Enter the 2000s. Turn of the millennia. An event so monumental, so unknown – that rumours were rife. Would digital clocks simply melt? Would machinery manage? Would the world continue to function once the one turned from a two, and the remaining annual digits rewound down to singular figures? People were frantic.
Thankfully, as you’ll know reading this – the world did continue to go on and on we marched to the decade dubbed the noughties. Emboldened by its success, technology became brazen. Really, it did explode – just not in the way people had imagined.
This new-age technology was booming, computers were becoming household essentials and the power of the internet was properly being unleashed. This advancing tech seeped into graphic design, with software that fundamentally changed the remit of creativity – so much so, it earned its own name: the Y2K aesthetic.
Graphic design became supercharged. The novelty was palpable, every effect, every enhancement was applied – as though the term ‘overdoing it’ hadn’t yet been invented. Hand drawn typography, bold colours, metallic tones, glitter, futuristic fonts, chunky typeface, 3D shapes, gradient hues, bizarre image manipulation – you name it, it happened. Plastered on t-shirts and projected on billboards.
Let’s look first at a humble example, one we should all be able to conjure without much effort. Hubba Bubba bubble gum, even the product itself was a novelty. A seemingly endless strand of gum – six feet to be precise – spun into a wheel and sealed with the most textbook of noughties branding. Bulging saffron yellow typography encircled within a purple bubble – truly, it shouldn’t work, but it does. The campaigns launched by these guys back then were equally just as ludicrous, seeing the bubble gum casing turned into a kind of reptile, with the lace of gum serving as its tongue. In the utopian world of Hubba Bubba, the colours are vivid, and beaming smiles are worn on the faces of talking animals from polar bears to octopuses. All encapsulated under the tagline: ‘Six feet of gum, six feet of fun’, so, what else would you expect?
Like its forbearer the 90s, the Noughties decade was also obsessed with celebrity. This fondness introduced yet another element to the already crowded space of 00s branding and marketing, adding a popstar as the central protagonist into any available advertising campaign. Take the 00s Sketchers campaign – did Britney Spears ever really wear a pair? Do we care? The implication alone that she could have done was enough to drive consumer demand so high that the campaign marked a turning point in the success of Sketchers as a brand. Britney propelled them from a practical footwear solution to a highly stylised accessory.
Set against a metallic silver background, Britney dons her Sketchers ‘Bring the Energy’ collection – some even have wheels, just to add a bit of pace on the morning trip to the shop. The campaign aesthetic is quint essentially noughties, with each portrait of Britney and her iconic microphone duplicated, faded, and made to glow using every Photoshop effect possible, just because.
Meanwhile, over in the technology ether, Apple was stewing. Having already had success with the launch of the Macintosh computer, they were on the cusp of an altogether much more mobile kind of device: the iPod. This revolutionary piece of kit would undoubtedly get the attention of the noughties consumer keen to embrace new-age technology but first, it’d need the right kind of noughties campaign.
Said campaign, was about as brightly coloured and headache-inducing as it gets – but does it work? Of course it does. Running from around 2004 to 2008 in a variety of forms, the commercials saw black silhouette figures properly rocking out to contemporary tracks from Daft Punk’s Technologic to Gorillaz’s Feel Good Inc. Set against vibrant block colour backgrounds, these energetic figures were enraptured by the music being played from the device plugged into the earphones they are wearing. That device of course being, the Apple iPod. It’s so loud both in visual and in sound that it’s utterly convincing.
It doesn’t take a genius then to see why almost two decades on, many brands are continuing down the Y2K aesthetic road. Take the controversial Crocs. Some say fashion statement, others say fashion crime, but these multi-hued rubber soles are one of the best examples of noughties branding done brilliantly well. The product itself comes in several hundred variations from tie-dye to glitter platform, but in typical 00s fashion Crocs went one step further and threw the kitchen sink at it.
Their recent ‘Your Canvas for Expression’ campaign promoted the idea of bejewelling your Crocs with a plethora of tiny badges that fit between the holes in the top of the shoe. From watermelons to eyelashes to green-coloured gems, now you could turn the shoe into your very own piece of art. The campaign creative used a kind of cut-out typography, as though each letter had been snipped from a different newspaper article, and the colour pallet was less pallet and more entire spectrum. It’s bold, chaotic, and completely fun. It makes the product inclusive and appealing even for someone sworn never to wear a pair.
In the world of gaming, it was a surprise entry from FIFA, into noughties graphic design and advertising. Their FIFA21 commercial had everything we’d come to expect from the planet’s most popular football console game: a star-studded line-up – from Paris St Germain’s Kylian Mbappé to Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold – along with fast-paced editing and high-impact visuals. However, this campaign was made under lockdown, so the team had come up with some clever workarounds to capture footage of players and fans.
London-based collage artist and fashion designer Jazz Grant was brought in to help bring the campaign to life. The result is an intimate portrayal of each player’s story and passion for the game, using Grant’s signature amalgamation of mediums, colours and typefaces. Mbappé’s spotlight for instance sees a map of Paris highlighted with vivid neon outlining the Champs Elysée, Eiffel Tower and the Parisian suburb of his youth. Using a mix of mediums that almost jar with one another, FIFA tell a story – one with just as many interlinking parts.
Here at Glorious – a creative branding agency based in Manchester – our role has often been to help clients find their noughtiness. One such client was Rentinc, part of The Parklane Group, a Leeds-based letting agent that offers around 250 lets concentrated in the student-concentrated areas of Headingley, Hyde Park and Burley areas.
We were commissioned to reposition Rentinc, strengthen the brand proposition and create a point of differentiation and give people in the market for rented accommodation a valid reason to choose Rentinc over the competition. We had to work with the existing brand mark, but beyond that, our remit was a complete reimagining, and for a majorly youthful audience, what better way to go than 00s?
We repositioned Rentinc as the expert in student letting. This new positioning enabled us to adopt an ‘edgy’ Tone of Voice, a distinctive illustrative style and create a more youthful brand personality, all attributes that set them apart.
Once the new positioning was agreed we set about creating a noughties visual look and feel that was going to stand out, we wanted an illustrative and typographic style that was both distinctive and playful – just like that of the era. We illustrated several different student personas, as well as student landmarks within the immediate area and city-wide. These versatile and memorable elements, when combined, enabled us to create interesting and varied landscapes. And the end result was a spectacle of layered mediums, colour and tongue-in-cheek messaging – just as you might expect from a brand birthed in the original era.
So, if we’ve now left you swooning over the brilliance of noughties graphic design and advertising campaigns, let us share our top tips for helping you bring its branding back.
First and foremost, to excel in 00s graphic design you must experiment with mediums. Failing to do so creates a flat, one-dimensional creative that is a far way off from what was happening back then. And the good news? When it comes to this era, there isn’t really such thing as going too far.
Explore colour in all its variety. A true noughties designer lives in blissful ignorance of complimenting tones and textures, this is about clash and contrast – mixing together every effect and element to create a unique melting pot of ideas.
Extenuate text and typeface. Pull the typography of your creative design into every shape and size you desire, go big go small go bright go bold. Do it all – and trust us, you’ll make them read it.
Tone of Voice should entice fun. It’s no good having the most eccentric campaign creative if your Tone of Voice doesn’t convey the same message. Make your headlines sing with charm and charisma, the 00s never took things too seriously and neither should your branding.
Be cheesy, be nostalgic. Don’t forget, for Millennials – the 00s holds a special place in their memory. You can afford therefore to be a bit cheesy, to lean into the nostalgia of the era’s music and fashion. And in fact, doing so half-heartedly might just as easily offend those who hold it dearly!
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