branding

1990s Design Revival

“Trends come in cycles.”

Almost everyone has probably heard some version of this adage. It’s something I first remember hearing as a teenager, thinking “Yeah right. Why would bell-bottoms ever come back?” But as the design, layouts, palettes, and aesthetics of the 1990s are in full revival now, the phrase continues to ring more true with each generation.

90s iMac vs Current iMac

Even Apple can’t resist the pull towards two decades prior, announcing a new line of iMacs in fresh pastel colors. Though not quite as vibrant as their hardware in the 90s (and missing that awesome transparent plastic), these colors do evoke a different feel than the variety of metal finishes Apple has offered for their devices for the past decade.

It seems the 90s is upon us again so let’s take a look at some of the defining design trends from the decade, trace their origins, and learn about the driving factors behind these trends.

1990s Design Trends

Grunge

90s Grunge Design

“Never mistake legibility for communication”

David Carson, Ray Gun Magazine

Carson’s sentiment implies that even though something may be clearly legible and understood, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the proper meaning or tone was conveyed. Born out of angst and 90s counterculture, grunge follows a lineage and pulls inspiration from graffiti and the punk music scene while embodying that same chaos and unrest in their visual design. Rough edges, tattered textures, and misaligned type all converged to make the distinct and chaotic style of grunge that continues to see innovative applications today.

Rave

90s Rave Design

Styles of music including Acid House and Trance with origins in the 1980s began to define a look all their own in the 1990s. Gatherings for these musical events began to go by the more illicit name “raves.”

While not the full-blown descent into debauchery that the nightly news of the time made them out to be, patrons of raves would occasionally be under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Combine this with dark environments featuring strobing lights and you’ll quickly realize legibility was at a premium. 

As a result, designs featuring bold, high contrast typography mixed with psychedelic figures and geometry are at the forefront of this design trend. Present-day, these trippy visuals are now often combined with motion graphics to create even more captivating and immersive designs for digital album art, live performances, and music videos.

Brutalism

90s Brutalism Design

While the Brutalism aesthetic wasn’t actively or intentionally created in the 1990s, it was a product of the technical limitations of the time. Today’s designers are very intentionally curbing from these designs of decades past.

Borrowing its name from the minimalist, barebones architectural style, Brutalism in the design world gains its look by employing only the most rudimentary of technological advancements in order to reflect back upon a time when design, specifically in the web and digital world, was much more limited. Effects that mimic basic HTML formatting techniques, text effects generated by program defaults (think Microsoft WordArt), and retro operating system elements are meant to give a raw and barebones appearance.

Anti-Design

90s Antidesign

Pushing Brutalist design even further, some artists (Anti-Artists?) have paved the way for what’s now called Anti-Design. This aesthetic seeks to actively create ugly and confounding designs utilizing a mishmash of nearly all of the previously mentioned trends. These designs are loud and grabbing, forcing their audience to pay attention by bucking expectations for how layout, design, and user interface elements can look and function.

Why? (1990s)

So now that we understand the basics of some of the popular 1990s design trend revivals, why exactly did those designs take formation in the first place?

Adobe Photoshop 1.0

Availability of Technology

One of the greatest contributors to design trends In the 1990s was the significant advancements and wider availability of design, editing, and print technology, both hardware, and software. The Knoll Brothers published Photoshop 1.0, leading the way for digital editing software. Foundries began to digitize and distribute their font libraries via CD (some even on the World Wide Web!), creating even more options for designers. Computers, scanners, and printers reached a price point that allowed for much greater adoption.

Even though these new design instruments were becoming more widespread, in some cases artists continued to use the same design methods learned in their punk heyday (70s & 80s). As a result, trends that began life in the analog world began to see themselves recreated digitally. One example being the continued evolution of grunge style as digital methods became more readily available.

In the case of punk and grunge music scenes, zines and posters would often be collages, cut and pasted, splattered, painted over, duplicated, and run through however many Xerox passes were necessary to get the desired look. Made with an underground budget and less focused on traditional design elements, each of these steps chew into the artwork and give it that iconic grunge and grit. With the introduction of applications like Photoshop, each of these steps could be consolidated into one file as well as be shared and copied between artists.

Why? (Now)

90s design cycle

Trends Come in Cycles

Young adults today have grown up with computers and design software readily available. And their inspiration comes from the far-off land of the 1990s. This isn’t to paint a target on our younger generation. Much like the deluge of 1980s related media reappearing in recent years, from Stranger Things to a Blade Runner sequel, each cycle looks back about 20 years. Every generation is guilty of looking to the past for inspiration. There’s an allure and mystery to time periods before one’s own, particularly when they are not so far in the past that it’s impossible to imagine. 

Art and design trends are artifacts of the past, with a distinct origin in time and occasion that brought them into existence, but that doesn’t mean they’re bound there. Trends of yesterday offer a lens through which to compare where we’ve come from to where we are now. What was considered good then? Is it still? Can we refine it? As time continues to march on we can look to these trends for nostalgic inspiration, and lessons learned.

