The end of retro design? One more change from Covid 19

There are two very relevant things that everyone is thinking about right now – how do we get out of this situation, and what are we going to do when we do?

One thing is for sure, what won’t save us is hipster coffee shops, stripped brick surfaces and flat graphics. In other words, it’s not looking backwards to the 50s and before that is going to solve the Covid 19 pandemic. 

Instead, it will be 21st century technology, scientists and medics.

We’ve written before about how the success of design codes that look backwards reflects consumers fear of the future, where 70% of UK adults (60% in the US) think their kids will be worse off than themselves*. Design that people describe as authentic or crafted is usually consciously or unconsciously mimicking the past, harking back to an imagined golden age.

Though consumers can’t articulate why, this has been the kind of design that ‘feels right’. And what has felt right in recent years has been that desire for authenticity, a need for assurance, for real clues on intrinsics, for connection and human stories. Because trust in big companies has been ebbing away for years and consumers are less likely to take brands, and their claims, at face value.

Funnily enough, now the present is so grim, it’s difficult to see how we can’t be at least a bit better off in the future, as economies bounce back even if slowly. That is a big change and one that is going to be universal across the world- a shift from a grim present to a better future.

And maybe the big institutions will redeem themselves. It might not happen for Wetherspoons or Sports Direct but plenty of big organisations are acquitting themselves well, and some extraordinarily well. Politicians reveal principles and selflessness; communities pull together. Bitterly divided countries like the UK find the things that unite them are more important than things that separate.

All this is hugely significant. But perhaps as significant  from a design perspective is likely to be the greatly increased status of medicine and science. Already articles are appearing recognising that medics will become heroes to children just like astronauts did in the 60s. 

And so we predict a change in the cultural framework in which we view design.

Retro design might start to look as old fashioned to us as it always has to optimistic consumers in Asia and Africa.  And the cues of technology and science might start to add value to increasing numbers of categories. Maybe clean whites and dynamic silvers will replace brown cardboard. Maybe big brands will stop pretending to be small and give up the cues of 19th century printing.

Here at Hart & Jones we think the future is bright. And the future of design is no longer looking like the past.

*Pew Research