Experimental Prototype Colors of Tomorrow

Epcot gift bag, early 1980s

When EPCOT opened in 1982, the concept was innovation and globalism. Wait isn't that what every conference today is about? The park was and is divided into two sections, Future World and World Showcase. Future World was where corporations like Exxon could prove how good strip mining was. World Showcase would bring cultures from around the globe to the American tourist. The visual theme of Future World was the same as the 1990s Star Trek: TNG, mid-level hotel or medical offices in non-threatening tones. The large spaces had lots of carpeting, an abundance of rounded corners, and odd geometric benches.

In my head, I've always pictured 1980s EPCOT as a unified and sleek place. The color palette was silver, blue, and white. The materials were aluminum and fiberglass. But, I was wrong. While researching the color palettes I found some truly hideous combinations. Now, I've always said no two colors dislike each other. Again, I was wrong. Some of the combinations are terrifying. It would never occur to me to combine pink, teal, plum, and orange. I'm still semi-sane. So what happened? Why the hard left away from the silver and blue? I don't know. I do know, however, that these combinations do not exist naturally, and no software product will ever provide a palette like these.

Bag palette
EPCOT 1982
Epcot map, 1983
Map Palette
Epcot mug
Mug Palette
Button Palette
Gateway Gifts sign, Epcot, 1982
Gateway Gifts palette
Guidebook paltette

Type of Tomorrow

I’m often asked, “Sean, what’s the future of design?” Fortunately, I know. I specifically know the future of screen-based design. I’ve seen it on television. There are several options.

If you prefer a future that is run-down and multi-cultural, Blade Runner shows us how to mix corporate identity and Japanese Kanji. LA Eyeworks is still in business, and the Los Angeles Police Department has hired a designer with a retro-digital outlook. For those preferring a modernist future, 2001: A Space Odyssey articulates a future with a nice and consistent on-screen typographic palette. Courier and OCRA are still all the rage. Many screens are now vertical to better see tall people.

Modernism still dominates in the 24th century on Star Trek, The Next Generation. Akzidenz Grotesk Medium Condensed has been determined as the only acceptable typeface, and tablet shapes are de rigueur. Screen based typography on the latest Star Trek movie has the problem of over-using Microgramma. However, any use of Microgramma is over-usage. In this future, we are obviously able to digest enormous amounts of information on screen with tiny type. Luckily, everyone seems to be under 30 and tech-savvy.

This is what I now know: if you are a designer in the future, you may be asked to use Microgramma or fill the screen with trivial information. Just say no.