By Akiko Busch
Opolis Design created this media kit, which promotes Nike’s reissue of its vintage running products, to look like a 1972 issue of a fictitious magazine called Oregon Runner. Such was Opolis’s success that the “publication” sometimes comes across looking more like a bad acid flashback.
In such forays into nostalgia, the inevitable question is: Did we actually look that bad? Well, yes. As art director Dan Richards explains, the aesthetic of the piece was meant to reflect the jogging craze of the late 1970s (think tight shorts and carbo-loading on peanut butter and beer), the larger culture of that decade, and the Nike brand itself. Richards explains that the product itself conveys “a real retro authenticity. The foam on the shoes is faded. They look like they’ve been sitting on the shelf for 30 years. We tried to nail the communication like they nailed the product.”
To do that, the designers looked back at Wieden + Kennedy’s Nike ads from the 1970s, especially examining typefaces and the positioning of logos. While Nike has a voluminous archive of ads, legal concerns prohibited their use. “So we just studied the awkward typography, the heavy-handed layouts,” says Richards. “There wasn’t much design restraint. These guys were just cranking it out every week—there was not a great deal of finesse. We had to recalibrate everything we’d learned about design.” Adds designer Lael Tyler, “You kind of start to realize there was a whole different set of production realities. They were using press type, cutting and pasting, columns. … There wasn’t any Photoshop or sophisticated layout programs.”
The designers hired models, stylists equipped with wigs and fake mustaches and sideburns, illustrators capable of reproducing the era’s style of line drawings, and photographers familiar with the editorial style of the time. “And then we’d do a first pass,” says Richards, “look at it, make it uglier, funnier, more awkward, devolving, regressing more with each pass. It got better and better.” Or worse and worse, depending on how you look at it.
The team maintained the same fastidious standards during production. “When we went for the press check, the pressmen were all scratching their heads,” Richards recalls. “We’d tell them to kind of back off on the black and to keep the registration kind of funky.” And finally, the design team formed an assembly line to distress each piece by hand, crumpling edges, sandpapering spines, and dog-earing covers. As Richards explains, “When we’re working on a brand like this, no detail is overlooked.”
Such fine-tuning impressed our jurors. “Every little bit of it is authentic,” says Anderson. “It fools you into really thinking it’s old. I’m drawn to this brand of silliness.” Says Essl, “It is just so tight in its commitment to retro. It is constantly threatening to go off the rails, but it manages to stay on track.” AKIKO BUSCH