What’s Art Retro? I don’t know, I just made that up. But it seems to apply. I’ll explain. The challenge with Reinhardt,the latest client for Monthly Brand who is looking to reinvigorate their vintage radio company, is to harken to the classic and comfortable feel of listening to the radio all while providing the consumer with the quality and versatility that is required from a contemporary device. It needs to look beautiful on your shelf, but also receive XM Radio. It needs to have analogue dials but crystal clear sound quality. Reinhardt has the product, they just need the vision.
So the challenge is finding that balance, and I started with the “old” comfortable feel at its foundation. This lead me to Art Deco, the period of art, design, engineering and architecture that embraced progressivism and style, which also happened to be the golden age of radio when the Reinhardt company began. Knowing that as a logo, the entire company’s name was important when imprinting upon their devices, a logotype seems most appropriate, and typographically speaking, the Art Deco period has a lot to offer in the way of titling and stylized letterforms. Toying with what I’ve seen that’s out there already, and wanting to personalize it further, I dug through samples and began redrawing them on my own. When I finally found some forms that were pleasing and appropriate, of course leaning on the upper case R in the name (a letter that also recurs in the line) I began to think about how to meet the old vs. new challenge. But something happened first that drew me in, a style that needed to happen to give the brand relevance.
Hairlines were popular in the 20s and 30s. They provided an opportunity to create a high contrast between thick and thin strokes which was very en vogue at the time. It gave a sense of “strength with style” and as I was toying with that graphic motif, I found that if I used 6 successive hairlines in the stem of the letterform it appeared much like the neck of a guitar. The guitar, of course, was Django Reinhardt’s instrument, but not only that, it is an icon in music in general. This is a perfect route to exemplify a company whose main business is the beauty of broadcasting music and sound. Further, when the bowl of the upper case R continues across the stem, it implies a fret in our little visual metaphor. Not only do I now have style that harkens to a bygone and cherished era for the company, but I have theme within the graphic that is relevant and musical, without being hackneyed or over thought.
But I’m not done, because there is this sense of age and antiqueness, and also an homage to the company’s namesake and business, but there is still the challenge of making it new, making it contemporary and marketable in 2011. As much as I have admittedly been entranced mostly by music of the 30s and 40s lately, people are going to want their Reinhardt radios for many reasons, from their NPR News to their Pandora Dance Music station. The lightning bolt kept coming up in research that I did, primarily coined by the Zenith logo of old, carried out by Crosley, Philco, RCA and into common graphics depicting broadcasting. It’s part of the graphic vernacular in the radio business, but with a contemporary twist, this jagged electronic quality can be styled for the present day without being trendy. At least I hope. But there’s where I’ve left off, choosing a direction that will take the Art Deco style, infuse it with symbology of a guitar and thereby music, jazz and Django Reinhardt, and then twist it with a jagged line style to bring it into a contemporary light and help ground it in the visual language of broadcasting and electronics. For now, I’ll call a multi-line, 70s dance music, Peter Bézier inspired style while still rooted in a pre-WWII family of typography Art Retro. This might be the only instance in which a ridiculous term like this is applicable, but I’ve always wanted to coin a phrase so I’m going to keep trying. Anyway, onward with the shaping and streamlining of my planned graphic tactic. My Graphtactic!