Unearthing the Forgotten Design History of the Recent Past
April 22, 2021 10:29 PM   Subscribe

From Frutiger Aero to Global Village Coffeehouse to Wacky Pomo, the Consumer Aesthetics Research Institute is committed to cataloging the design trends of turn of the century, referred to broadly as Y2K.
posted by subocoyne (28 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
This needs to be a matching game. The names are so evocative: Wacky Pomo, Rad Dog. Checking the Cyberdelia collection to find any of the rave flyers I designed ca. 1995-2001…
posted by migurski at 10:42 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


All of it from the “folders full of fonts” era of digital design. So many Emigre typefaces.
posted by migurski at 10:47 PM on April 22 [4 favorites]


So the cover of OK Computer is "Gen X Young/Adult Contemporary + Soft Club".

Also, I really like this. I was just thinking the other day about how weird and abstract the Windows Vista aesthetic was. Now I can call it "Frutiger-Aero" (although that apparently also encompasses the old "Aqua" OS X interface). And I can say that the environments of System Shock 2 and F.E.A.R. are "Cyber/Gen-X Corporate".
posted by nosewings at 11:20 PM on April 22


Y2K-Era Virtual Avatars needs more Second Life butterfly-wing meshes.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:48 AM on April 23 [1 favorite]


Omg, when the typeface Frutiger Next was released in 2000 it became the de-facto typeface for so many logos. As the dotcom bubble burst, companies desperately trying to survive ordered redeisgns, and Frutiger Next was the safest of safe choices if you were a designer hoping to keep your job.

Set the first half in Heavy and the second in Medium and boom! Instant logo.
posted by jeremias at 2:58 AM on April 23 [4 favorites]


Wow, I wasn't expecting "Global Village Coffeehouse" to spark such a strong pang of nostalgia; not that I'm particularly fond of that aesthetic, but it brought me right back to a time and place...
posted by sriracha at 4:35 AM on April 23 [12 favorites]


Same here, sriracha. All of those 90s styles like the one the site calls "Fasurbane" provoke such a strong sense of nostalgia it's almost painful. That post a little while ago on late 90s movie theater decor hit me the same way. I wonder if the 2020s will see a revival of 90s-era styles? Maybe enough people don't have the money and stability they did in the 90s (at least in the US) to make that happen, though.
posted by star gentle uterus at 6:03 AM on April 23


Wow, I wasn't expecting "Global Village Coffeehouse" to spark such a strong pang of nostalgia; not that I'm particularly fond of that aesthetic, but it brought me right back to a time and place...

Heh. My first thought on seeing that one was wondering whatever became of the Utne Reader anyway? (Looks like they're still kicking, but the style has sadly changed.)
posted by gusottertrout at 6:21 AM on April 23 [4 favorites]


really good thoughts
posted by judysmithy at 6:39 AM on April 23


I am here for Wacky Pomo, I need more of this in my life and my kids are getting to old for the kid section of the local science museum.

I find that the YT series Bad Gear often hits these same aesthetic buttons due to the fact that a lot of, questionable electronic instruments came out between 1995 and 2005. These images have a soundtrack and I hear it immediately when I see them.
posted by q*ben at 7:04 AM on April 23 [2 favorites]


I will submit the motion picture Johnny Mnemonic to this thread.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:23 AM on April 23 [1 favorite]


I worked in digital pre-press & early web sites in 1993-1999, and this is causing palpable waves of nostalgia, like whole-body shuddering. (Some of it is quote fond, I will admit.)
posted by wenestvedt at 7:31 AM on April 23 [3 favorites]


I gotta say, that was a great era to be a graphic designer. It was so varied and fresh, largely because it was the first great wave of computerized graphic design. All the attendant software and hardware had pretty much come to a truly useful level of maturation, and we were the first wave of professionals comfortable and conversant with the environment.

It was also the first peek at the eventual hell of having to keep up with tech that seemed to change hourly.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:51 AM on April 23 [5 favorites]


get yer neville brody on with the tumblr from the same archivist: FF Blur

might as well be a fashion shoot with a nikon 300 f/2.8 on rdp, x-pro … or is my old brain too old?
posted by scruss at 8:51 AM on April 23 [1 favorite]


Well this is bringing back an exciting array of memories.
posted by Zargon X at 9:13 AM on April 23 [1 favorite]


See also: Y2K Chic and Silver, metal, liquid, blue
posted by Monochrome at 9:57 AM on April 23


It was so varied and fresh, largely because it was the first great wave of computerized graphic design.

You must be talking about Kai's Power Tools, yeah?
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:23 AM on April 23 [2 favorites]


And Kai's Power Goo, too!

A retrospective on that tool, itself half a dozen years old now: https://www.macworld.com/article/226834/an-ode-to-kais-power-goo.html
posted by wenestvedt at 10:27 AM on April 23 [5 favorites]


It's odd how recent and yet how distant these images feel. It's also a bit unsettling how much positive emotion these old advertisements spark, but I think it has something to do with them attempting a futurism that seems bright and hopeful, or at least funky.
As others have noted, a large part of that seemed to be how powerful the desktop publishing software of the time was compared to previous methods, it seemed to promise whole new modes of expression, and make it easier for anyone to make complex imagery.
posted by subocoyne at 11:59 AM on April 23 [5 favorites]


As others have noted, a large part of that seemed to be how powerful the desktop publishing software of the time was compared to previous methods, it seemed to promise whole new modes of expression, and make it easier for anyone to make complex imagery.

I learned my craft in age of paper, markers, copyfitting, and hand-comped type. Being able to do my own typesetting was a universe-changer that I don’t think anyone can fully appreciate unless you were working at that time. It was just...OMG!OMG!!OMG!!!OMG!!!!!!
posted by Thorzdad at 12:37 PM on April 23 [6 favorites]


"Hey, Thorzdad, turn off your hot-waxer and join us at the keyboard. You're gonna love this!"
posted by wenestvedt at 12:38 PM on April 23 [3 favorites]


😂🤣😂😂🤣

FWIW, I still have my type gauges, proportion wheel, and a couple of specimen books from now-defunct type houses.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:41 PM on April 23 [2 favorites]


I learned all these tools right when they became practical for graphic designers, so seeing typesetters credited by name on earlier CD & cassette covers separately from graphic designers provoked some amount of “huh?” response. I only later learned that it was its own skill.
posted by migurski at 2:19 PM on April 23


I only later learned that it was its own skill.

Back in the day, having a good working relationship with a typesetter was a must. You could mark-up your layout “set to fit” and be confident it would fit, flow, and look great. Definitely a lost skill, judging by all the horrible copyfitting I see constantly today.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:46 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]


I paid two bucks for a few sheets of LetraSet in 2019, because it was like finding a piece of the True Cross in a thrift shop.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:13 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]


OMG. I'd call Wacky Pomo straight-up "the Nickelodeon esthetic". It's astonishingly familiar to any parent if your kids are age 20s-30 right about now.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:39 AM on April 24 [2 favorites]


I unironically love that “Gen X Young/Adult Contemporary + Soft Club” aesthetic with all the cross-processing, Lomo and Holga photography, subway influences, etc. I don’t know why but as an adolescent it was a vibe I kind of zeroed in on. Lo-fi beats for lonely gays who want to move to a bigger city, I guess.

And Global Village Coffeehouse is indeed super nostalgic — it was very well parodied in “Hypnospace Outlaw” (appropriately enough, in a section called “The Café”).
posted by en forme de poire at 8:29 AM on April 24 [2 favorites]


Global Village Coffeehouse put fuckin' Rusted Root in my head
posted by dismas at 2:45 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


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