What makes a design timeless? Rob and Don explore graphic design, logo design, brand transformations, and design trends.
Rob Broadfoot 0:22
Don Mock 0:24
Rob Broadfoot 0:25
Don Mock 0:26
We’re going to whisper the entire time.
Rob Broadfoot 0:29
Hey, everybody, we’re back with podcast number five, which we are calling: timeless design.
Don Mock 0:36
Rob Broadfoot 0:37
And we thought we would spend a little bit of time today talking about just that, and some of the ideas around what designs are timeless and what makes a design timeless, potentially.
Don Mock 0:50
Rob Broadfoot 0:50
So, Don is going to probably give you a little bit more of the technical implications of what a timeless design is.
Don Mock 0:58
Rob Broadfoot 0:58
And I’m going to shoot from the hip, and come up with some ideas and thoughts that, of concepts and designs that I think are timeless.
Don Mock 1:05
Yeah, I think the concept of graphic design as a whole or not necessarily the concept, but the industry of graphic design has kind of split into a couple of different factions. Right, as Rob mentioned, timeless design. And then there’s also, call it seasonal design? More like fashion? If we if we think about graphic design versus fashion, or fashion as an industry, right? Fashion is inherently seasonal, inherently self destructive, kudos to them for creating an industry, where every single spring, fall, winter, there’s a new collection, you can’t wear last year’s clothing. You can’t wear it you don’t I mean, like it’s it’s kind of a forced consumerism, if you think about fashion.
Rob Broadfoot 1:45
Definitely can’t wear Yeezys anymore.
Don Mock 1:47
No, we’re done. We’re done with that.
Rob Broadfoot 1:50
We’re done with Yeezys.
Don Mock 1:50
But I think I think design kind of merges into that as well, right? Where there are fads along with design, right? If we just think about decades, we think about what the look of the 80’s is what the look of the 90’s, the 90’s grunge, right? And we think about typography associated with all of those 90’s album covers dare I say or, or maybe even the band, you know, covers and what not? There’s definitely a look and feel and a seasonality to design. So the concept of having something that’s timeless, I think is really interesting. So years ago, I went to a lecture by a very famous graphic designer Massimo Vignelli. He is very famous, probably most famous for designing the New York City Transit subway system.
Rob Broadfoot 2:32
Don Mock 2:32
So, designing the entire map of the system, the A train the, you know, the numbers, letters, the colored dots.
Rob Broadfoot 2:38
Colored dots, the whole thing.
Don Mock 2:39
He did the entire thing, right? One other thing he did that I think was was really incredible. Up until recently, he designed the entire system for American Airlines.
Rob Broadfoot 2:50
Don Mock 2:51
And they were the only airline I want to say for like 40 or 50 years to never rebrand. Which in and of itself is a great aspect to timeless design. One of the foundational aspects of that project again, this was from years and years and years ago. Was hey, everybody else’s painting their airlines. Why on earth would we paint the plane? The plane looks totally awesome and bitchin just silver the way it is, adding all the how many gallons of, how many hundreds of gallons of paint on each plane. It creates drag, it does this it, does that. So, American Airlines always famous for having silver planes for you know, 50 years, they had the double A, and they had the little eagle.
Rob Broadfoot 3:31
You have A, with the eagle.
Don Mock 3:32
Yeah, exactly. And that lived on for, you know, gosh, forever. New York City, I think they’ve never changed the look and feel of anything. So, there is definitely something, we get an assignment, right? Sometimes consumer packaging, for example, needs to be seasonal, it needs to be competitive with what is on the shelf next to it, this cereal is competing against this cereal, or this orange juice versus that orange juice. But sometimes there’s really an opportunity, you know, from a brand development to develop something that is totally timeless and never really needs to be modified. It’s not anchored in any specific era or look and feel, it is just true and authentic to the brand.
Rob Broadfoot 4:12
Don Mock 4:12
So another great example I’ve got that I was thinking about it, before we hit the record button here about timeless design, is there’s only one NFL team that has never rebranded or changed anything associated with their brand, or their uniform, or..
Rob Broadfoot 4:30
Don Mock 4:30
Ever. Do you know what team that is?
Rob Broadfoot 4:34
Don Mock 4:34
That’s a that’s a great, that’s a great guess. It’s the Raiders. The Raiders have never changed their logo. They’ve never changed their type and they’ve never changed their uniform. They still have the exact silver and black like every team has done like 3D numbers or block letters on different things. Every five years they flourish their little logo here and there. You know, I mean even the Lions, you know, added some dimension to the lion and it’s you know, everybody’s tinkered with things a little bit. Oh, we added black piping, we did a little thing of that, you know. The Raiders, believe it or not, silver and black, you know, have never changed their uniform never changed their logo. It’s still the old like woodcut looking pirate guy.
