Retro Design: Dive Into the Retro Graphic Design Styles of the 50s to the 80s

April 17, 2024

In an industry like graphic design, where trends change easily, there is always the influence from the past that reappears. Designers might try seeking something new, unique, attractive, and up-to-date. However, is it only limited to what the present and future hold and provide? In fact, the retro style can come back to life and survive for years. Designers can produce various unique and attractive retro graphic design style works.

Retro Design
Image: TriArts

Defining Retro Design

Talking about retro always refers to the past and nostalgic feeling. So, retro design is a style inspired by past trends, fashions, and aesthetics. The style is typically from a specific era or period, ranging from the 50s to the 80s. Of course, each era has its own characteristics. It is where a designer’s creativity is challenged to blend and reinterpret these characteristics through a modern lens.

Besides its nostalgic feel, there are many reasons why retro style is popular in recent years. Digital platforms and social media are one of the main reasons for its popularity. They contribute to the resurgence of interest in vintage aesthetics. So, even the young ones are drawn to its uniqueness. For some people, retro is the way to express their personality. While for others, it is a way to escape the present.

Exploring 50s to 80s Retro Graphic Designs Styles

As mentioned before, retro design ranges from the 50s to the 80s. Each decade has unique characteristics which differentiate it from one era to another. To have the right retro vibe of those years, the guidelines below might help you.

The 50s Retro

The 1950s was the post-World War II. People regained their economic prosperity and stability. This condition led to the rise of the suburban lifestyle and nuclear family. Besides, this era also was the era of a rebellion against traditional norms. It was marked by the emergence of rock ‘n roll music and youth culture influence. So, what influence did it have on the design style of that year?

The use of bright colors, clean lines, and the emphasis on functionality and minimalism reflected the optimism of economic revival and stability. The suburban lifestyle and idealized nuclear family life are presented in happy family images and everything that emphasizes the ideal family life scenes. Illustrations also took part in the 50s retro style, usually to gain younger targets. It also featured bold typography, energetic visuals, and imagery that reflected the dynamism of rock ‘n roll.

The 60s Retro

Move up next to the ’60s era, a decade of social and cultural upheaval, civil rights movements, and anti-establishment sentiments. Since there are profound cultural and social changes, it impacted design characteristics significantly. Retro design in this era is livelier and more experimental. Not to mention there’s also the influence from pop art, space exploration, and futurism.

You can try to apply psychedelic art concepts with vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and optical illusions. Meanwhile, the pop art influence brings bold colors, repetition, and imagery from popular culture. However, you can use sleek, modern lines, and geometric shapes from the influence of space exploration and futurism. Another characteristic of 1960s design is experimental typography and unconventional design elements.

The 70s Retro Graphic Design Style

You can say that the ’60s was a more idealistic era. Meanwhile, the ’70s was a more pragmatic and diverse era. Therefore, you will find a more realistic design with the organic shapes and textures application. Besides, you will find more than just vibrant and bold colors but also earthy tones and muted colors influenced by environmental consciousness emergence.

The vibrant 70s retro
The vibrant 70s retro | Source: freepik

Even so, you still can feel the boldness and vibrancy of retro design since the 70s retro still incorporates vibrant colors. The disco, glam rock, and punk rock culture helps keep it up and even brings out the groovy trend and 3D effects. That is why the 70s retro style feels more energetic and dynamic.

The 80s Retro

The 1980s can be considered a hectic years. Technological advancement changed many things, including design trends. So, computer-generated graphics, pixelated imagery, and futuristic motifs were more familiar. Plus, it’s also an era of consumer culture and materialism that emphasizes wealth and luxury. That is why, bold and vibrant colors weren’t the only things that stood out. Shiny surfaces and glossy finishes were commonly used to convey a sense of luxury and abundance in advertising, fashion, and product packaging.

Another thing that is quite interesting in this era is the Memphis design movement that emerged in the early 80s. The movement the minimalist aesthetic the previous decade (70s) offered. It favored bold colors, asymmetrical patterns, and playful designs. Memphis elements are now easy to find and use for various design projects.

Retro Graphic Design Style in Conclusion

The allure of the past, encapsulated in the term “retro design,” continues to captivate designers and audiences alike. While the industry constantly seeks innovation and contemporary aesthetics, the appeal of retro design persists. It transcends the limitations of the present and future. Setting off from the optimistic and minimalistic 50s to the experimental and vibrant 60s. Also the pragmatic and diverse 70s, to the dynamic and futuristic 80s, each decade’s retro design brings a distinct flavor to the creative palette. They provide endless inspiration for contemporary projects.