Design, at its core is about emotion. Whether it be for the purpose of art, commerce, or like in many cases both, there’s an undisputable aspect of design that relies so heavily on emotions –the connection between “object” and “human”. The strongest bonds, stem from designs that tell stories, that in a blink of an eye can transport you to another time- to associated memories of the past, or even a romanticized past of imagined memories. Arguably, it’s within the sensorial elements of nostalgia- time, memory, and emotion, that we as individuals, not just designers, find escape.
Nostalgia is what this book showcases. A collection of voices reflecting their own paths of past turned present, and contemporary storytelling that reigns on nostalgia’s emotional charm. This, my take on nostalgia as a designer, is an invitation to sift through Nostalgic Design and see it not as a trend or a fixed aesthetic – because it’s not. But instead, a timeless and idealistic notion that is only human to desire. One that seeks comfort, fulfilment, and escapism. And, although it may seem like this generation is marked by a retroed yearning for the past – in retrospect, haven’t we always been obsessed with the past? Could it be a way to put our identity into context? Is it a behaviour that lies in our DNA to quantify our life’s experiences? Or are we seeking an instance when time wasn’t a luxury, when less was more and more was beautiful?
We have progressed to a point where creativity, especially design, has become a commodity. On a large scale, everything is made for everyone to access. So is the stigma of our industry, tainted with a bombardment of copy cats. We plock from popular culture knowing everything has been done before, creating only more of it. Is it because our world has become smaller? Today, it’s all just a click away – even the past. We can attribute that to the birth of the digital age. That said, this stream of information we have access to has enabled us to constantly feed our own. Leaving us with a spectrum of nerdy hipsterisms. Through this yearning for information, it’s no revelation we crave to be transported and lured in by something that makes us feel more, and experience things deeper. And if that’s the case, it’s crucial that we have tools to empathize with one and other. Reaching into nostalgia’s emotional domain allows us to do just that – it is no wonder nostalgia is a strategy that continues to deliver results.
We may be living in a saturated time of millennial YOLO, but in a sense, every generation has used nostalgia to help define the times in which they live. To captivate and visualise the collective spirit of a generation and red threads that ties us all together. A classic example of this is NASA. They reintroduced their ‘meatball’ logo in 1992 as a shift in corporate focus to take us back to a time where Apollo inspired everyone to reach for greater heights. This symbol rekindles a sense of romance in exploration and fantasy of the great unknown. It was only five years later when the first rover landed on Mars, I know because I remember!
So, if nostalgia succeeds when we feel the past is taking us forward, could we be so bold to say that good Nostalgic Design, and its Utopian take on the past, inspires the future? Maybe it’s about how nostalgia as a foundation for creation, filters down through the individual into the design process. The invariables of the creator’s choice, how they interpret or resonate with a topic, or point in time, and how they choose to infuse that idea into something tangible. It is relevant to go back into the archives of a brand and take out something that has been crafted to perfection? To where designers had time to think and reflect, with pens, and tracing paper. It is rather romantic to think that we could get back to a place where creativity reigned. Instead nostalgia takes us to a place where contemporary story-telling is replacing icons of recognition. Emotion, feeling and flair are taking branding with greater mysticism and intrigue with all its new digital perks.
But how does the creator survive when personality is key? Must we investigate the constant dissonance between our need of artistic expression and the relevance needed to make our passion believable to the audience of today? Luckily, the branding culture is no longer driven by a board of directors, instead by fewer individuals with greater dedication and conviction. And so, amongst all this heaviness of corporate desolation, lies a sort of freedom. We can present our personal convictions to the world and get paid to do so, even when we decide to paint a vision far greater than financial gain.
If we come back to say that nostalgia is our constant search for emotional fulfilment, how do we define the realm of this genre of design? Can we accept the thematic utopianism of nostalgia, as a mechanism of transportation? I’ll leave you with this: When Volkswagen refined their logo in 1967, were they purely aligning themselves with the lifestyle trends of the time or did they foresee how Gerald Holtom’s nuclear disarmament logo would have a nostalgic infiltration of ‘peace of mind’ on the future of the car industry? In this instance is nostalgia future, past or present? Or, is it something that we have cultivated through association?
Through the ongoing search to decipher how we feel about Nostalgic Design today, we can understand that in many ways it helps us define ourselves, our surroundings and own sensibility as a generation. So, what will be the triggers of nostalgia tomorrow? How will the new generation of creators tell our stories of nostalgia today through their eyes tomorrow?… In the end, there are two type of designers in the world, those who think and those who feel. This book celebrates the later.
“Nostalgia”, a preface by NINE.