Scott Westerfield has more respect for his "innovators" than Willis has for her "bellwether".

"Pattern Recognition" by William Gibson
also follows a cool hunter. The protagonist is actually allergic to fashionable things and valuable brands and uses this skill to pick the next big hit for her clients. She of course gets embroiled in a search for the creators of the "coolest" trend around - a film referred to only as the "footage". Gibson seems to imply the consumer culture, and art and marketing are all so interrelated as to be one in the same sometimes.

The whole concept of cool hunting has interested me for a while so I have collected an assortment of links to blogs that purport to do that very thing. Some are actually called Cool Hunting or The Cool Hunter, and there are others that I tend to group into the design, art and gadget categories. In no particular order: design*sponge, we make money not art, productdose, guerrilla innovation, mocoloco, inhabit, popgadget, and the can't-miss engadget.

Modern culture, consumerism, and marketing eventually dissolve into a frenzy of cool hunting and trend guessing whether it is clothes, houses, gadgets, or art, film or song. I like to try keep up.

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