Nostalgia is a powerful tool when it comes to design – the more familiar we are with a product, the more we tend to want it, and to bestow it with the much sought-after description: “timeless classic.” Recently, we’ve noticed a number of product launches that are re-tooled versions of objects we grew up with. And like many others, we assumed their extinction left little chance of a return.
Wrong. Even Kodak is back on the market, albeit not as the 30mm film producer giant it once was. The legendary company has leveraged its brand, and its instantly indentifiable yellow-and-red logo, to move into the digital camera market, yet with the look and feel of the pre-digital era.
Is it boomers who are craving a chance to buy the stuff they grew up with? Not really. Most inventors of retooled objects are young entrepreneurs who are finding something romantic about the past, and who also see ways to improve classics with new technology. Here, five classic products redesigned for 2016.
Aron Fay works for Pentagram Design in New York. When he joined the illustrious graphic design studio, his boss Michael Bierut gave him a compositional notebook. Ever since, he has been obsessed with the timeless notebook that hasn’t changed since it first became a classroom staple in the 1800s.
Earlier this month, Fay launched a successful Kickstarter campaign with an improved version called Comp. The size and shape remain the same, but upgrades have turned the once-cheap notebook into a kind of fetish object, with such details as a spine made with Italian Cialux cloth and ultra-white 120gsm uncoated paper, lined and unlined. Fay is yet to release dates for when Comp will be available for sale.
2 Ektra digital by Kodak
Kodak may have been the inventor of digital photography, but the corporate giant lost its way when it decided to focus on film development instead. The legendary company has been making a slow comeback by leveraging its history.
In October, along with Bullitt Group, the brand unveiled a smartphone version of the Ektra, a 35mm film camera originally launched in 1941 and loved by photography buffs who fawned over its sleek form and the ability to interchange lenses without removing the film. The digital version features a long list of attributes and options for capturing any image exactly the way you want, and a sophisticated media management system. Ektra will hit hit the European market later this year and retail for £449.
3 Converse All Stars by HTM
The Converse All Star first appeared in 1917, but it became hip in 1921, when basketball star Charlie “Chuck” Taylor bought a pair. Its legacy was sealed in the 1950s, when everyone who considered themselves cool and rebellious owned a pair, just like they owned Levi’s 501s.
The ubiquitous runner has never really gone away; it is in a constant state of re-imagining by various designers. The latest limited-edition version is by HTM, a creative team consisting of Hiroshi Fujiwara, Tinker Hatfield and Mark Parker, who have given the shoe a sleek exterior, a flexible goat leather upper, and a neatly finished “debossed” All Star patch at the ankle. The collection sold out shortly after its release.
4 Double Food Bag by Hongyang Sun and Xiuhua Zhang
Someone actually did “invent” the paper bag — a school teacher named Francis Wolle in 1852. Its construction hasn’t wavered much since then, so it is deeply satisfying to come across a radical improvement on the humble product. This year, two Chinese students took home an iF Student Award in Packaging for a paper bag designed for eating roasted chestnuts and other shell-encased snacks.
Hongyang Sun and Xiuhua Zhang, both studying at Henan University of Technology in Zhengzhou, China, came up with the Double Food Bag, which simply adds an accordion pocket to one side, for keeping whole chestnuts and its uneatable shells separate, taking care of snack litter. Brilliant.
5 RZR Shaver by RZR
The newly formed Amsterdam-based company RZR channelled the uber-minimalist designs of Dieter Rams and his revered Braun products, when it decided to launch a line of shaving ware, starting with a men’s-only shaver. The concept was to vastly improve upon disposal shavers, and after three years of research and testing, the company developed a wet shaving system “with the beauty of the past and the comfort of today.” The RZR and the RZR-blades, launched earlier this year on Kickstarter, failed to make its investment goal, so it remains a prototype, for now.