Rob Broadfoot 5:17
Don Mock 5:18
With I think it’s like a futura black or whatever is what typeset writers. Even though they’ve been, you know, Oakland, Los Angeles. Oakland, Las Vegas?
Rob Broadfoot 5:26
Las Vegas, everywhere, right?
Don Mock 5:27
So there’s something interesting about, that not only is a brand, I mean, they were pre NFL. I mean, they were an AFL team that obviously became part of the NFL. So, you know, from the 60’s on have never changed the core graphics. I’m talking just sheer graphic design.
Rob Broadfoot 5:27
Don Mock 5:45
But it is interesting that the graphic design of the team itself does incorporate a uniform. Which kind of is fashion? So I mean, pants go up and down, and socks and things like that. But but they’ve never, they’ve never changed anything.
Rob Broadfoot 6:00
My pants go up and down every day. Once in the morning, once when I go to bed. There you go. I had a little bit different take on it. And so I was thinking about..
Don Mock 6:12
About timeless design?
Rob Broadfoot 6:13
Yeah, and it’s not really. So, it didn’t. I’m thinking about skulls. Here’s what I mean by that.
Don Mock 6:19
Yeah, what does that mean?
Rob Broadfoot 6:20
Well, it means that a skull obviously is a greater design, shall we say?
Don Mock 6:25
Rob Broadfoot 6:26
But the idea of a skull being used for I don’t know, a lot of different things over the history of time. Skulls never go out of fashion as a design element.
Don Mock 6:37
Wow. That’s fascinating to think about.
Rob Broadfoot 6:38
And whether or not it’s, you know, an old I don’t know, like a misfit skull. I’m thinking like bands that always use skulls, and all that sort of rock’n’roll sort of, kind of thing. But skulls, to me, have always been a design element that never go away. And they’ll always evolve. And there’s all different types of them. But that’s sort of a consistent design element, that I think never, never goes away.
Don Mock 7:04
When you, when you first said skulls, the first thing that popped in my mind actually was pirate flag.
Rob Broadfoot 7:08
Yeah, right. Raiders? Yeah, almost. You can almost tie it there.
Don Mock 7:11
Yeah, for sure. For sure.
Rob Broadfoot 7:13
So, so I don’t know, you see them in all different forms and fashions. But I think that’s kind of a neat thing that never goes away. Also think about, like, old when you think about family crests, and you think about these old, you know, like, the..
Don Mock 7:27
Shields with the half horse, half unicorn?
Rob Broadfoot 7:29
Half horse, or whatever these sort of, that that kind of idea has never gone out of style. I mean, look at, from the beginning of time where you have well, not the beginning of time, but where you had these initial family crests and things like that, that is carried through to some of the most modern soccer kits or football kits that you see today.
Don Mock 7:49
Rob Broadfoot 7:49
Still these great, iconic elaborate lions and things and that sort of, that type of design. I think elements sort of..
Don Mock 7:58
Yeah, that’s been around for a thousand years?
Rob Broadfoot 7:59
It’s been around for a thousand years.
Don Mock 8:01
Yeah, easily, easily.
Rob Broadfoot 8:02
Yeah. And you can just kind of keep going with all of those designs. And unlike, let’s say the the pastels of the 80’s. You know what I mean?
Don Mock 8:11
Rob Broadfoot 8:12
Ocean Pacific, OP or some of those things? Or to your point, the 90’s grunge and messy type? That design has sort of stayed consistent, I think throughout decades. Which to me is pretty interesting.
Don Mock 8:26
No, it is pretty interesting. I think that, you know, timeless design can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people in a lot of different industries. I know that kind of sounds like a cop out answer. But I guess I was thinking about it more from a sheer graphic design perspective. But I love that your brain kind of went to traditional motifs, right? Or maybe not traditional, but just like, you know, repeated visual elements through the history of humanity. Versus I was thinking more specific about actual, literal graphic design. The last century, dare I say, and potentially how it applies to branding.
Rob Broadfoot 9:02
Well, the most obvious one of those, of course, if we go that route, is to talk about Nike. Which everyone talks about, but it’s that simple, swoosh. Maybe it’s not simple. Maybe it’s so simple, it’s complex. No, but the idea that that mark, and we all know the story that that was the freelancer who did it for nothing, you know..
Don Mock 9:20
Like thirty-five bucks? Or twenty-five bucks or something like that?
Rob Broadfoot 9:21
Yeah, and all that good stuff. But I mean, that mark has, you know, a shape that has turned into a lifestyle. It’s kind of cool to think about that, and that will never change. I think it’s safe to say that there are very few logos that will never ever change, that you can predict with 100% Certainty will never change.
Don Mock 9:43
Whether they use it or not, they’ll never change it.
