Few companies keep their fingers on the cultural pulse of web technology, design and trend development quite as firmly as PSFK, the online consultancy that began as two friends sharing their observations on cultural and consumer trends and ballooned into an international innovation company with offices across the globe and an inspiring blog. We caught up with one half of the founding team, Piers Fawkes, and got the low-down on what he does, how he does it, and, of course, where Piers likes to go on his holidays…
First up, what does PSFK stand for? What inspired you to start the business?
It was originally the initials (mixed up) of the founding writers (myself and Simon King). In fact, PSFK was a previous business I ran with Simon. I wasn’t expecting the ‘trends site’ project to go anywhere so I used the URL I still had to save me money buying a new one. Simon has long since departed and runs the fabulous fashion label London Denim.
So PSFK’s success came as a surprise then… Now it seems that not a day without something scintillating cropping up on your site – it’s up there with Boing Boing in our books. We were especially intrigued by the self-growing chair that appeared the other day. What are your favourite stories from the PSFK site over the past year?
We now have a lot of contributors and they all have different beats. With 10,000 articles on the site, it’s hard to put a finger on the best. Our content tends to cover advertising, arts & culture, design and web & technology. Saying that, we now have all the videos up of our previous six conferences plus our other smaller events here.
On January 30th, PSFK hosted the London Good Ideas Salon – a day-long discussion forum featuring dozens of trendsetting speakers from the like of Urban Junkies, Dopplr, and Penguin. (Mr & Mrs Smith sponsored the event by wrangling special delegate rates from luxury London pads Blakes Hotel and Brown’s Hotel). What did you hope to get out of it?
PSFK’s aim is to inspire people to make things better. The event is a reaction to the doom and gloom that we find ourselves in. There are so many exciting ideas happening and we should all be inspired by the energy beneath the surface. Ideas in design, mobile, youth, collaboration, art, the internet and London itself. We created Good Ideas Salon London to share these ideas.
What were the highlights of the speaker line-up? Who were you most interested in hearing talk?
That’s a difficult question. We’ve been scanning the UK for great ideas for a while now for our site and our consultancy clients in places like Cupertino and Seoul. The event gave us the opportunity to invite some of the most inspiring minds we know to come and share their thinking. Speakers came from big organizations like the BBC and The Guardian and others from small independent creatives such as Christian Nold. All are worth listening to.
Design innovation, and its impact on the consumer, is a huge focus of PSFK’s What trends do you think we’ll be seeing over the course of 2009?
With sustainability being a concern, there’s a strong movement to balance form and functionality. One of the big trends that we’ve been following is adaptable design. Design that can change with your needs over time. We see good examples of this in furniture – for example a bassinet that can change to a chair then a desk as a child grows older. But we see this with tech design too.
Probably one of the most dramatic hotels I stayed in was the Ritz Carlton off Red Square in Moscow. It was charming, full of fantastic people, wonderfully voyeuristic (esp. with the wealthy Russians wheeling in), but you felt that they were robbing you at every turn. $40 for two coffees!
Yikes. I hope that was good coffee. Other than Moscow then, what’s your favourite destination at the moment?
I love everywhere I travel to. I am fortunate that my work allows me to travel. However, I’ve started to work-ate a little more. Last September I spent three weeks in Cadaqués and Barcelona in WiFi’d apartments. With my family in tow, it allowed me to mix work and leisure fairly simply.
What’s your insider scoop for anyone who goes there?
The mountains cut Cadaqués off from the rest of Catalonia so it remains a smaller hideaway for Barcelonians. It’s charming and although there is much building of new apartments, the geography keeps it all contained. I recommend the beach shack for seafood at about 4pm, on the walk to Salvador Dali’s house.
In a perfect world, who would be your ideal travel companion?
My son in 17 years’ time. He’s one and needs a little looking after right now. At 18 he can look after me!
Describe your perfect weekend away – where do you go, what do you where, what do you do, where do you eat?
Somewhere different with loved ones. I’m going to New Orleans in a couple of weeks and while there’s a very touristy side to the place – there’s also a fantastic dark, edgy and other-worldliness just a couple of blocks from Bourbon Street. The food is great, the music unique and the city has a carnival spirit in the air.
What’s next on your holiday wish-list?
An uncrowded deck with good food that I can get to by train. And I’ll probably return to Spain for a few weeks again in late summer…
For more PSFK insights, design news and zeitgeisty cross-cultural wisdom, check out Piers’s riveting trends blog.