Trends for a Test Drive

Take Trends for a Test Drive

Want to see what your brand can look like through the lens of past and present design trends? We take inspiration from every decade, combined with the latest design technology and your brand requirements to help you present your brand in new and relevant ways. If it’s time for a brand makeover — our team can help to find the design solution that is right for you. Connect with our team today.


    Digital Brands and Behavior Psychology

    Connecting with Your Consumers Online in 2021

    Are you feeling overwhelmed with the latest trends, patterns, and constantly trying to find ways to connect with your consumers in the digital world?

    You are definitely not alone, did you know there are over 7million online retail shops and that number is only on the rise. With competition high, and options limitless how do you get seen and build lasting relationships? In an age of endless information and rapidly changing technology, it can be daunting to know how to help your brand stand out online. When you don’t have limitless resources and funding it can be difficult to keep up. We have discovered the most effective area to focus on when establishing a lasting online presence with your customers is the deep down nitty-gritty of your brand psychology. Understanding the basic psychology of your consumers will provide you with tools to enhance your brand on a cheaper, more effective level. This knowledge will help you feel more confident in your brand, dig deeper into what makes you stand out and how to get there.   

    Whether you have an established brand, or you are working on building a new brand, there are a few things you should consider before launching your online presence to ensure success. Digital trends and technologies will continue to develop at breakneck speed, so what are the other areas that can help to ensure the success of your brand?

    Basic Consumer Psychologies to Consider When Building Your Digital Brand

    We have put together a shortlist of psychologies to help you understand the behavior of where you are positioned, who is playing in your space, and where to focus your efforts during the building process. 

    Countless books have been written on the subject of branding and branding psychology – we’d be remiss to say that we could cover the entire topic in just one post. Below we outline the four components we believe you need to focus on and will be going in-depth to each of them in subsequent posts.

    Want to continue the journey? Look for the next topic in the series next month, or sign up for our newsletter to get the latest updates.

    The 4 basic psychologies to take into consideration when building your digital brand:

    • Audience (behavior) 
    • Brand (influence) 
    • Environment (experience) 
    • Development(support)

    In this first article, we will be specifically taking a look at the principles around audience behavior.

    Audience & Consumer Behaviors

    First, you need to understand who your customers are and what sort of behaviors they have. There are many differences between physical (in-person) interactions/behaviors and digital interactions/behaviors. As we are evolving into an increasingly digital age, physical interactions becoming more obsolete. 

    When interacting online you don’t naturally experience the full human behavior of a customer that you would experience in a physical in-person setting. Online interactions between brands and customers can often become diluted. In-person you have countless access to people’s nonverbal cues, facial expressions, tone of voice, appearance, body language, etc. In a digital setting, those are stripped away, which can leave the customer feeling disconnected from the full brand experience – causing them to bounce at a rapid rate, and only discovering and connecting based on their personal needs/wants as there’s no reaction to a natural give and take that would occur in a physical setting (i.e. to interact when “spoken” to). 

    Most businesses start by putting all their focus on how to get the visitors to the door, through the door, and keeping them coming back for more – solely based on digital performance data. But what if we start to consider the digital space as we would the more traditional physical space? Would you be shouting at customers to come to buy in extreme ways? Or would you find confidence in your performance as a sales clerk and guide them with expertise? 

    Building a strong foundation for your online brand or business starts with understanding the psychology of your consumers and will provide you with the confidence to communicate what your brand stands for more effectively. The goal is to look at every aspect of the digital space as one of familiarity in the physical world and to find digital ways to reproduce those comfortable feelings we have when walking into our favorite business down the street.

    Let’s dive into consumer buying behaviors and how they have evolved.

    What is Behavior Psychology?

    Behavior psychology is the theory or understanding of how humans and other animals interact within an environment. (We will focus on humans, while cats on keyboards have a hand (or paw) in these studies, they are not our primary audience!) The environment of the topic is the digital space; websites, search engines, social media – anywhere that you and your audience hang out online.

    The Four Traditional Buying Behaviors

    While we have evolved into a digital environment to purchase, our natural instincts do still exist. We should consider traditional buying behaviors and the differences between in-person and digital, and adapt in order to keep the human connection with our employees, buyers, and partners to provide a successful customer journey.

    • Complex buying behaviorsExpensive products/services. These types of visitors are extremely involved throughout the buying process. They tend to research before committing to a purchase. This is typically recognized when making larger purchases. If you are prone to this style you will need to have a strong understanding of your product and make this information easily accessible to your visitors. Relating to these buyers’ beliefs and attitudes is equally important.
    • Dissonance-reducing buying behaviorUnique products/services. This occurs when options for purchase are scarce and the buyer has minimal options for a purchase. This involves limited decision making and relies on availability, time, and budget for the buyer. Having a strong messaging focus, with discounts and sales, will help build repeat sales and referrals. 
    • Habitual buying behavior – Daily products/services. Not a lot of thought occurs with these purchase decisions. Buyers typically have developed a favorite brand, selection is made on budget or availability. These products are attractive through media exposure, referrals, promotions, influences, etc. Constant advertising and discounts works well for these buyers. 
    • Variety seeking buying behaviorVariety products. There are a variety of options for these products. These buyers will switch products based on wanting to try something new, a different flavor, or just because they saw it. These can be impulse buys, and can occur without intention. Brands should typically include a variety of flavors and options to oppeese to these buyers and or providing a different flavor option another brand doesn’t offer for them to try. Free samples are great for these types of buyers.  

