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return to posts April 24th, 2024

Fallout: A Brand Success

Generator Design is comprised of individuals possessing a unified passion for design. While each of us have our own unique hobbies and passions, one of mine is video games. Specifically, the Fallout series.

If you’re a longtime fan like me, then allow me to further specify my love of Fallout 3 and Fallout 4, and of course—the black sheep of the family—Fallout New Vegas

Now, if you don’t play video games, or Fallout, I don’t want to lose you here. I’ll give you a brief explanation of the game and then talk about brand.

The video game series has six cannon titles (Fallout 1–4, Fallout New Vegas and Fallout 76). Recently, the franchise was adapted to the small screen, now available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

The Fallout franchise is set in post-apocalyptic Earth. Beginning in 1997 as a tactical turn-based game, it was later reimagined by the development company Bethesda as an open-world roleplaying game. Taking place in a universe sharing ties with real-life Earth history, it diverges into a different timeline around 1950s and 60s.

The Fallout universe really starts in the year 2077 where the dream of the 1950s never went out of style. This version, however, has nuclear energy, sci-fi jet rocket cars, and robots that cook and do your laundry. With stars and stripes and white picket fences around every corner, the aesthetic is uber-Americana. Set in a time of political unrest, world superpowers stand on the brink of nuclear war. And indeed: this is where Fallout begins.

The 1950’s ideals and threat of nuclear war are the launchpad of Fallout’s retrofuturism aesthetic.
Source: https://www.worldanvil.com/w/fallout-new-york/a/retrofuturism-in-fallout-article

Both the games and the show take place around 150-200 years after the bombs were dropped. People have taken shelter in 122 vaults spread across the United States. Preserving some sense of safety (this is said very lightly) for the generations that live within the vaults, the world itself is a desolate, barren land of death, decay, and chaos. The surface, now inhabited by genetically-mutated creatures and raiders alike, battle for for food, clean water, and territory.

Sounds grim right? True, but grim realism isn’t the only thing driving people to play Fallout. 

Produced by Bethesda—a company that understands the power of branding—the entirety of Fallout is a somewhat satirical take on war propaganda campaigns with a spin. From classic movie and army recruitment posters to nuclear prevention posters, the attention to detail in this franchise is a graphic designer’s dream.

Steeped in reminders and history of an imaginary era gone wrong, every nook and cranny of the environment has a story to tell. Whether you stop to read the posters on the wall or marvel at the uncompromising detail of the furniture, you can’t help but be in awe of the time and dedication poured into making such a recognizable and memorable world.

Source: https://fallout-archive.fandom.com/wiki/Fallout_4_posters

And the music! How many franchises extend that same love of detail into their soundtracks? While there is a beautiful symphonic score to the games, the true star of the franchise is its past era song selection. I challenge you to play for more than a couple hours and not have Roy Brown’s “Good Rocking Tonight” stuck in your head.

It doesn’t stop there: enter Vault Boy, Fallout’s “thumbs up” mascot. As iconic to this game as a white polar bear is to Coca-Cola (aka Nuka-Cola), Vault Boy’s blue-and-yellow jumpsuit has become as recognizable as the red and yellow seen on the McDonald’s arches. This mascot has transcended three separate game developers, and now into the tv show. In the game, Vault Boy appears on just about every piece of merchandise you can think of to buy for “real-life” bottle caps.

Fallout’s Vault-Tec educational video series supplements the story; starring mascot Vault Boy, the style channels instructional videos of the 1950s.

The bottom line: when you look at any Fallout product, you immediately know what universe you’re stepping into, with barely a flub on the detail to pull you out of that immersion. Whether it is the design of the buildings, the furniture, your “Pip-Boy” interface or any button on the wall or (literal) bobble in the game, you immediately know you are in the world of Fallout.  This has been masterfully crafted for nearly 2 decades encompassing all the games and has been adapted flawlessly into the live action series.

As brand experts, whenever we create a brand of our clients – this is what we strive for. Something bold, consistent, and timeless.

When you look back at the legacy that Bethesda and their predecessors have created for Fallout, there is no doubt that they have created an iconic legacy of something that is going to last for generations to come.

Written by

Alan Crouse


A former graduate, past instructor and current advisor to St. Clair College. Alan has 3 decades of experience in the prepress and graphic design industry and is one of the founding partners of Generator Design. When not giving his dog Mando belly scratches, Alan is an avid video game and board game aficionado.