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record on record player
April 18th, 2017

Digital Disconnect

We have been floating, if not drowning, in a sea of ones and zeros. Digital has taken over our lives—smartphones, laptops, fitness trackers, cars, Internet-controlled appliances. But there’s a new (old?) wind blowing to help us find direction. I’m talking about the return of analog.

Like many Millennials, I have increasingly sought out analog products. Why? Because they allow me to disconnect from my digital life and connect with other people and things in a real way. Also, to express my personal style. Nostalgia is another factor driving the analog embrace.

The resurgence of analog is probably best seen in the digitally dominated music industry. Music creation, recording, distribution, and consumption have all gone, predominately, digital over the past decades. Now we’re seeing a resurgence of analog within the industry. This trend is leading to new product and business development opportunities. Sales of records have been increasing over the past 10 years and are now topping production demand. Companies are seizing on this demand and creating new technologies for pressing records and cool new updates for turntables. Check out Minot and U-Turn Audio, who are developing turntables that mix classic aesthetics and the warmth of vinyl with Bluetooth and smartphone controls. Other companies are adding new analog amps and receivers to their product lines, and some are even bringing old products designs, like mics, synthesizers, and speakers, back to life.

Another product area fueled by the desire to disconnect is books and paper goods. E-books have not displaced books because people still value the feel and smell of books and the community offered by bookstores. The number of independent bookstores in the US has increased 27% since 2009. Journal sales are up too. YouTube is packed with videos showing how to create your own paper journal or organizer, and companies are popping up to provide the perfect analog paper experience.

Three takeaways from the analog trend:

  1. The importance of holding something in your hand. A great product has the right weight, the right texture and feel, and the right smell. These aspects of a great product are valued and remembered by the user. A great product creates a meaningful, rich interaction, like gently putting the needle down before listening to your favorite album. People will remember using a well-designed product.
  1. There is a place for classic design—aesthetically and mechanically. Nostalgia can be a solid driver for new design.
  1. The trend toward analog products is not fading anytime soon and is much broader than illustrated here.

If you are a manufacturer, product developer, or innovator, of course, you should look forward when developing a product. But you just might also want to consider looking back.

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