Co.Design

What McDonald's And Ikea Would Look Like, If Reborn As Hipster Brands

Dave Spengeler produces a spot-on parody of current trends in graphic design.

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.

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20 Comments

  • Dave McClinton

    This always happens. Back in the 80's (1 example) there was Duffy Design --> Charles S. Anderson whose styles were copied ad nauseam. Once the internet took hold, and "researching" design trends was made easier, you saw it every season. 3-5 brilliant design elements in the design annuals of CA or HOW, and those styles would blanket the next year's annuals. I'm glad this piece was written. Shouldn't design for a client be devoid of style? Shouldn't it be reflective what the goals of the project were? An age old question.

  • Info

    McDonalds could never look like that! You will never ever find a knife and fork in any of there gazillion restaurants. Fail!

  • Nick Reynolds

    The (recent?) FastCo. redesign strikes me as "hipster" actually– for better or for worse, depending on your perspective. I happen to like the sort of minimalist vintage aesthetic.

    And for anyone particularly interested in "hipster" trends, check out an interesting study here: <http: nplusonemag.com="" what-was-hipster="">. Although it's certainly more sociological than design-oriented, it gives you a nice superior feeling whenever you read articles like this. And isn't that what we really want, anyway?</http:>

  • Gatcha122000

    Thia is Hippster Design. Unflashy, Untrendy, and Undesigned. Looks great and gets to the bare essiensials of Portland and what Portland wants.

  • Joel Blair

    Well I must a hipster because I love these logos. I always thought I was too old to be one.

  • CLO

    I think this association with Oregon indicates a style relative to the original designer's regional aesthetic. Much like the minimalist movie poster trend that either points to Saul Bass or whatnot, this hipster branding won't survive outside the confines of this article, or the faux-hipster community. Most real world clients wouldn't conform to this direction anyway, but I do like the design exploration that ultimately exposes the designer's naive language as well as our own. The reactionary process could be part of this fake branding as we stand here scoffing at it. As a side note, this exploration wouldn't survive the second round at any Art Center Identity design class. Just saying.

  • Dan Baker

    1. I suspect the trend in "vintage" in graphic design is a reaction against the whole "web 2.0" style (which was based almost wholly on Apple's OSX design style). It also follows the offline DIY, handmade movement. These things are all connected and to suggest it's a "hipster trend" dismisses the complicated history of the trend. Spengeler doesn't like it? Great. We all don't like certain trends.
    2. The trend I'm sick of is using the word "hipster" to immediately de-legitimize something. Again it shows an ignorance of the cultural path that led us to this moment.

    post-script: I really like some of these logos!

  • Ola

    Looking for examples where these trends are put into practice? Skim thru Dribbble or Ffffound. You'll probably see 10 examples within the first 30 secs.

  • Matt

    I wouldn't say that it's really hipster.  Hipster to me implies a paradox of fitting in by being original.  I think advertising, branding, product development, and consumer trending is more escapist.  There's a trend of nostalgia and whimsy; either we are alluded back to the ubiquitous time of quality-down-home-hand-made-hard-working goods for sale or a fantasy world that triggers our inner child and lets our imagination escape our day to day week to week "grown-up" struggles.

  • Nathan Hornby

    The Heinz one actually works pretty well.

    What's the point of these?  That designers follow trends?  Bloody hell, alert the press.

  • Leban

    It's all a bit of a Catch 22. If we, as designers, are not up with the trends, then we are "stale" or "dated". But if we go with the trends, we are "hipsters". If we are too "innovative", the client will usually slap our hands for it. We just can't win for losing.

    I say, if Vintage is in and your client goes with it, relish it. We're not always this lucky (that's assuming you like the Vintage appeal).

    If you have disdain for it, then this gives you a chance to be "creative" and go in another direction.

    I appreciate the cliches being pointed out and it IS important to be aware of them and not do things just because they're in style. But if it fits the branding context or the particular campaign, I don't see the harm.

    After this trend, there will just be another.

  • FS

    It's like he's slapped a burger on a grill, nuked it and then deep fried it. "X" it.

  • Yakbob

    It seems this trend argument would be better supported with actual examples of what Dave feels is "hipster branding". Purposely re"designing" established brands poorly to try and make his case (which anyone can do by the way) just makes him look like an also-ran. Is this just a case of Swiss co-opting hipster culture...poorly?

    This series doesn't read as parody to me, and certainly isn't nearly as brilliant as anything written for Portlandia.

  • Unhip

    Exactly. WTH is "hipster branding?" Show us the horrible trend where so many designers are duplicating it.