Hip and Authentic. Defining Neo-Retro Style in Package Design
Franck Celhay, Lise Magnier, Jan Schoormans


Styles in design have a strong evocative power for consumers and are commonly used by brands to communicate specific associations of ideas. This article describes the style elements and the associations related to a contemporary style in graphic design: the neo-retro style. We argue that this style is linked to the hipster subculture but used in a broader context. Complementary methods were used to progressively determine the styling elements and the values related to this style. Study 1, a multi-method qualitative study using creative sessions and content analysis, yields a description of the formative elements of the neo-retro style from both an analytical (structure, graphics, and information) and a holistic perspective (naturalness, harmony, elaborateness). In study 2, we designed eight coffee packages manipulating structural and graphical elements, namely the presence of ornaments, texture and variation in typefaces, and tested the associations evoked by these elements among 251 participants. The results first confirm quantitatively that these elements are evocative of the neo-retro style. We also show that this style is associated with values such as authenticity and craftsmanship and as such with the hipster subculture. The study contributes to theory and practice in the fields of design and brand management and shows that packaging elements can be manipulated to evoke values in the marketplace.

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