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Why is retro design so current? The resurgence of retro has absolutely exploded over the last few years. Retro design utilizes trends and characteristics of the past. It can be inspired by features of an older design style or it can be an updated version of it.

The feeling of nostalgia is a powerful force! Designers can appeal to their audience emotionally by creating art that evokes memories of a specific time or place.

Characteristics of Retro Design

Retro design is a popular trend that has exploded over the last few years. By definition, retro design utilizes trends and characteristics of the past. Inspired by features of an older design style or an updated version of it. The main reason for this resurgence is nostalgia.

We live in times where technology allows us to amplify memories and create a false reality of what we consider “better times.” It is for this reason retro design has become so popular and widely used. Take a look at retro design characteristics and where it can be found.

Retro design typically references the past, but not always the very distant past . A re-creation of retro design can include elements from both retro and modern styles. Inspired by specific decades, but not always limited to one. The best retro designs are those that reference multiple decades or eras, because it creates a sense of belonging for consumers .  

In retro design, we see more primary colors and imagery specific to the reference era because many of the retro designs reference a time of limited colour styles. For instance, we can look at vintage advertisements or TV ads from decades ago that had guidelines on the use of color to portray their product in certain light. Using this method graphic designers can easily harness the feel of a retro design without having to thoroughly study media from that era.

Retro Through the Ages

The retro design movement has been in the rise since 2012, but it emerged much earlier than that. In fact, the term “Retro” was coined in the 70’s. Obviously this influence has changed and evolved through it’s use. Now we’re seeing a resurgence of emphasis on Retro styles in design. The retro design style has influenced web designs and illustration styles. It has also become a huge inspiration among advertising campaigns for almost any type of products.

The mid to late 2000s fashion saw different major retro revivals. Princess Kate Middleton revitalized the popularity of the Mod look back in 2011 wearing a 50’s inspired Jenny Packham dress. Notable pop sensation The Spice Girls reformed at Wembley stadium for a reunion tour in 2019. Their popularity skyrocketing in addition to the recent uptick in 90’s fashion reclamation from the younger population.
Just last month retro was also the theme at London Fashion Week where Vivienne Westwood designed a collection inspired by 60s and 70s fashion. Alongside the inspiration for the current line, Westwood’s collection from the 90’s has seen cult notoriety in current fashion. What major fashion icons wear and show to the media at large influence as well as reflect the current buyer mindset.

Retro always blends current trends with era-inspired styles. This is how we end up with the 80’s retro vibe of colourful fluorescents when any child of the 80’s will tell you brown was the prevailing theme of the decade. The idea is not to necessary replicate a historical period of time but to evoke a feeling of an era.

From Vogue Runway’s exhibit on Vivienne Westwood’s 2022 ready to wear collection

Why is it so trendy?

We live in an uncertain world where technology advances at a faster rate than ever before. Looking at vintage imagery feels comforting.

It isn’t just graphic design that adopted retro style. It is also fashion, film, art, gaming and music.

The retro designs have continued to make a mark in popular culture with many movies, TV shows and retro gadget designs making a comeback. From fashion to gaming and important world events, the world around us influences market uptake in various trends in design. With Netflix’s acquirement of The Great Gatsby remake coinciding with the 2020 new year, ads, fashion and even stationary took on a 20’s look reflecting the art deco designs prominent of that era. Take another look at tv and film and you’ll notice remakes of The Fresh Prince of Bellaire and Tron. Also new series like Stranger Things take advantage of the need for nostalgia. A proven hit that keeps audiences coming back!  

Retro designs aren’t only on TV shows, retro is also turning up in video games . Retro gaming has become very popular over the last few years and it’s still growing in popularity. People are looking for retro games to play like Super Mario Bros., Megaman, Duck Tales etc made way back in the 80s/90s. Sometimes retro gaming can be more satisfying than modern day console gaming.

However retro design clearly isn’t only influenced by music, movies or fashions. Graphic designers are also very keen on creating retro designs for all sorts of purposes like web layouts, posters, logos and anything else you can think of. That’s why retro seems to be one of the biggest trends in graphic design at this moment in time. There are still examples of old-fashioned looking products out there but they’re still modernizing their appearance (e.g social media websites) to adhere to the popularized retro look.

Popular Retro Design Inspo

From Art Deco to Vintage 70s design, there’s something to inspire every graphic design enthusiast. Let’s explore a few!


The 80s saw bright neon colors, futuristic fonts, angular patterns, and an explosion of pop culture. Some of its trends are Memphis Style, 80s Deco and Tropical.


Art Deco was popular in the 1920s and 1930s, characterized by geometric shapes within symmetrical patterns and idealized human figures.


A daring graphic design style, punk broke all the rules and refashioned them in a confrontational way. Newspaper collages, hand-written typography, and clashing neon colour palettes are part of its aesthetic.


That’s one of the design trends for 2022! Take a dive to the millennial world of primitive internet frames, bright color blocks, experimental patterns and bold typography.

Using Retro in Your Designs

You can see retro designs on almost anything these days – billboards, t-shirts, vases and mugs . But retro designs are also being applied to logos of all sorts of companies or organizations . To learn more about how to employ the basic principles of graphic design in your work read this article.

Retro can be seen all over this poster from the style of lettering down to the typeface that was published. Everything about this poster screams retro or vintage even though they’re using new technology like Photoshop and Illustrator. This is one of those graphic design trends which you can see literally everywhere around you.

Promotional image for Scream 5 released in 2022

Retro design isn’t going away anytime soon, people love nostalgia so this trend will keep boomeranging back into popularity.
The warm happy reminder of an idealized past keeps people wanting to relive it over and over! Retro trends are still a big part of graphic design which you will see everywhere around you from TV shows to retro themed parties.

As there’s something retro about your work people will be attracted to it no matter what.
This trend isn’t going away anytime soon. Retro will always have a place in modern day graphic design which you can see everywhere from logos to marketing campaigns and more!

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