Global trendsetter finds her niche
A decade spent living out of suitcases has paid off for Adelaide graduate Kristina Dryza, who has built an international reputation for spotting the 'next big thing' in consumer trends.
At 25, Kristina Dryza was one of thousands of internet-savvy workers in London enjoying the fruits of success from the dot-com bubble. A year later, when that bubble spectacularly burst, she was cast out in the street.
"One minute as a strategist I was prized, the next I was a cost. But it was the best thing that ever happened to me, a real blessing in disguise because it set me on the right path," the former Adelaide resident said.
The year was 2003. Kristina, an Arts graduate from the University of Adelaide, had arrived in the British capital three years earlier, bitten by the travel bug and a desire to escape her home town for new horizons.
Armed with an arts degree of eclectic subjects, including anthropology (her major), Aboriginal cosmology, history and political philosophy, Kristina initially worked in branding and marketing before finding her niche in consumer trends.
"All I knew was that I loved people, society and ideas. Applying the attitudes, emotions and behaviours which drive global consumer trends into the development of new products and experiences was the perfect fit for me," she said.
Over the past 12 years Kristina has lived out of suitcases on projects in cities including Tallinn, Stockholm, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Mumbai and more recently Tokyo.
Along the way she has briefed global companies such as the Virgin Group, Microsoft, British Sky Broadcasting and advertising powerhouse JWT.
Today she is a regular contributor to the David Report, an on-line trend report on cutting-edge ideas which combines design, culture and business. She also co-hosts Likemind Tokyo, the creative network for design and pop culture in the city she has called home since early 2008.
Kristina travels the world interviewing experts and innovators in their field to gain an insight into the emerging social, cultural and consumer trends, and is a sought-after commentator on global urban culture, the future of consumerism and worldwide attitudes to significant events.
"My grand plan started coming together after I was made redundant in 2003," Kristina explained. "I had experience in branding and the digital field and I could see how this could be overlaid with the emerging market in consumer trends."
Pursuing her love for product design, she undertook courses in London and New York, which opened up other avenues for Kristina, including her current brief - working on a concept design for a first-class airport lounge in Tokyo.
Her job description - loosely termed a 'trend forecaster' - allows her to identify 'unmet needs' and express them in new products, services and experiences.
"I work with creative agencies in Tokyo, London and New York who are struggling to create the next big - or small - idea for their client. I help these agencies interpret and translate the context and emotions driving emerging consumer trends so they not only discover what's next, but also what's important."
What people value in Japan, however, can be very different from what people think is important in Europe or even Australia.
"Food is a classic case in point. In the United States, food is considered 'fuel' and consequently sold in a lot of petrol stations. In France, food is pleasure and in Japan it's all about perfection."
And while consumers in the West today place more emphasis on ethical and 'mindful' consumption of goods, there are still millions around the world who don't.
"It's only the cultures that have money and discretionary income that take into account how a product is made. For some cultures, hunting and gathering is still the primary spend of their emotion."
In defining the emotional needs that drive consumer trends, Kristina has relied heavily on her anthropology degree from the University of Adelaide.
"Anthropology is the study of people and everything that I have achieved in my career has come from what I learned in my degree," Kristina said.
"Having said that, I believe universities and schools need to encourage more right brain - intuitive - thinking because we need to think more laterally and accept there are often multiple answers and solutions to things.
"The other challenge for universities is to transfer knowledge into actions. It is no use equipping students with knowledge and hope, if they do not use this in a positive way. Until you have the actions, the universe will not change." ■
Kristina Dryza was the founding secretary of the Adelaide Alumni UK in London, a group for graduates of South Australian universities. She was elected a life member and is also a Business Ambassador for South Australia.
STORY CANDY GIBSON