Why Nostalgic Design Gives You All the Feels

Design of anything is certainly an art, coupled, in the case of product design, with science and technology, tested for what it looks like, what if feels like, how it works, and if the customer really wants it. But what is it about retro or vintage design that really grabs our attention?

Do we simply appreciate great design, or are we all just trying to wind back the clock and savour those days gone by?

Surely, if the original designs were truly the best, they would still be around – indeed some great designs of course have stood the test of time. But what is it that gets us all in a tizz when we see the influence or image of a retro great pop up in our newsfeed?

This question came up in our studio recently when we saw a concept for Apple based on the original Macintosh design, which of course sparked joy in our souls (well – those of us who are on the Apple side of the fence anyway). Taking today’s technology and pairing it with the original Macintosh styling, Ian Zelbo has created a concept which would surely become a modern classic.

For those who recall the original Apple Macintosh, it likely evokes a true sense of nostalgia, echoes a simpler time when technology was a little more clunky and a little less in your face and we didn’t walk around with it permanently attached to our face. Zelbo has also reverted to the original rainbow colour Apple logo to really set off the design.

If you’re a Mac enthusiast you’d probably be queuing up with this to sit right next to your original Macintosh – the perfect conversation starter. However, if you’re a purist or a die-hard Windows fan, this may make your eyes bleed!

Image: Ian Zelbo via Yanko Design

But design classics not only give us the feelings and emotions that we need to experience as humans, but it also provides an education and an insight into what came before. Zelbo, the creator of this genius Macintosh revisit, for example, wasn’t born when the Macintosh was in full flow, but as a designer he really grasps the elements of the design that truly wowed the world when Apple unveiled a new way to do things.

Emotion is certainly a significant trigger in the buying process, so as designers, if we are trying to evoke a particular feeling or memory and can get it right, the product could be a great success providing the customer connects with it. This approach also expands your reach, not only to a newer generation who may not be as familiar with the original work, but also to the generation who first experienced the product and have a love for it. 

This design classic in the form of the Vespa Piaggo bike is the perfect illustration of how it’s possible to bring classic design into the modern day, whilst remaining respectful and authentic. Italian based MA-DE studio are known for their rework on design classics, and sought to bring the Vespa into the world of electric.

Did MA-DE stay true enough to the original? They kept the dash minimal in order to echo the same pleasing aesthetic and utilised the well-known colours Vespa are famed for.

MA-DE Studio via Yanko Design

The result of design that really speaks to your soul? Well, Vespa is of course, a stand-out example of the type of brand that many covet even if they don’t even ride a motorbike of any kind.

The same way the Volkswagen campervan is a highly coveted work of art which can be seen across a myriad of merchandise, adoring people’s walls as an artform, and even etched into the skin of avid fans in tattoo form. But does everyone coveting VW memorabilia own a campervan? Most certainly not! It’s an aspirational product for the many.

It’s no doubt that clever design can evoke childhood memories, prompts you to recount a moment in time, make life feel simpler and less hectic, but above all solve a problem that the consumer requires a solution for. Even if that solution is for the love of nostalgia.

Do you have a product inspired by days gone by that you are looking to bring to life? If so, we want to hear from you!

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