Thoughts on nostalgic maximalist design
I crave that serif
I want extravagance and aestheticism back. It’s undeniable that we want more and more and more after being deprived of it for so long by millennial minimalism. I’m tired of conserving and hiding behind manicured Instagram feeds and grey Ikea storage cubes. I think I was put on this earth to indulge and consume beautiful things and to share them with others. After years of trends of minimalism, dainty jewelry, and those god-awful organic shapes millennial corporate dreams are made of, we are demanding more. Graphic design and fashion trends are moving towards inspiration from the past. Nostalgia is a drug and we want that old stuff back. Aestheticism is making a big comeback. Art for art’s sake.
I recently listened to Avery Trufelman’s episode of Throwing Fits and it made me fall in love with her and her work even more. Her innate curiosity is so clear through her storytelling and her synthesis of history and today. If you haven’t listened to her podcast, Articles of Interest, you are seriously missing out on cool bits of fashion history. She mentioned she was in a Greenpoint shop recently and could feel the emergence of a trend in antiques and specifically Rococo-style pieces—the rise of the romanticization of the past and desire for opulence. The Throwing Fits guys called it a form of cosplaying. What is stopping us from dressing like we’re from a different decade or century? Plenty of people document themselves doing it on TikTok with “decades outfits” videos or the like. Some even go as far as dressing like pirates from the 1660s or dandys from the 1810s. The dark academia trend is an early semblance of this sort of cosplay/lifestyle. Even I was (…or am) a victim of the dark academia pandemic. I would wear berets and turtle necks and run around the Met like I was taking a class on ancient Greeks and needed to study Etruscan chariots. Today, men’s fashion is dominated by ivy style and 70s bellbottoms in the form of heritage luxury. I think we’re all beginning to be nostalgic for a past we never lived through.
In graphic design, the move towards ornate luxury is already happening. In February of 2020 when I was studying in Florence, I visited the Gucci Garden, a museum dedicated to the fashion house under Alessandro Michele’s creative vision. I was greeted by dynamic embellished interiors housing pieces of Gucci’s heritage and the more funky vibrance of Michele’s vision. The museum’s branding was a big difference from other design-forward museums. No lifeless sans-serifs or rigid grids. It only felt right in a city like Florence where hundreds of bottegas live and carry the history of so many craftsmen. The mark of the hand is always there, from a leather shop’s stamp to a violin maker’s engraving.
Burberry is another example of this move towards heritage design. You’ve probably heard about their recent rebrand, finally rejecting the minimal sans-serif. The new logo is a bridge between old and new. It’s a contrast from the stuffy long swashes of traditional luxury but still carries subtle humanist serifs opposite from corporate sans-serif logos. Another logo that has been reintroduced is their original 1901 equestrian logo–a true nod to the past. Orenmeetsworld on Tiktok calls this echo of the past “heritage maximalism.” Brands are using hand-drawn typography, illustrations, and simulated personalization to create a feeling of grandeur and nostalgia.
I love this move to old stuff but I’m curious about how it will migrate into the digital world. The rejection of minimalism can be a true litmus test of a designer’s skill. Tools like Canva, while democratizing, flood creative channels with soulless corporate minimalism. Perhaps a certain level of skill and creativity is needed to create successful maximalism. In terms of digital design, is there a world where accessible type has both personality and universal readability? Is this just the endless trend cycle that will flip back to minimalism soon enough? Whatever it is, I’m into it and love seeing pieces of history live with us.
That’s all for this week. Until the next one! Peace and love.