Ice cream with a scoop of nostalgia

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Summer is finally here! To celebrate, this week RETROGRAD visited Moscow to check out the nostalgic new packaging for Gorky Park’s famous Soviet-era ice cream.

Summer is finally here! To celebrate, this week RETROGRAD visited Moscow to check out the nostalgic new packaging for Gorky Park’s famous Soviet-era ice cream.

Nostalgia sells. Nowhere better it seems than in Moscow’s Gorky Park. Last autumn, Russian graphic designer Anastasia Genkina and art director Misha Gannushkin launched their award-winning range of packaging for the park’s famous Soviet-era ice cream. The simple, bright designs are bold and stylish, yet it is the nostalgia-inspired story behind the wrappers that really caught our eye.

One of the new packaging designs. Photo: Grigory Sobchenko
One of the new packaging designs. Photo: Grigory Sobchenko

Opened in the late 1920s, Gorky Park was originally known as the Central Park of Culture and Leisure before it was renamed  in honour of Soviet writer Maxim Gorky in 1932. The park was part of the new Soviet vision to provide communal spaces for workers to relax and soon became one of Soviet Moscow’s best-loved outdoor spaces. Families and couples flocked to the park and a visit was never complete without an ice cream.

Entrance to Gorky Park, 1957. Photo L. Borodulina.
Entrance to Gorky Park, 1957. Photo L. Borodulina.

After falling into disrepair following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Gorky Park has seen huge, high profile investment and regeneration in recent years. Now home to a bizarre but alluring mix of Soviet-era architecture and hipster attractions – from bike rental hubs to Instagram photo booths – the park is once again popular with young and old alike. What better time than now to re-launch what many see as the symbol of the park’s golden era?

The park’s website describes its ice cream as having a “nostalgic childhood taste”. Genkina echoes this idea on her Behance design project page, noting that “this ice cream has been a treat inseparable from a walk in the Moscow Gorky Park for decades. Its special taste of creamy vanilla and waffle cone became a memory of childhood for several generations”.

Old packaging for Gorky Park ice cream. Source: club443.ru
Old packaging for Gorky Park ice cream. Source: club443.ru

Genkina and Gannushkin deliberately played on feelings of nostalgia when coming up with the new packaging design:

“The aim to connect the historical value with modern recognition through design was achieved by developing patterns, inspired by key symbols of the Park`s life. Each pattern corresponds with one of the six flavours.”

As Genkina explains on the 2015 European Design Awards site (where she won a Silver Award in the Packaging Food & Beverages category), the different aspects of the park’s history and character include the funfair (represented by the “red and white spinning triangles for the vanilla and chocolate ice cream”) and its “rockabilly epoch” (reflected in the “green uneven Polka dot pattern” of the chocolate waffle ice cream).

The new range of packaging designs. Photo: Grigory Sobchenko
The new range of packaging designs. Photo: Grigory Sobchenko

So what do our friends in Moscow think about the designs? And does the ice cream still taste and look as good as it did to their parents when they were kids? Sasha, a 20-something Moscovite, is too young to remember the ice cream from the Soviet days but thinks that the new design looks “Soviet” and tastes delicious. Her parents agree that the ice cream still tastes good and reminds them of their youth because “everything tasted great back then”. The design also makes them feel nostalgic, reminding them of the packaging of the famous “Eskimo” (chocolate-covered ice cream on a stick) from when they were younger. It seems that Genkina and Gorky Park have come up with a winning formula in combining nostalgia with modern graphic design. Now we’re off to get an “Eskimo” ourselves…

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