Rob Broadfoot 9:45
Don Mock 9:47
I think there are some sneaker heads out there that can probably correct us, but I think on some applications, they flip it the other way around, but it’s always exactly the same mark. Yeah, that’s pretty cool. It’s pretty interesting to talk about.
Rob Broadfoot 10:00
And the most powerful ones, and the most timeless ones, of course, are the logos that maybe were built with with some typography around or something over time that it’s just..
Don Mock 10:10
The type disappears?
Rob Broadfoot 10:10
Fallen away, and all you need is that single mark.
Don Mock 10:13
Well, Starbucks did that a few years back, right, where they finally dumped, I think the ring of type around..
Rob Broadfoot 10:18
Don Mock 10:19
Around the mermaid, right that said Starbucks coffee. And I don’t know if they tinkered with the illustration of the mermaid at all.
Rob Broadfoot 10:26
I feel like they might have simplified it. But I might be wrong. I don’t know.
Don Mock 10:30
We clearly did our research before jumping on here to talk about it.
Rob Broadfoot 10:33
But the idea that something as simple as again, we’ll go back to Nike, because it’s an easy one, but a shape can grow to invoke a lifestyle. I mean, that’s a pretty crazy, pretty crazy thought.
Don Mock 10:47
Yeah, well, I think it does..
Rob Broadfoot 10:49
Who else has done that? Who do you put, who’s up there?
Don Mock 10:51
Besides Nike? Well, we have all the obvious cop out answers. I mean, you could say Apple, right?
Rob Broadfoot 10:58
Don Mock 10:58
I mean, because that is just a simple shape. And it’s all about having the bite taken out of it. I mean, in the initial launch, obviously had all the colors in there and had like the rainbow, but then they’ve simplified it down to just, the one color mark. I’d have to spend some time thinking, about what else would be just super duper simple. You know, what I mean? Or a shape that basically will never, never change, right?
Rob Broadfoot 11:22
Don Mock 11:23
It is interesting, though, that, you know, a lot of the old brands, call it the old Paul Rand, school of branding and design from the 50’s and 60’s, right? We built the IBM logo and AT&T logo and all that kind of stuff, still have, for the most part, stayed true to what they are now. AT&T has kind of three dimensionalized the globe a little bit. They have gone uppercase, lowercase, back to uppercase, things like that. But some of these old established trusty dusty brands, again, like an IBM have never really changed, right? Yet the newer form of technology, Comcast, for example, you know, or Comcast or XFINITY, were red. I think I saw blue XFINITY truck. Time Warner Cable had a great mark, came in and out. I mean, that doesn’t even exist anymore. So all of these new sort of giant goliath companies have probably evolved and changed and tweaked more, than companies that have been around ten times longer than they have, you know.
Rob Broadfoot 12:26
Can you think of any examples where they’ve changed it? And it was a mistake, and they changed it back?
Don Mock 12:32
Great question. The first thing that pops my mind is the Tropicana.
Rob Broadfoot 12:35
Don Mock 12:36
The orange. Exactly. But I think that this is a tough one for me to sort of speak about from a design perspective, because from, you know, from a design, from just a sheer graphic design perspective, you can make an argument that the design of the of that package was inherently better, right?
Rob Broadfoot 12:57
Of the new package, of the updated one?
Don Mock 13:00
The updated one was, so if for those that aren’t following, the old Tropicana package for orange juice had the carton and it just had the orange like, like a photographic image of an orange within the straw stuck right into the orange, and I believe it was like a red and white swirly straw.
Rob Broadfoot 13:15
That’s right, exactly.
Don Mock 13:17
Then it had a Tropicana like curved logo mark or something kind of floating around up top in green. So when that was redesigned, the new carton, I think was better, because we started not opening up the top of the cardboard anymore. We had the little circular plug that goes up top now, kind of like milk now, they put a little half orange on top of that they had the green leaves coming off of that. The revised Tropicana logo type, I think was actually better looking. But the fatal flaw was they took the orange off the front of the package. So, orange..
Rob Broadfoot 13:47
Don Mock 13:46
And the straw. Yeah, I mean.
Rob Broadfoot 13:48
Don Mock 13:49
It’s dumb, dumb. So that’s a great, great example of, dare I say, shopper confusion, right? Everyone’s so used to certain brand attributes. Milk Bone is a red box of dog cookies. Pedigree is a yellow bag of dog food. Right? If suddenly Pedigree abandoned the yellow, for example, you’d be like, well, where’s my Pedigree?
Rob Broadfoot 13:56
Don Mock 14:11
So, we as consumers use kind of shortcuts as we consume brands. The ultimate shortcut and the ultimate advertorial sort of image is, it’s a straw coming out of the orange.
