If you love all things vintage, check out our list of popular retro styles with ideas on how to incorporate them in your graphic design projects.
Retro is a word that gets thrown around a lot in the design industry, and it can seem few people know what it actually means. By definition, retro refers to anything that derives from or imitates the past.
So while we probably wouldn’t be too crazy about retro healthcare, when it comes to design, it’s clear to see that retroism is a design trend that’s always going to keep coming back (pun intended). The reason for this is that nostalgia is a strong, universal emotion, and retro styles often evoke memories or make us fantasize about a different, nicer time to be alive.
It’s easy to see why so many people love retro design, so let’s dive right into some amazing vintage styles and their characteristics.
Art nouveau is one of the oldest styles that is considered retro today. It came about at the turn of the 19th century and is a style inspired by nature and natural forms. It’s characterized by soft lines and nature-inspired design elements. Art nouveau sought to bridge the gap between fine and applied arts, so this vintage style is well known for being gorgeously decorative and intricate.
Probably the most famous example of this style is Alfonse Mucha’s poster design with their romantic, almost magical characters and lovely pastel colors.
Artsy The beauty of this vintage style, however, can be applied to much simpler projects than Mucha’s famous graphics. This high quality modern typeface is heavily inspired by the art nouveau aesthetic with a modern twist. The lettering is more dynamic and dramatic, making this typeface a perfect heading font or an ideal choice for a cool retro logo.
By Yusril Muhtadi via Behance
This vintage style belongs to perhaps the most important art school in the 20th century. It’s part of the modernism movement and is therefore characterized by simplicity and streamlined aesthetics. It’s especially influential in the field of interior design, so you’ll still find plenty of modern retro examples that celebrate the vintage design of the Bauhaus style.
Cate St Hill A modern example is this graphic designer’s personal branding project. This particular style is actually a great option for graphic designers, since these vintage-inspired designs have a very fresh and modern flair, which is extremely important in the design industry.
By Cleiton Moura via Behance
Art deco is a style that was popular in the 1920s and 1930s and in a way it’s the exact opposite of art nouveau; geometric shapes and sharp lines are its core design elements. The simple yet incredibly elegant geometric patterns are something that many contemporary graphic designers use as inspiration for typeface and logo design.
Widewalls A contemporary design example inspired by this vintage style are these beautiful business cards which one of our own designers created for this list of edgy black business card templates. These geometric patterns make a perfect addition to business cards since they are fitting for a vast number of industries.
This design style came about as the American response to modernism in Europe. It was a popular style between the 1930s and 1960s, characterized by bold colors, flat design and dynamic shapes. It’s very similar to Bauhaus, however, the shapes and lines are less rigid and the illustrations a little more detailed.
A contemporary example inspired by mid-century modern is this branding project done for a furniture design studio that has products in a similar style. Mid-century modern is still a very popular style in interior design, so it’s a great idea to include these elements in the graphic design part of the branding as well.
By Marco Oggian via Behance
Pop art is mainly linked to New York artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Like the name suggests, this retro style marries art and popular culture, including television, slang, mass-produced goods etc. Pinup style characters are very prevalent, and this legacy lives on in the word of video games and poster design.
The Conversation It’s clear that this retro design style is particularly influential in illustration, so let’s take a look at something a little different for more ideas on how to incorporate it in modern retro design. This unique logo design encapsulates pop art with its vibrant colors (being at the point of “almost too colorful” is characteristic of this vintage style). This is a great example of a new design that takes inspiration from a retro style but still adapts the overall aesthetic to contemporary expectations.
By Rishi Singh and Akansha Negi via Behance
This is definitely one of the most popular retro designs today, and incidentally, this writer’s favorite retro style! If you’ve ever seen 1960s or 1970s album covers or vintage posters, you’ll immediately recognize the bright colors, fluid lettering and linework that is characteristic of the flower power movement. This design style has a striking aesthetic, so it will definitely bring an unmistakable retro flair into any modern design.
Proxy Music However, remember that vintage-inspired design doesn’t have to be limited to print materials like retro posters or album covers. These incredibly fun design ideas can be a breath of fresh air in digital design, including web design and software design.
This great mockup was created for Procreate X, an illustration app for iPad. The eclectic psychedelic style made a terrific choice for this, as it helped the graphic designer showcase the numerous possibilities of the design tool.
By Nick Liefhebber via Behance
If you love the 1980s aesthetic, then you’ll certainly recognize funky geometric patterns with neon colors. Throughout the 80s and even the 90s, these patterns were a hugely popular design choice for t-shirts, bags and notebooks. And if you ever thought that certain shapes, patterns, or colors don’t mesh well together, Memphis style is certainly going to try to convince you otherwise!
Shutterstock You might have not known the exact name for it, but you probably came across these brightly colored geometric patterns on all sorts of modern designs. They are a fantastic way to spruce up professional graphics, including infographics, presentations and web design.
By Shir Molina via Behance
Retro design gets redefined as time goes on, and so this aesthetic from the 90s joined a list of extremely popular designs a few years ago. Grunge style designs are meant to have a more “organic” feel, with less structure in organizing different design elements. Texture and rough finishes are prevalent in this retro style, so you can see why it’s been a long-term favorite for album covers and poster design.
Photography is another key design element of these vintage designs, so if you know your way around Photoshop, adding a bit of an edge to your photos with filters, films or gradients might help you achieve a grunge look!
Online Design Teacher Like we said, if you opt for taking inspiration from a retro style, make sure that a modern design looks appealing to contemporary audiences. This magazine redesign is a great example of using grunge elements, like handwritten typography and photo collages, but in a crisp modern way.
An elegant monochrome palette unifies the design while the style of the models resembles the 90s, but with a contemporary twist (e.g. skinny jeans weren’t so popular back then, but certainly attract contemporary fashionistas).
By Douglas Rodas via Behance
We hope you found our guide on different retro design styles helpful and got inspired to create a throwback design of your own. If you’re proficient in design software like Photoshop or Illustrator, we encourage you to try and create a modern design that’s inspired by one of these classic retro styles.
On the other hand, remember that our talented team of designers can help you get the perfect retro graphic design! To find out more about our simple, inexpensive service, see how it works.