Going way back

Another quick thought on the Olde Aesthetic. When designing the future, we need to find brainhooks – things which people understand in order to better situate the proposed change. Typically we trawl back through history in search of understood concepts,  which is why icon designers focus on box brownie cameras and compasses, rather than something more contemporary. It’s perhaps also why Apple have strayed into skeuomorphic stitched leatherette territory. BERG have just completed a social web-of-things project for Ericsson which features the following quote:

Remember when we still tuned in to long-wave and medium-wave radio stations, watched analog broadcasted TV and used land line telephones, we knew where the telephone rang in the other end when we called somebody…

“Remember when” is an interesting provocation for a future research project, but just how far back do we want to go? Why aren’t we going back to the 90’s? Why aren’t we talking rosily about the tech design of a more recent era? Maybe the technology of recent times has changed so quickly that we haven’t had the opportunity to create lasting technology icons? Increasingly I see designers reverting back to a perceived golden age of technology, returning to the products of ‘big invention’. Our reference points come from the 40’s and 50’s, from longwave radio, radar and rotary phones. It’s like we collectively feel we got it wrong in the 80’s and need a reboot.