There is a new gilded age and most people don’t even know it because it’s symbols are so engrained in daily exchanges we won’t have an idea of its magnitude until several years from now. It’s height began nearly fifteen years ago when mobile communications became truly handheld and the tiniest headset commanded the most attention. A future Wikipedia article may call it The Age of Awww.
In the way of communication a look at any high school student’s exchanges will yield of a dense pattern of emojis, some conversations eschewing the acronyms of the 90s and 00s and even the alphabet. In their places are micro illustrations of cakes and smiling suns and moons. The most successful mobile platforms in history can carry every type of application across the board but in the initial experience the user is presented little rounded cubes in the candy tray that is the iOS and Android interfaces. One of the most recognizable mascots of the past ten years is a extremely enthusiastic brunette with a 1000-watt smile and spotless white Keds and whose brand persona makes the daunting process of getting insured seem a lot less daunting. It also makes for a frequent choice halloween costume several years after Flo’s debut.
Pusheen, food, drinks and flowers in Ball Jars, Jess, Ugg, and round, smiling objects requiring funding on Kickstarter all point to a pattern that has become a new language through art, literature, fashion and communication. Cute has become to the 21st century what Modernism was to the early 20th century.
In branding and advertising the term “cute” is often tied to women and feminine aesthetics but when the term is thought of as a movement it ceases to be an adjective and becomes all-encompassing. Like Modernism, it carries a series of values. Values that make something more interesting to the small bit of infantilism that most people have. Something should be simple, easy to understand, easy to use and the experience should be intuitive to our most basic senses. A freight train can be “cute” if its design and functions speak to those values and make the user’s experience a simple one. Jeff Koons’ stainless steel balloon animal sculptures are “cute” because they speak to a series of very basic, primal and deep-rooted senses that most people with a first-world upbringing can understand.
Cute is the new black and the components of communication and business that want to engage with their audience on a human level.