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Nostalgia is glorious

BY Glen Cone | Know What Matters | 07/12/2018

A recent trip to Brick Lane’s Junkyard Golf (using my Cultural Expansion Grant) got me thinking about old ideas being reimagined, and our connection with vintage goods and pop culture.


Junkyard Golf is indoor crazy golf with a bar attached, and despite the flashy website and the sugar-loaded cocktails on offer, in essence it’s the same game I played twenty-five years ago. Yet it’s incredibly popular and current.

In a world that moves so fast and is so forward-thinking, with near-constant advances in technology, why do we look back to classic activities like crazy golf? And it’s not just crazy golf, – think Polaroid cameras, Nintendo consoles that allow us to play games from thirty years ago, vintage clothing, eighties film reboots, classic sweets – they’re all riding high on a wave of popularity again.

But why? I think that for my generation it offers a sense of authenticity, enabling a feeling of attachment that just isn’t there with today’s slickly designed new technology. But why does my 13 year old daughter want a walkman and record player for Christmas this year? This is a girl, who belongs to a generation who we assume is driven by tech like smartphones and online chat, asking for two things that are from a completely different era.

Is her desire for these retro music players something driven by her parents influence and hearing our romanticised memories about the album sleeve artwork, the feel and smell of the records, having something tangible in front of you?

Or is it because in a digital age it becomes hard to feel attached to virtual products? The fast paced advances we now take for granted means that tech seems to come and go before we could possibly create an attachment to them – who gets misty eyed about their old Samsung S5 for example? Snake on the Nokia 3310 might be a different story though, especially if it was your first ever mobile phone.

The temptation for us as designers is always to go for the new, the on-trend, the most cutting-edge solution. However, it’s also worth us remembering that sometimes the best way to connect with people is to look back and take inspiration from the past. The power of nostalgia and sentimental value can give brands and products a long-lasting relationship and a warm place in people’s hearts that may be unachievable in any other way.

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