Why are brands going retro?
06 MAR 2017

Published by Samantha Jamieson


Why are brands going retro?

With all the retro brands popping up at the minute you would be forgiven for thinking you had accidentally travelled back in time to 1970. The Co-op and NatWest have returned to logos of old, the Safeway brand is back on our shelves (albeit in a wholesale capacity) and Kodak has not only harkened back to its original logo but has started selling supped up Super-8 cameras. With brands zipping up their boots and going back to their roots (sorry, another 70s reference) we have asked some creative directors who work in the retail sector why they think this is. Is it lack of creativity? Is it nostalgia? Or is it just that we are clinging onto anything familiar and stable in these unsteady times?

Daniela Nunzi Mihranian, Studio Minerva

‘We have definitely noticed a trend in flat iconography & simple fonts, including this wave of brands reverting to retro versions of their logos. 
I think consumers are increasingly looking for more depth, reassurance & storytelling from brands – especially in times of uncertainty. In some cases I think ‘retro-branding’ is used by brands as an easy short cut to reinforce their authenticity, heritage and original values. Personally, I think they more clever ‘retro’ designs are those that take something true from a brand’s history but present it in a way that is still relevant, fresh & exciting.’

Heidi Lightfoot, Together

‘For today’s key consumer groups – the late baby boomers and generation X – who grew up in the seventies, it was a time of relative comfort and excitement. War was over, society becoming more liberal, technological advances opened new possibilities. You could say it was a golden era! It’s certainly been billed as such with the benefit of rose tinted hindsight! So yes, I think the recent resurrection of 70s branding is a harking back to a perception of ‘easier’ times, when the world was less complicated and volatile than it is right now.
But I also think (perhaps because I’m one of those Generation X folk) that the designs being revived from that era deserve to be brought back. They have stood the test of time, they bring with them a frisson of 70s optimism and freedom, and they clearly communicate the brands longevity.

"There’s something refreshing about formats that do one thing, and one thing well." 

The newfound popularity of old technologies such as Super-8, Polaroids and vinyl records is an interesting one. Perhaps with so much choice nowadays there’s something refreshing about going back to formats that do one thing, and one thing well. The ritual of dusting off a vinyl record and placing it on a turntable is much more satisfying than pressing a couple of buttons!’

Anthony Biles, Biles Inc

'It is not nostalgia, the millennials that brands like Kodak and Coco-Cola are keen to reach out to weren’t around when these brands captured the ‘classic’ look that some of them are returning too. It is not lack of creativity either, it's strategy.

To coin a phrase made popular by the British Prime Minister in 1993, I think it is more a case of "back to basics". There is too much weak branding in the world and too much superfluous design.

Good brands recognise the value of being a cultural icon. They also appreciate the importance of brand story. These brands have looked backward to step forward and have struck gold. Some of these older incarnations of the brands identity were simply, objectively better from a graphic design point of view; bless the craftsmanship abundant in old school design.'

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