I often find antique shops fascinating – rusty jewelry, old Coca Cola bottles, musty and heavy floral dresses my grandmother would wear back in the 60’s. etc. I would never spend any money to own one, but I feel infinite admiration and inspiration through the vintage work of art. Then I question, “Why is it so compelling when they are so out?” As a matter of fact, vintage is very much back into the visual game in the marketing world. Nostalgia Design defines various visual elements that connect to the past, stirring up the emotions of familiarity and nostalgia. It is a perfect exploitation for the capitalistic and futuristic world we live in. Being able to draw out and target consumer’s emotions can very much affect the user’s perception of a product or service. And as a visual designer, it’s quite fun and exciting to take part in the process – bringing back the old to create the new.
You can’t really target anyone emotionally if there is not a story attached to the design. The perfect storytelling can be done even with a simple logo. For example, the NASA “meatball” (right). The round, red, white and blue insignia was designed by James Modarelli in 1959, NASA’s second year, and it was the greatest thing! It signified new adventure, a new era for science, and another step closer to US world domination (not really). Sixteen years later, the space program was ready to stretch their futuristic advancement by adopting a new “worm” logo (left). The logo was simple, bold and sleek – I gave it thumbs up. So why did they revert back to the old clunky “meatball” logo in 1992? NASA wanted to throw back everyone to the past. It was an act of reminding the past achievements, all the passion and effort of many generations from when they first launched the space program. The “new” logo was welcomed even by the public like myself, who have no direct relationship to NASA.
The world we live in is becoming so digitally saturated that I personally find it exasperating and confusing. Nothing seems real, palpable, nor intimate. Like myself, people are starting to miss the feeling of printed books, letters and photographs. The advancement of photography is so great that the photographs seem more realistic than what we can see through our eyes. That may be why old film cameras and polaroid cameras are back on the sales rack. Traveling around with one of these vintage devices is the new thing – a cool hipster-like thing to do. Many photo editing apps now offer vintage filters that can easily turn your phone photos into a work of art. The apps even offer dust effects from developed film photos. Imperfection is beauty.
Photography is a great medium for Nostalgia Design. Muse Group worked on a collage project for Pearl Gala, an annual event hosted by Ho Ola Na Pua, a non-profit organization based in Hawaii. The theme of the gala in 2017 was Hukilau, a traditional Hawaiian method of fishing. It is such an ancient method of fishing that we were only able to find a handful of photos from various history books. Most of the photos are faded and blurry, which we embraced rather than trying to edit them. We cut the old photos up and paired them with ripped construction paper to create layers and textures. We also took early drawings of fish and urchins by Hawaiian natives to add colored touches to the design. Celebrating the connection of the past with the present created the Pearl Gala Hukilau theme.
Why is Nostalgia Design so successful? Simply put, people love it! The content holds a strong message for those who emotionally resonate with the design. For us millennials and the generation Z to come, it makes me wonder what “vintage” could mean in twenty years. No matter, the trend will always circle back. The old will once again be elevated as a unique trend and will become the new “new.”