Posted by Abe Sauer on November 12, 2009 04:40 PM
Why don't we go back for a minute. Way back. Because everyone else is... including your favorite cereal, your hometown NFL team, and your elected government. But is it finally time to go back to the future?
For several years now design has been obsessed with paying homage to the past. From fashion, where Nike Dunks and Wayfarers rule, to breakfast cereal, where General Mills' Trix and Honey Nut Cheerios and Post's Grape-Nuts have received the time-machine treatment. Sports teams, with the NFL in the lead, have ramped up their promotion of throwback jerseys, creating a whole new market for the fan that has had everything.
Canadian grocery brand Loblaws took its private label No Name design back to the 1970s original. Publisher Faber & Faber issued ten classic novels with covers that pay homage to the classic originals. Harley-Davidson's recent "Military Appreciation Month" campaign featuring bikini babe Marissa Miller took on a vintage pin-up aesthetic. Pepsi even created a throwback hub for its Pepsi and Mountain Dew throwback campaign.
Maybe the only brand not using the way-back design machine is Disney.
The "why" of going with a throwback design is easy. Brands see it as a simple way to exploit sentimental attachments consumers already have. The increased use of "throwback" is itself a rebrand of sorts. While "retro," "vintage," or "classic" did the job, they are one-way journeys that don't say anything meaningful about the design aesthetic itself. But "throwback"? The term pairs "throw," an ostensible forward motion, with the seemingly contradictory "back." The word is not only action-packed, but exudes a certain coolness and exchange between the past and present.
Now, the state of New York recently issued a new license plate design for cars. It is said to be a "groovy flashback" to designs of old. But as many consumers see this license plate change as a scam for the state to raise funds, and with the current popularity of the red, white and blue license plate, will the only "back" New York officials see be a "backlash?" And will the decidedly uncool government jumping on the bandwagon finally be the beginning of the end of this trend?