One of my favorite to do with design is to go shopping. I don't have to buy anything to get the most out of the experience. I'm just looking for ideas.
Big box stores--like Michaels, Home Goods, or Target--anticipate the upcoming season. They keep track of what the next big trend is supposed to be and fill their stores months in advance with the hot colors, patterns, and styles for the next season. Right now, if you walk into one of these stores, you'll see merchandise on the shelves to keep you busy until Thanksgiving. If you do an art or craft (or have access to a wide variety of on trend vintage items), you can capitalize on these window shopping trips.
Walk through the aisles of the store that are easily changed out. Does the store have a U-shape display area? Pods filled with merchandise in the middle of the aisle? Constantly redecorated end-caps? That's where you need to focus your efforts for anticipatory planning. Look at the colors, shapes, patterns, images, sizes, even finish--matte, glossy, satin, rough, smooth, dull, eggshell--to see what you can incorporate into your craft.
Halloween this year, for example, is going to feature a lot of black, purple, and red. Do you have items that fit that kind of tone--spooky but not violent--that feature those colors? Can you make items in purple, black, and red to fit that market? Do you have vintage items that fit those color schemes? Then get to making, photographing, and listing, because you can fall into the type of merchandise the shoppers will be looking for online.
They might not realize it, but they will be drawn to the colors they see in the store. Go ahead. Go to Michaels, Home Goods, T.J. Maxx, A.C. Moore, Hobby Lobby, even K-Mart, Wal-Mart, and larger grocery stores and you will see fall and Halloween decor covered in red, black, and purple. Orange and green are still there, but they aren't the focus. You can't avoid these colors if you walk into any mainstream shop. Your potential customers will, subconsciously, be influenced by these in-store trends. This is why the products go out months in advance; the stores are telling the customers what they have to buy. Even if they don't shop for Halloween until a few days before the holiday, they'll want these red, black, and purple items. They'll want the glitter and they'll want the black silhouettes. They'll even be drawn to witches and zombies, two growing trends in 2011.
And you can hit that market just by thinking about what you can incorporate from the trends you see in the store down the street. If you're in line with the trends and offer a unique product, you might just snag a few extra sales than if you stick with what was in even a year ago. It's about researching and working with the manufactured trends. All it takes is a trip to the local store to get that edge.