Rob Broadfoot 14:24
It doesn’t get any fresher than this.
Don Mock 14:26
Yes, yeah, exactly. Exactly. So replacing that with I think it was replaced with orange juice just being poured into a glass. It was like a beauty shot.
Rob Broadfoot 14:33
The most generic orange juice shot ever.
Don Mock 14:36
So I’d say that was, you know, definitely went backwards. Then they kind of righted the ship and immediately flip flopped. Again, we could, I could probably talk more about that Tropicana thing. I think the logo type was, typographically everything was constructed..
Rob Broadfoot 14:52
Don Mock 14:53
But they abandoned the number one brand asset. They abandoned their shape. I’m trying to think of some other brands that kind of made, made a design go bad. I think Gap. Gap did a logo..
Rob Broadfoot 15:05
Gap did. You’re right. You’re right.
Don Mock 15:06
Yeah, they did the weird type with a little blue gradient box up in the corner. And then went back to that.
Rob Broadfoot 15:11
Abandoned that one.
Don Mock 15:12
Do you have I mean, you asked me the question, do you have any?
Rob Broadfoot 15:14
Orange juice, Tropicana was the one that came to mind to me. And that reeks of a lot of times, people will come in and change just to make change.
Don Mock 15:24
Yeah, new brand manager comes in?
Rob Broadfoot 15:25
It reeks of a CMO came in and needed to pee on the fire hydrant as it were. But that’s really the one to me. But yeah, Gap now that you mentioned it. I do remember, I do recall that one as well.
Don Mock 15:36
I’m surprised when Pepsi changed to the, to the logo that they have now, because they develop that entire system where it used to be kind of the wave in the middle with the colors, even colors above and beyond.
Rob Broadfoot 15:49
Yin-yang, almost, situation.
Don Mock 15:51
Yeah, exactly. And then, you know, I believe there was a system at play of if it was Pepsi, zero or low sugar you know, like the the white area would change or whatever like that? I gotta tell you, I don’t know if that they still kept that or not. But I am surprised they have just kept with that as long as they have, I mean, there was there was some significant backlash to that, I think when that first launched, but also, too, people complain about everything nowadays.
Rob Broadfoot 16:14
I was about to say, anytime you’re especially if you’re a brand that’s been around that long, and that well established, any change is going to piss off of significant percentage of your fan base.
Don Mock 16:26
But to answer one of your earlier questions, are there any shapes, that are timeless? And whatever? Since we’re talking about soda? The obvious answer is Coca Cola. I mean, the dynamic ribbon, that may get a little thicker, may get a little thinner, and may squish a little this way, or that way or whatever. But that dynamic ribbon that Coke uses will probably never change. And you know, they own the contour bottle. I mean, that bottle shape that silhouette shape, I mean, they put that shape on cans.
Rob Broadfoot 16:52
What about the Ford ribbon? They had, they had a ribbon. Ford’s was like a scripted kind of ribbony type situation.
Don Mock 16:58
Well, Ford’s got the blue oval, does it not? With the, with the scripty type?
Rob Broadfoot 17:02
With the scripty type. But that scripty types been around. They haven’t really messed with that a whole lot.
Don Mock 17:06
There was. There was a leaked, I want to say it was Paul Rand as well. There was a leaked modern version of, they were hired to modernize the Ford logo, but obviously it was never adopted. So you can find that out on the interwebs. It’s kind of interesting to look at what Ford could have been reimagined, like, I think in the late 70’s, early 80’s, but I’m actually kind of glad they didn’t do it.
Rob Broadfoot 17:28
That’s one of those classics that you kind of don’t want.
Don Mock 17:31
Well, Chevy bowtie? I mean, that’s been gold, but now you see it black and pink and blue, and all sorts of crazy, different colors. That’ll never change. So that’s interesting, though. But that’s timeless design from a logo perspective, right? This the symbol, but you can make an argument that Chevrolet’s design, like most auto manufacturers has changed from the 60’s, till now, up to the 20’s. I mean, they’ve gone through all sorts of different iterations. But yet, that core brand asset is still the same, which is kind of interesting,
Rob Broadfoot 18:03
The design of the products run the gamut. But the logo kind of stays the same.
Don Mock 18:08
Or even just the Chevrolet typography that the types that Chevrolet word, wordmark, right. I’m sure has changed a bunch. So same with Ford too, they’ve done all sorts of crazy things, you know?
Rob Broadfoot 18:19
It’ll always be a bitchin Camaro. Totally, to me. Alright, on that note, we will. We’ll kind of wrap things up. And again, you can find us on the interwebs at mockthegency.com and of course on the socials @mocktheagency, and we look forward to talking with you for podcast six.
Don Mock 18:38
Yep. All right, play us out.
Rob Broadfoot 18:40