For me it was a sketch on Portlandia. I’d had friends joke about my increasingly snug Levis and Oregon-made wooden wayfarers. But it was one sketch, one stupid (hilarious) sketch that cut me to my core: "We can pickle that." I’d thought back to last summer and the absurd amount of pride as I boasted about my rice wine vinegar pickles, and my anticipation of the summer of pickling to come. Portlandia had caught me with my guard down, nailing me on a hipster cliche I didn’t yet know existed (but in retrospect, was entirely obvious).
There are a whole lot of graphic designers who find themselves caught in their own pickle right now. And that’s because of Hipster Branding. It’s a project by designer Dave Spengeler that reimagines corporate logos, hipsterfied.
"I’m fed up with the latest design trend. Everything has to be ‘vintage’ style, type has to be centered, all-caps, or written calligraphically," Spengeler tells Co.Design. "There are lobsters, birds, ribbons, anchors, crowns, arrows, crests, and the famous X everywhere. Personally I like this kind of style. But slowly but surely these cliches are getting overused."
Spengeler’s designs are just so good at revealing the strings holding an entire genre of branding. Ikea stands out with a star, antique frame, and extruded font. KFC gets a handlebar moustache and wayfarers. And Xs are everywhere.
Despite his parodies, for Spengeler, the issues with so-called hipster branding are beyond the issue of "put a bird on it" aesthetics. He sees trends in design—any trends—as antithetical to the entire purpose of a logo. "A logo, a symbol that should represent and stand for something, for a long time, shouldn’t follow any trends. It should be unique, timeless and a contrast to your competitive businesses," he writes.
His criticism is a bit hard on corporate and societal culture. Logos are always a product of their times, and almost every company rebrands themselves in the face of trends, condensing their fonts to complement our shrinking jeans. That’s the fun of hopping on trends: We can all always just change.