Alphabets, Fonts And Boomer-Speak: Language Is More Than Just Words

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Alphabets in the news, including some Boomers grew up with

Campbell's SoupSo, Alphabet is Google’s new parent company. For those keeping score, CNN Money does a good job of decoding the decision and its implications.

Alphabet’s URL is – whoa, isn’t that supposed to be every befuddled Boomer’s second favorite secret password after password?

Fortunately, oceans of steaming hot Campbell’s Alphabet Soup consumed in our youth – thanks, mom – taught us early how to string letters together. We’ll muddle through.

Alphabets were also in the news recently at WIRED Magazine. This time it was the revival of the Neutra font, popularized by Shake Shack and recently adopted as the official typeface of Washington D.C.

NeutraCreated by architect Richard Neutra, it invoked modernism in the 1940s and ’50s. Quickly copied, Neutra-like fonts lived on for decades in office buildings, department stores and in print as a signal of stylish simplicity.

Neutra, with fellow Austrian Rudolph Schindler and Michigander John Lautner led the Southern California mid-century modern school of architecture. In 1949, Lautner added a uniquely American touch. Incorporating playful space age symbolism, he created what became known as Googie style and moved modernism out of the realm of purists into the arena of commerce and everyday life.

Viva GoogieAlthough dissed by the establishment as crass, Googie went viral as a metaphor for the exciting, prosperous new age of post-WWII America.

Within a dozen years it spread from diners to gas stations, motels, furniture, radios and TV sets, home appliances, automobiles and – to the chagrin of “the experts” – iconic buildings that still stand. Wherever young Boomers looked, Googie was there; it was the design language of our formative years.

In Boomer-speak, sometimes modern is so yesterday

No surprise, as the decades slipped by, mid-century modern took on nuanced symbolism among Boomers.

Some elements were so widely adopted they passed into normalcy, and minimalist design never totally lost its appeal. Googie, however, became a dated reminder of the past, more nostalgic kitsch than modern. To every thing there is a season, turn, turn, turn.

Eames ChairToday, a mid-century revival is underway, thanks largely to Millennials, but it is important to remember America’s generations process yesterday’s modernism differently.

If/when mainstream brands finally get around to targeting consumers beyond the 18-49 demo, they will need expert interpreters to guide them through the process, because Boomer-speak is about more than just words.

Fonts, architecture, the familiar objects of everyday life – even little kid alphabet soup aroma memories – all evoke the Boomer experience in subliminal ways that elude later generations. You had to be there.

Paul Williams: the architectural genius who never went out of style

Paul WilliamsMany leading American modernists were European transplants, devotees of strict Bauhaus design principles. But our favorite is home grown. Los Angeleno Paul Revere Williams (1894-1980) transcended the limitations of a single style, blending modern functionality with emotional warmth.

Known as the “architect to the stars” for the gorgeous historic-revival homes he built for Hollywood’s elite, his range was prodigious – from affordable housing to hotels, department stores, country clubs and public buildings. His only dictate was that people should feel welcome and at ease in a Paul Williams project.

Paul Williams at the LAX Theme BuildingEvery year millions of people see – most without realizing it – his most famous collaboration: the Los Angeles International Airport Theme Building (1961).

Designed from the ground up as America’s first jet airport, LAX wanted an iconic symbol of modernity; with Williams on the architectural team they got all that and more.

Blending mid-century modern and Googie, the Theme Building captures the upbeat essence of Boomer-world; optimistic and confident in a better future through technology. It has never gone out of style.

Like all communication, Boomer-speak is not just about words. If you’d like to know more, just ask.

Opportunity LAX Theme Building

Boomer - neXt SM logo_MMOriginally published as a Boomer-Plus Consulting Group post; in September, 2017, we up-branded as Boomer / neXt to welcome the 4 million Gen Xers who join the Boomers in the 50+ space each year.

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