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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.