I'm rather surprised that I didn't learn how to use or develop trend boards until I was already a senior web designer. That was about 6 years after graduating from University. Granted, I did focus on Illustration rather than Advertising Art so maybe I simply didn't have that class, but even so... What with the variety of products I've worked on as a professional artist, not to mention the fact that I attended a four year university program to gain my BFA in Communication Arts, I should have run across them before.
Trend Boards are SO useful!
While the Fashion Industry uses boards all the time to help determine the next season's designs, they aren't the only industry to benefit from working with trend boards. There are a variety of reasons that trend boards would benefit any product, whether software or automotive design or publications like magazines or film development or toys - it's a great way to communicate your product's design vision in a visual way that most people can immediately understand.
Trend Boards for Toy Development
Concept boards are used in the early stages of product development to coordinate the efforts of everyone on the design team. Having a visual indicator of the design direction helps in the decision process by narrowing down the different directions from various ideas proposed by the team. This also provides a consistent vision from the design team to the product managers and buyers. From what I've read about the fashion industry, boards are used in selling apparel internally to the manufacturer’s sales force and externally to retail buyers; much in the way they can be used to present concepts and themes of products to the sellers and buyers in the toy development industry - or so it has been with my experience as a toy designer.
We've used single trend boards to show references of inspiration; and other boards to show colors, fabric, fonts, along with the particular style of art specific to the trend. Other times with other projects, we've used one board for presenting color, one for the trend theme (which included fabrics, materials, animation, fonts, characters, story), and another to show the concepts developed within the trend theme.
Trend Boards for Web and Software Design
One of the ways we developed trend boards for web and software application design for clients was to have them select product designs and layouts that they preferred because they liked the colors, they liked the layout, they liked the use of white space, they like the fonts...they felt it could convey their brand, or fit the image that they wanted their product to present. A quick way to do this would be to have them pick out web sites and send us the links. However, back in the early days when there simply weren't that many websites (or there were few sites that didn't have every color and font the browser provided plus a GIF animated flashing logo...horrid!); we would provide a big batch of magazines from all kinds of industries and interests in one of our conference rooms (or the client's specified workroom), tear out sheets, and have a half-day or all day exploration of what key elements they wanted as part of their product design aesthetic. It was always a fun day. :)
Trend Boards for Animation?
During the Disney work session, the Disney creative directors and their design staff provided trend boards for the licensed products that we'll be working with in the next year. But that was for consumer product development. I don't know how or if trend boards are used in developing animation. I have no actual experience with animation development (outside of my brief internship); and have not read any information about it at all in any of the "Art of..." animation books and others that I've picked up over the years. Maybe I just haven't run across any mention of it yet, or they go by a different terminology in animation development.
Here are some examples of design trend boards that I found on the internet that have some similarities to boards that I've created or worked with in the past:
Trend Boards sample 1
Trend Boards sample 2
Trend Boards sample 3