By Pierluigi Capretti, April 24th 2023

Reading time: 5'

Old's Cool: When Modern Branding Smells of Nostalgia.

Has anyone noticed how visual communication has been drastically changing in the last few years?

As happy tears form in their eyes, nostalgics like me will say that brands of all kinds are embracing an old-school style, taking inspiration from the past to create a more direct and simple way of connecting with the public.

We’ve seen it all: major car companies simplifying their logos, entertainment studios freeing their image of anything that’s superfluous, and high-fashion firms going for a minimalistic all-black approach to their naming style.

The pros and cons of minimalism

I like to think of minimalism as a double-edged sword for different reasons: first of all, embracing it involves the potential risk of endangering a company’s brand identity.

Representing something complex using this approach is not as easy as it sounds and should be done carefully, as the loss of an identifying element can create distance between the public and the brand.

The second issue is that its effect on the audience drastically changes according to the brand.

It works perfectly for a company like Amazon, but that can be largely attributed to the fact that it is a well-established reality that everyone knows, and therefore it doesn’t need an overly complex logo to speak for itself.

Can the same be said about a brand that’s just starting out in the world?

The public perception can be deeply fragmented, as some might see it as a form of innovation while it could look generic to others.

Another issue to be considered is represented by the many examples of beloved brands that decided to undergo a redesign, disappointing those who developed an affection for the brand over the years.

So, minimalism or no minimalism?

To find a solution it’s necessary to understand the various benefits that it can provide.

First of all, minimalism's main advantage is flexibility, and that's essential in the digital era we’re living in. A simple logo goes a long way in a world where it needs to be adapted to many different contexts.

Whether we’re talking about social media, websites, or other digital experiences, logos need to be easy to export, interlace, and shrink into an icon.

Not to mention the importance of being able to incorporate different elements into the branding according to necessity, which is possible only if the brand is stripped of anything that's superfluous.

Another reason why minimalism is so effective is the fact that it allows the public to focus on something that doesn’t require too much brain processing, a particularly fitting quality in an era in which the attention span of humans is at an all-time low. 

In other words, everything that is not needed is erased to highlight what’s important.

This issue also raises the hypothesis that adopting this type of visual communication might be more of a necessity than a choice..

Let's talk about Pepsi

Hey! Did you know that Pepsi comes from the word “dyspepsia” which means difficult digestion in Greek?

Now you can go to your friends and tell them you speak the language of Achilles.

Caleb Bradham, the inventor of Pepsi, knew the importance of a good logo, and that’s why he created one that could be described as slightly similar to Coca Cola’s.

After all, why not? If your competition is showing such great results, why shouldn’t you copy them a little bit?

There are actually a few reasons not to do that, but we might talk about that in a different article.

From 1896 to the 1940’s the logo underwent different redesigns that aimed at making the writing cleaner and easier to read, as the letters became more polished with each new version.

After the end of WWII, Pepsi decided to go for the patriotic vibe, creating a bottle cap that represented the waving flag of the United States of America, composed of a top red section, a bottom blue one, and a white one containing the Pepsi wordmark in the middle.

This iconic design marked the birth of the famous Pepsi globe that we all know and recognize today, as it has been part of the brand since 1945.

The logo was modified numerous times through the years: in 1962 the word cola was omitted and the font was changed to sans serif.

The 1973 version presented a cleaner silhouette that was achieved by eliminating the jagged edges of the bottle cap which were replaced with a white frame that highlighted the central part of the logo.

A radical change took place in 1991 when the elements were separated to achieve a sportier vibe. The italic typography made the wordmark more dynamic while the globe was complemented by a red rectangle that made it look as if it was in motion.

The 1998 version added details such as reflecting lights and bolder typography.

The same strategy was followed 5 years later, as more graphic elements were added. The globe became more 3-dimensional and little water drops were added to create a thirst-provoking effect.

The logo from 2008 was probably the most controversial of them all, as it created quite a response from the public and the design world.

The team that came up with the concept, created a 27-page long document in which they explained in detail all the different shades of meaning and layers that made up the new logo.

To be completely honest, I feel like this version is quite hard to interpret, which in my opinion makes it ineffective if the goal was to convey meaning. 

Not to mention that it feels like they tried to justify a fairly simple design by coming up with overly complex concepts.

There’s a thing about simplicity: if you have to explain it, you haven’t done a good job.

The latest rebrand and why less is more

If you look at how the logo changed over the years, it’s pretty clear that the intention was always to evolve from the previous version, if not in the actual design, at least on a conceptual level, which raises the question: why did Pepsi decide to go back to a design so similar to the one they went for in the ’80s?

As we said before, there’s certainly a connection to the necessity of having a flexible logo that's easy to use on different platforms, and it seems like that was taken into consideration.

The logo is much more direct compared to its predecessor. There can be no mistake of interpretation, even at first sight, as the old concept of the Pepsi globe is once again complemented by the Pepsi wordmark, helping even those who haven’t lived on planet Earth for the last 80 years identify immediately the company.

The power of memories

There’s something really powerful a brand can do to strengthen the relationship with its audience, and it has to do with feelings.

I don’t know about you, but there are so many products that I remember vividly and hold dear for what they meant to me during my recently lost youth. 

I’m just kidding. I still like to consider myself an uncommonly old teenager.

That connection, aside from the product itself, was enhanced by the aesthetic of those brands. 

What I’m trying to say is that lots of people will be so excited to hold in their hand something so similar to what they used to carry around as kids on bike rides around town or while sitting outside the arcade taking a break from all that zombie killing. 

If a brand has been around for decades, it’s a great strategy to play with nostalgia and wink at the past. 

Sharing memories creates a powerful bond, and I think Pepsi really went for that this time.

Set sail!