What is Frutiger Aero? Uncovering the nostalgic 2000's aesthetic

What is Frutiger Aero? Uncovering the nostalgic 2000’s aesthetic

UI design can be a powerful thing. It has the ability to transport us into novel virtual worlds and can enable us to push the limits of human creativity (or thwart them). Today, we’re going to take a closer look at one of the most iconic design trends of the 2000s: Frutiger Aero. Let’s see if we can uncover what makes this aesthetic so special and why it is trending virally on the internet today.

What came before Frutiger Aero?

The UI design approach has evolved over time, from wireframes to flat design, and now towards a more holistic approach that includes elements of motion and interaction.

There was a time when technology was exciting and even refreshing. Long before corporate behemoths began curating algorithms designed to make us addicted to endless scrolling, they were using design tools to encourage the masses to invest in their products.

What is Frutiger Aero? Uncovering the nostalgic 2000's aesthetic
Windows Vista

Frutiger Aero came along right after the revolutionary, mysterious, and futuristic era of the 90s and early 00s. Sandwiched nicely between the likes of Windows 98 and today’s ultra-flat, minimal designs, we have Frutiger Aero!

This trendy aesthetic is blowing up right now on YouTube, TikTok and Reddit, but I have a feeling (and a hope) that there’s much more to come.

What is Frutiger Aero?

Frutiger Aero is the name of the design aesthetic that dominated 2000’s tech, marketing, logos, and UI design. 

What is Frutiger Aero? Uncovering the nostalgic 2000's aesthetic

It is the successor to the Y2K movement, adapting its low-poly textures and brash futuristic concepts to a fresher, more refined, and calm version. Everything that felt a little too intense for grandma to use back in the 90’s became updated to feel modern, organic, friendly, and smooth.

What is Frutiger Aero? Uncovering the nostalgic 2000's aesthetic

Frutiger Aero is known for these essential design elements:

  • Glossy, shiny textures
  • Tertiary color palette
  • Bubbles
  • Sparkles and bokeh
  • Grass, flowers, and nature

This aesthetic embodies adventure and exploration while retaining a sense of what we already know; it gives off feelings of advancement, progress, and discovery all at once.

Why did companies use Fruiger Aero aesthetic?

The main goal Frutiger Aero sought to achieve was encouraging as many people, regardless of identity or circumstance, to engage with emerging technologies. 

Corporations attempted to convey humanism through their designs; think of the casual and accessible nature of the Nintendo Wii, the soft, cheerful sound design and tactile textures of Windows Vista, and the organic, nature-filled wallpapers and sounds of Samsung’s TouchWiz. 

What is Frutiger Aero? Uncovering the nostalgic 2000's aesthetic

These products harness recognizable real-world values like fitness or nature and deploy them to give the user a sense of fulfillment and achievement. The message received from booting up your Wii or starting a new Powerpoint presentation is that “I, the human, can use these fascinating tools to enhance my life and the lives of those around me.” 

Familiarity of the blades of grass, the synth-instruments, the 3D glossy textures make the tech feel more real, a little closer to reality. 

As design always has, Frutiger Aero strives to make technology more accessible and real in a way that resonates with the public on both an emotional and intellectual level.

What is Frutiger Aero music?

It’s not uncommon for visual and musical creations to go hand in hand. For every genre across any decade, you could find a typeface, color pallette, and fashion to match.

Because the community surrounding the aesthetic is still blossoming, there aren’t any strict rules on what Frutiger Aero music really sounds like. Spelunking some Spotify playlists and YouTube mixes, it’s clear to see there are a few common sonic elements.

The music of Frutiger Aero is often associated with a blend of soft drums, warm, lush synths and keys, and optimistic melodies. Genres of music that fall under this umbrella include:

  • IDM (intelligent dance music)
  • VGM (video game music – particularly from the PS2, GameCube and Wii)
  • Smooth jazz
  • Ambient

It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of Frutiger Aero music: there’s even 32 hour long playlists dedicated to this 2000’s era.

What’s next for UI design?

UI design today focuses on providing a great user experience (UX) through animation, motion and intuitive interaction. The aim is to create a seamless journey from the first engagement with an application or website to its end goal. Motion helps guide users through the interface by creating subtle cues and directions that inform their navigation.

However, where today’s designs fall short is in their homogeneity. The era of flatness and minimalism has touched damn near every single logo, app, and website on earth. To stand out and stay relevant, designers must find ways to be creative and think beyond existing trends.

My hope is that the subtle cues from the new Mac OS icons imply that Apple – the global trendsetter and tastemaker that it is – is open to bringing back skeuomorphism and 3D elements.

Carl Pei of NOTHING recently reviewed the iPhone 14 Pro Max and said this about the operating system:

“I’m not a super huge fan of all the digital stuff that we have now… Maybe we can bring skeuomorphism back.”

Carl Pei

This goes to show that if you’re nostalgic for this delightful era of design, you’re not alone! A highly influential tech CEO is thinking about this, too.

The design of Frutiger Aero was meant to encourage people to engage with technology. Companies used this design in an attempt to appear more humanistic and accessible. The sounds associated with Frutiger Aero are often described as warm, lush, and optimistic. UI design has trended towards flatness, minimalism, and the absence of color.

The optimistic future we were promised during the era of Frutiger Aero never came. What can be done now to instill hope in the masses? Or is that broken promise lost on all of us now?