    The Five Most Common Online Buying Behaviors

    Providing buyers with new purchasing environments comes with buyers developing different buying behaviors as well. As we mentioned, when going digital we lose some pretty important physical cues, so naturally, the consumer buying behavior changes as well. Additionally in the digital space buyers become overwhelmed and distracted with a rapid rate of information at their fingertips, it is literally a .00000025s click to the next storefront if dissatisfied or simply curious. 

    • Discount seekers – This makes up 67% of online shoppers. These types of visitors do not have loyalty to any brand and are searching for the best price and purchase is determined by how much they can save. While 67% is a large percentage these shoppers aren’t as common and can still be persuaded to revisit. They can become interested in the benefits of your products vs. just the price if you shift their focus and emphasize what sets your product apart from competitors. 
    • Wandering customers – These shoppers make up for the majority of your traffic count. Compared to traditional shopping they are window shoppers. They spend a lot of time looking but not sure what they want to buy. They typically make up the smallest percentage of revenue for your business and become lost or disinterested quickly. For these shoppers instead of focusing on attracting them, you should focus on making the process seamless as possible for them to get to the finish line (the checkout or end goal) quickly. 
    • Impulse buyers – This is the excited shopper. They love trends and can’t wait to have the next best thing. Industries that are constantly trending or changing are great markets of interest; such as fashion and technology. Recommendations go a long way for this shopper because it means that is what the majority has approved to be trending and therefore “good”. Newsletter subscriptions are good for these shoppers to keep them up to date and have the latest trends/news delivered to them without them searching. The initial discount for first time purchases is directed toward these shoppers with a desire to stay connected through social media.   
    • Need-based shoppers – These shoppers are extreme research driven purchase decision makers, with anxiety of making an uninformed decision. This is the most up to date, and complex online shopper. This type of consumer will do tons of research on what they are looking for and if they find themselves torn between two very similar products at the end they choose what enlines closest with their emotional views. These shoppers are built on trust and typically have strong brand loyalty. Educational videos are important to relay your views to these shoppers. Providing features lists, FAQs, and expert advice is essential. 
    • Loyal customers – This is the end goal of what type of consumer you want in your corner. Loyal customers care about your business, product or brand and are more likely to repeat purchases, recommend you to their friends, and stick around even if not 100% satisfied out of pure brand loyalty. However, these customers typically make up the minority of your customer base. VIP programs are great for encouraging this type of consumer behavior and keeping them around. 

    Three Factors That Affect Consumer Behaviors.

    There are other factors to understand about your consumer and why they behave. These factors will have an influence on you as well and help you decide on how to position your brand. 

    • Personal Factors – These are the attributes that have built our lives and who we are as individuals. Past experiences, current location, age, gender, career, etc. 
    • Social Factors –  These are the attributes of where we stand in society. Peer and family relationships, income class, education level, etc. 
    • Psychology Factors – This is how you perceive yourself and the world around you. Your beliefs, attitude, values, and ultimately how and why you make decisions and how you choose to interact.   

    Consumers today are often easily overwhelmed by the number of options online, however, research shows that even when in a digital space some of our natural buying behaviors come out. How to effectively influence your consumers amongst your competitors can be challenging and quite a feat in itself. So much that we wanted to share a full brand positioning guide here.  

    Manipulation vs Persuasion

    Once you compare your products/services to these consumer behaviors and begin to understand how consumers are naturally influenced you can then develop a successful strategy on how to communicate your brand and position yourself for success. The best practice for this is to utilize persuasion rather than manipulation. As digital marketing evolves, consumers have also become more aware of manipulative strategies and will become offended and choose not to interact if they feel they are being manipulated. We believe the best way to remain successful in the space is to focus on how to express your products/services in a genuine and authentic way that will provide confidence within the brand that will reflect in your consumers.

    Manipulation can feel like an easier strategy and may provide short-term success, but true persuasion in an authentic brand will provide long-term benefits. The truth is with so many options available to online shoppers the only way to withstand the competition is to remain authentic to yourself. The top reason consumers stick with a brand and make it through the purchase funnel is largely based on trust. This is why it is essential to understand these psychologies and build a strong brand presence with confidence that helps to build trust with your consumers.

    Building Your Brand with Visual Cues

    Building a brand online relies solely on visuals on screen (words, images, video) with minimal physical cues. How to develop these visuals will rely on brand psychology as well. As you gain an understanding of online consumer behaviors, you can start to communicate your brand more effectively visually to influence these behaviors.

    Want to keep learning about brand psychology? Stay tuned for more articles in this series!

    Not sure where to start with building or improving your digital brand? Solution Agency can help. Connect with our team today to get started.


    Before you go, don’t forget to download our quick reference sheet on consumer behaviors. 


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