Art for the Minnesota RollerGirls
Badges for Bruises: art for the Minnesota RollerGirls roller derby promotional poster by Adam Hoganson.

There’s a style in logo design that I’ve watched grow in popularity over the past few years (especially with online outlets like Ffffound and Dribbble) that is sort of a homey, quasi-naive take on the classic Swiss/International style of the 1960s and 1970s.

Where Swiss typography usually favors Helvetica and Univers, this newer style typically consists of sturdy American favorites such as slab serifed Clarendon and condensed sans-serifs like Trade Gothic, with a dash of Hellenic Wide, sometimes ornamented by inline strokes.

So much of it seems to be coming out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and nearby Wisconsin, so I am calling it Midwest Modern.

Summer Party Minneapolis BBDO
You find this kind of style coming out of Minneapolis a lot.

Overall it is pretty clean, symmetrical design with retro circles and color palettes that make you think of two-color printing. Sometimes this retro look is “updated” with a little bit of grunge, which ironically makes it look older and more established.

Not all the work that looks like this is coming out of the Midwest, but Minneapolis does seem to be the epicenter due to a thriving poster design community as well as how much of it seems to be coming from retail giant Target for their various marketing materials. (Here in Nashville for a while there was a big influence from Hatch Show Print and the resulting stacked-typography approach influences a lot of designers, but I’ll get into that in another post.)

Target & Fossil: two major purveyors of the Midwest Modern design approach
Target & Fossil: two major purveyors of the Midwest Modern design approach

Minneapolis-based Target seems to be one of the biggest corporate proponents of this kind of visual style, but Dallas-based Fossil has been employing a similar retro style for years, so I’ll focus primarily on those two locales.


Badge-style logos by Allan Peters
Badge-style logos by Allan Peters of Minneapolis

Allan Peters, currently Senior Art Director at Target and formerly at BBDO Minneapolis, may be responsible for a lot of this. He has professed a love for what he calls “badges,” which are essentially logos that have a more or less chevron or circular shape, along with the surface treatments mentioned above. Samuel Soulek, also from Minneapolis, employs a similar aesthetic.


Work by Dustin Wallace for Fossil
Work by Dustin Wallace for Fossil. Note the “vintage” approaches that bring to mind logo work from the 60’s and 70’s as well as a little bit of the “badge” approach favored by Allan Peters.
Super Furry (Simon Walker) has a vintage/badge style that I like to call "beer label modern."
Super Furry (Simon Walker) has a vintage/badge style that I like to call “beer label modern.”

Fossil is based in Richardson, TX, a suburb of Dallas. They’re well known for the retro-style graphics printed on their watch tins. Dustin Wallace of Frisco, TX has done a lot of work for Fossil, so a variant of this retro style has emerged there as well. Simon Walker, aka Super Furry, appears to be based in Austin, and his work seems to have a similar aesthetic that I call “beer label modern.”

###Other places

Brent Couchman for Fossil
Brent Couchman for Fossil. Not quite the “Midwest” variant, but still retro with an American take on European ideals.

Portland is in the US Northwest, not the Midwest. Yet this kind of style comes from there as well. It could have something to do with Aaron Draplin, who, while based in Portland, grew up in Detroit. Frank Chimero — also a Portlandite — solves typographic problems in a similar manner. Fair Haven, Washington-based Kyle Marmesh does somewhat similar work, and Brent Couchman from the San Fransisco Bay area has done a bit of work for Fossil, so there’s some of the “midwesternization” of graphic design elsewhere, if you will.

A few of Draplin's blue-collar-inspired logos.
A small sampling of the logo design work coming out of Draplin Design Co. in Portland, Oregon.
A british take on this style of logo design by Everyone Associates
London-based Everyone Associates brings a British flair to this style of logo design for a hair salon.

Also, Everyone Associates in London seem to be taking a similar approach to their work with the Percy & Reed hair salon identity, albeit with a more “British” approach.

So again while this kind of design style may not have come from Minneapolis per se, I’ll stick with “Midwest Modern.” It has a nice ring to it.

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