Retro Style, Modern Technology

By Fleur Chattillon

That melodic sound of the needle touching a record, crackling as the vinyl goes around the player. This might leave you feeling nostalgic, a warm, fuzzy familiar sensation that brings you back to simpler days when technology on the surface seems a little easier. As the world of computers and technology brings better devices to us with more complex tasks, do we crave a more pared-back approach? A rounded shape? A design that echoes back to simpler days? Different types of retro-looking designs have emerged in fashion, music, film, gaming, art and even the newest technology design items take on the retro visual. Technology nowadays can be frightening for a lot of people, is that maybe why we like the look and feel of the ‘old times’ that is hinted at in a lot of designs around us in the present? Does the ‘old skool’ visual help with the use of new technology? Read all about it in Retro Style, Modern Technology. 

On the surface, it’s easy to put a yearning for times gone by down to pure nostalgia; a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return. for some past period or irrecoverable condition?

However, is there more to it than that? It could be it’s also an appreciation for the innate charm of these design styles. Their re-emergence is down to strong design characteristics that have the potential to work in any era, and are not only brought about by attachment from fond memories.

With the rise of digitalization of products and services, interconnectivity, technology, and the trend of nostalgia, designers and brands started to use retro-style elements, functions, technics, motifs, materials or experiences for designing today’s digital products and services. Some even are keeping original shapes colours and motifs the same whilst updating what is inside rather than what is seen.

It is interesting to see how retro style could be effective in designing for a digital world. Giving the products an ‘intuitive’ feel alludes to simpler times, making it easier for the users to engage with the device and eventually the brand. Those that never lost original designs started as modernists then now still contemporary. This different approach to design makes the technology possibly warmer and friendlier to use and look at.

Brionvega is such a brand. they blend art, design and technology in their iconic range of radios and sound systems, made to last as timeless heirlooms. The Brionvega brand was founded in Italy in the 1960s, born out of a desire to give personality to industrial design and go against the mass industry of electronics. This forward-thinking approach led to the creation of colourful, unconventional models that would eventually become cult classics.

Radiofonografo, Red, 1965, By designers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni

Half a century of uniqueness, created in 1965 by designers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, the Radiofonografo is a superb work of modern industrial design, thanks to its incomparable style and sound. Exuding charm, along with an incredible sound and the ability to move the sound modules to best suit the surrounding environment, this system creates a listening experience both stimulating and intriguing; whilst aesthetically looking utterly stylish. Almost as if the front includes lifted eyebrows, eyes and a mouth.

Despite that the design was created in the sixties, the technology is modern. The Vinyl market is having a comeback as well, growing rapidly with economic growth, which makes this speaker all the more current.

Other Brands pick up this trend and benefit from their retro style in products and services. Again approaching the technology in a way to make it homey and familiar.

Gadhouse is a Bangkok-based lifestyle brand. It symbolizes a vintage house with retro vibes, products packed full of features and modern technology and then finished with nostalgic and creative one-of-a-kind designs. Each product is based on a different human character, filling the ‘House of Gadgets’ with effortless style.

Meet MILES. As Gadhouse describes itself, it launched its achingly stylish wireless speakers ‘Miles’ as it sets out to disrupt the UK market with its retro-cool, fashion-inspired audio designs.

MILES bookshelf speaker, 2023, By Gadhouse

As a key product in a growing portfolio of audio and accessory products that have taken Asia by storm, the inspiration behind Miles is ‘East meets West’ – 70s and 80s European style combined with Japanese minimalist ‘less is more’ philosophy, yet packed with modern features to merge contemporary technology with retro style and nostalgia. This is interesting since the term retro was coined in the early 70s.

A lot of designers will always have a tendency to look to their idols and the past for inspiration. This ensures that retro design will continue to be reflected in their work. So does the brand Gadhouse. Their creative team took inspiration from music legends like David Bowie and Miles Davis to create the Miles speakers that ooze sophistication through their simplicity and textured surfaces including stainless steel.

Every product they make is been given a name and backstory to bring it to life. So besides MILES they also have BRAD, the retro record player and many more products you can meet.

BRAD Retro record player, 2021, By Gadhouse

We don’t only see this retro-design trend in technology such as speakers and record players. We see it basically in all everyday use devices around the house such as toasters, fridges and other kitchen appliances. And you can maybe even find some around in your office. Ideally, your office is warm and fuzzy. Those oscillating bounties of warmth cuddle up next to our feet to keep our bottom half toasty, so designer Dadaism J created a personal heater for the desk, so our top halves can keep warm too.

Desk Heater echoes the design language of retro ‘50s home appliances through its slick, glossy finish, but packs the heat with an intuitive control panel fit for today.

Portable electric desk heater, 2021, By designer Dadaism J

At its core, retro is a design style that utilizes trends and characteristics of the past. It could be inspired by features of an older design style or it could be an updated version of it. In life, we too look back at moments in our past and evolve with the world around us, so the appeal of Retro Style with Modern technology makes sense to us. Technology doesn’t need to be frightening to look at or use, especially when it looks recognizable and kind towards us.

Radiofonografo, Red, 1965, By designers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni

MILES bookshelf speaker, 2023, By Gadhouse

BRAD Retro record player, 2021, By Gadhouse

Portable electric desk heater, 2021, By designer Dadaism J

If you enjoyed reading Retro Style, Modern Technology why not read Deceiving Designs

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