Tendency ; Big Bold Type
I wrote this post blissfully unaware that somewhere out in the universe, somebody else was already writing it. Well, shit! As I logged on to Vox this morning, I recoiled in horror as I saw a piece on the bold, 1970s typography trend. That’s my piece, I shrieked, and threw a tantrum, and then I calmed down with the aid of some carbohydrates and decided I’d damn well post my thoughts on it anyway. Perhaps the fact that this is being covered by people other than myself is proof that I’m not totally off the mark. I might be a little bit right.
When I was younger, I was sure as anything that I would become a graphic designer. I interned. I took extra classes. And then I wanted to do something else. But still, I do love design. In particular, I love vintage design – 60s and 70s most of all. The typography, the bold colours, there’s just a particular flair to this period in design history that appeals to me.
If you follow my instagram, you would have noticed that I regularly post packaging design to my stories, most of which is indeed vintage. And that’s why I’m so heartened by the trend of 70s-style typography in packaging design and branding in particular. Not only the chunky, curvy serif fonts that are typical of the period, but the more playful varieties as well.
When Glossier Play launched, I was more interested in the type than the actual product. The cute, chunky Play logo contrasted so perfectly with the minimalist clarity of Glossier’s past aesthetic, and the use of disco references in the marketing cemented the 1970s vibe.
I’ve been wanting to write about this brand’s packaging design for a while. A luxury brand straddling the border between high tech and hippy-dippy, the dark green packaging could just as well sit on the shelves at BIBA as in modern e-commerce. The font is so retro it hurts, with a sort of fairground aesthetic that manages to be both chic and playful. Even the copy echoes vintage advertising, encouraging you to experience “Go-bare skin!”.
Having launched only last year, Flesh has a minimalist aesthetic with a maximalist attitude. The flirty, tongue-in-cheek copy and colour names harken back to the free love era while remaining firmly contemporary – this is especially clear in their ads, that reference the past definitions of “flesh colour” in comparison to their shade range. The typography at flesh is thick, chunky, and has a lot of body. As it should.
While Anna Sui is known primarily as a fashion designer in the west, her line of cosmetics is popular in Asia and available at select retailers internationally. Featuring her signature vintage wild west typeface, the products are generally very retro in their overall packaging design as well, leaning more kitschy than anything else. The product components are highly ornamental, a gunne sax gone goth, or directly reference beauty brands of the past such as Baby Doll Cosmetics with long-lashed doll faces appearing on everything from eyeshadows to lip glosses.
Swedish skincare brand Verso has been rocking a bold serif font as their trademark for years, featuring plain black boxes emblazoned with huge inky-black numbers to identify each product. The result is instantly recognizable, timeless, and very successful in using typography as its main asset. The style is undeniably contemporary, and boasts high-tech contents, but the 70s reference is never the less there.
Having been around since the 1960s, Mary Quant is mostly credited for having popularized the mini skirt (Incidentally, there’s an exhibition on about her work at the V&A in London.) but she also sold a line of cosmetics in the 60s and 70s. While the fashion brand is no longer available, you can still purchase beauty products under the Mary Quant brand (which, like Anna Sui, is focused on the Asian market), complete with the original logo and typeface. In this case, we’re looking at sans-serif block lettering, which I thought deserved a feature as well.
I think the Vox piece touches on why this style is having a renaissance – after the hard, industrial, slim typefaces of the very recent past, we’re leaning towards a bolder, softer, rounder, cheekier way of designing, a natural response as the pendulum of taste swings back.
I think in general, softness is the future (the near future anyway) and this is something echoing across contemporary society in many ways. Restaurants are tiring of concrete, exposed brick, and loud, harsh edges. Staying home is cute and cool (at least that’s what I tell myself). Fashion startups focus on comfort and natural materials, like merino underwear and cashmere lounge dresses. Angular, high-contrast hostility is out, and curvaceous shapes that politely invite touch are in. We’re entering a gentler era.
Or so I hope.
Header image via Glossier Play.
Honourable mention: The 2015 relaunch of Babe, a 1970s classic with some seriously groovy design.