gif89agif89agif89agif89agif89agif89agif89agif89agif89agif89agif89agif89agif89agif89agif89agif89a gif89a A Guide to Retro Graphic Design « Add Design gif89a

You have probably noticed that Retro and Vintage graphic design has been all over the place in 2013. In fact, it has become such a major graphic design ‘trend’ that it’s been difficult to miss once you choose to look for it.

There are many possible reasons why the retro and vintage style has become so popular. Compared to a number of other styles, retro can appeal openly to a wide audience. For an older audience it can evoke comfortable memories while appearing fresh and post-modern in its use for a younger audience. In a world where consumer confidence has been shaken by big banks and big companies, a retro approach can give modern company’s associations of being well established, trustworthy, small and friendly. The muted colour palettes are a striking contrast to the bright colours of modern design and flashy sell-sell-sell advertising.

The retro design trend doesn’t stop at graphic design. Product design, car design, fashion, web and app design are all influenced by the retro theme. For example, the  hugely popular app ‘Instagram’ allows people to add vintage effects to their photos giving them an old fashioned effect, and the popular Fiat 500 has a distinct retro style mimicking the original models.

Using The Retro Style

Although retro appears to be all the rage, it should only be used where it’s relevant to the company and the purpose of the campaign itself. Otherwise it may confuse your audience if it’s not consistent with your current branding and campaign literature.

As an example, here is a recent piece of our graphic design work with a retro/vintage design style. It was for a ‘Mad Hatters’ style tea party.  Both the Alice in Wonderland theme and also the whole idea of an English Tea Party fit in with the vintage aesthetic so the retro feel fitted the purpose perfectly – appearing both unique and ‘on-trend’.

GHeath TeaParty Invite FIN 30-04-13

What makes this design retro?

Here are a few key elements of retro and vintage design styles and what to look out for:

There is a never ending quantity of retro and vintage fonts available. The typography plays a vital role in retro design. They have a unique style that mimic fonts used in in early graphic design. Traditional serif fonts, handwritten script fonts and decorative Sans Serif fonts all work well, especially when they’re all combined into one piece. To add a bit of flavour, duplicating the text to create shadows gives a trendy retro effect.


Colour Palettes

The colours used in retro are usually limited as it was expensive to print in colour in the early days of print design. To create that old effect, the colours in retro design are slightly muted. Using sepia browns and creams is especially popular for giving that older/faded effect.



Textures are key for giving that old fashioned hand made appearance. Paper textured backgrounds are extremely popular, and adding torn edges or grunge effects give a the work a hand crafted look. Some graphic designers have gone even further and created work by hand using stamps, inks, letterpress and screen printing.

Shapes & Illustrations

The use of very simple stripped back shapes such as circles, badges and ribbons are a key sign that the graphic designer has gone for a retro approach as these simpler shapes were easier to replicate in early print. Hand drawn graphics are also popular especially illustrations of ‘classic’ icons such as cars, crowns and people in retro fashions. Patterned floral backgrounds are also extremely popular as they were commonly used in older designs, as were detailed borders, dividers, swirls and floral elements.

Just look at how Coca Cola have embraced the retro feel.


Do you think that retro will fit in with your business branding? If so, our team of Essex graphic designers at Add Design would love to be involved in your project. Just get in touch to find out more.