Throwback Branding

Throwback Branding
Written by Grant Bennett

With its recent facelift, even more recent than the completely flat 2014 rebrand, NatWest has become the second major corporate identity that has gone back in time and implemented a purposefully retro design - following the Co-op’s throwback in May of this year. So what’s behind this trend?

What the two projects have in common is a direct reference to a previous incarnation of each company’s logo from the past, more specifically the 1960s.

There has been a trend recently of increasing fondness for design relics of the past, notably through the crowdfunded reprint of old graphics manuals, including the British Rail Corporate Identity Manual from 1965, the NASA Graphics Standards Manual from 1975 and graphic design visionary Massimo Vignelli’s New York subway system manual from 1970.

So what is spurring this movement? Nostalgia? Returning to the corporate roots? Or is it just that design was better back in the good ol’ days? Looking into the justifications from the agencies behind each respective project, the theme seems to be simplicity.

It’s no accident that some of the most revered corporate identities came from that period. Look at the longevity of Mastercard’s mark, disregarding the handful of tweaks it has had over the years. It’s been said that the limitations of technology played a part in creating more economical designs, simplicity was simply more efficient in the days of manual drafting.

Regardless of rationalisation for why, I remain a massive fan of both projects - Co-op more so. In an age where minimalism is king, why not reflect on the success stories from yesteryear?

North (co-op rebrand):

Futurebrand (NatWest rebrand) :


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