Retro Design Trends: Rewind to the 60s, 70s and 80s

If you want to know how to integrate 60s, 70s or 80s influences into your designs, here’s our handy guide to all things retro!

Retro Trends
Portrait for Kelsie RimmerBy Kelsie Rimmer  |  Updated June 14, 2022

If you’re a 60s, 70s or 80s child at heart, you’ll be happy to know that retro design is alive and well! Since making a comeback in 2019, the retro graphic design trend has dominated the design space, popping up everywhere from industrial, interior and graphic design to social media and pop culture.

Viewing what is familiar and nostalgic through a modern lens, companies, artists and designers alike have embraced the retro graphic design style with open arms. Even the world’s biggest brands such as Nike, Pepsi, and Gucci have integrated retro design into their advertising campaigns, recycling retro trends, marketing and products with incredible results.

The resurgence of retro has absolutely exploded over the last year, bringing a landslide of trends, techniques, and styles along with it. So if you wanna know how to get the retro vibe and integrate more 60s, 70s or 80s influences into your designs, here’s our handy guide to all things retro!

The 60s

60s Design Trends

A decade defined by bright colors, fluid patterns and LSD-inspired psychedelia, the 1960s were a massive turning point for graphic design. Moving away from the pin-up style, earth tones and intermittent splashes of color that dominated design in the 1950s, the 60s saw designers dipping their artistic wands into more creative, experimental styles.

Here are some of the 1960s design trends that are making a comeback…

01. Pop Art

Alter Ego Halftone Photoshop Effect

While it first emerged in the late 1950s, Pop Art continued well into the 1960s, popping up everywhere from advertising and comic books to fine art. The trend was made famous by the movement’s leading figures, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, and their iconic Pop Art pieces.

Emphasizing the cliched symbols of popular culture with modern elements, bright colors, and a touch of irony, pop art is still alive and well today – particularly on social media and among the online art community.

02. Optical Art & Kaleidoscopic Patterns

Optical Art was a term coined in 1964 by Time magazine to describe a form of abstract design that created illusions using positive and negative space. It fast became one of the biggest trends of the decade. Sometimes generating a sense of movement, sometimes revealing different scenes depending on the viewer’s focus, Optical Art plays upon the figure-ground relationship. 

Going hand in hand with Optical Art is the Kaleidoscopic Patterns trend. Created by twisting a mirrored tube containing colored glass, tinsel, beads fragments and mirrors, these colorful and mesmerizing geometric designs were echoed in art, design and decor all throughout the 1960s, and still remain a trend today – particularly in video and motion design. 

JTBC Golden Disc Awards Title
JTBC Golden Disc Awards Title

If you’re keen to experiment with Optical Art and Kaleidoscopic Patterns, try this these Kaleidoscope Templates by andreasleonidou or these 56 Surrealistic optical illusions by a_slowik.

03. Bright Colors

POP RETRO - Instagram Social Media + Stories

Bold, bright and beautiful, the 1960s brought color to the oftentimes drab remnants of 1950s culture. Ditching muted pastels and earth tones for bright neons, the use of color was a sign of rebellion as the Free Love and Flower Power movements took off. Bright colors are back in fashion this year, as more designers integrate vivid color and conventions of Psychedelic design.

White Rabbit Brand Identity

If you want to inject some color into your projects, try this Abstract Circles Background pack by 42Theme, or these POP RETRO Social Media posts and stories by dirtylinestudio.

04. Psychedelic Design

Lucidity psychedelia font

The late 60s brought about a whole new style of design inspired by the psychedelic movement. Largely influenced by the mind-altering hallucinogenic drugs that became popular for recreational usage in the 60s, the ‘Psychedelic’ style soon emerged as its own design genre spanning art, movies, fashion, and music.

Psychedelic design is still a big trend today, defined by its fluid shapes, hand-drawn typography, vibrant color, and dream-like themes.

If you want to go psychedelic for your next gig, album cover or video, check out this Psychedelic Music Flyer by Muhamadiqbalhidayat or these Colorful Psychedelic and Psychedelic Dance videos by nguluidu.

05. 60s Music

The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour 1967
The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour 1967

Speaking of music… in the early-1960s, 50s rock and roll was gradually overtaken by pop, psychedelic rock, blues rock, and folk rock, which continued to grow in popularity well into the 70s. A decade defined by iconic artists such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix, the 1960s was a massive turning point for musical expression.

60s Design Trends Collection

For more on the 1960s, view our 60s graphic design collection or check out some 60s logo designs.

The 70s

70s Design Trends

While psychedelic influences from the 1960s continued well into the 70s; this groovy decade was all about bell bottoms, disco, funk, and free luuurve. Design-wise, the style of the decade flaunted bold colors, thick lines, flowery patterns, and curvy fonts. And now, 50 years on, graphic design inspiration from the 1970s is still all the rage!

According to Kate McInnes, Envato’s specialist for Graphics, the relaxed, nostalgic and cheerful aesthetic of the 70s has made it a big trend this year.

“After adopting subtle retro influences in 2019, creatives have been diving head first into the psychedelic 70s this year,” says Kate. “Bold color choices, flower motifs, paisley patterns and curvy serif fonts. It’s not as kitsch-y as the original designs were, instead evoking a nostalgic, relaxed and cheerful aesthetic.”

If you want to replicate this groovy vibe, here are some iconic 70s styles that are trending this year…

06. Simple Shapes & Bold Colors

Background Abstract Circles Bauhaus Style

In contrast to the psychedelic style, 1970s design showcased simple, flat shapes, often arranged into recurring patterns and used as background art or in fabric design for fashion and home decor. This trend is back in vogue this year and, as you can see in plenty of branding, packaging, and 70s inspired designs.

Tanks Cafe Mooncake Packaging
Tanks Cafe Mooncake Packaging

To integrate simple shapes into your designs, try this Retro Disco Lines Vector Backgrounds Pack by themefire, or these Background Abstract Circles by 42Theme.

07. Freeform Typography

Slow down poster

While the 1960s brought some stylistic changes to typography, it was during the 70s that the Freeform Typography Trend really kicked off. With the emergence of the Letraset and the Visual Graphics PhotoTypositor typesetting techniques, typography became more irregular and varied, from flowy freeform swashes with curly ends and rounded edges, to bubble-like shapes and neon sign-inspired linework.

Breaking the conventions of traditional typography, this style is becoming increasingly popular today – particularly in advertisements, memes and personal branding. Find some funky 70s font examples on Envato Tuts+.

To get a head start on typography for your next 70s inspired design, try Popstone – Groovy Family + Variable by creativemedialab or these 70s Retro Text Effects by Zeppelin_Graphics.

08. Hippie Patterns & Motifs

The 1970s were filled with many social movements and cultural trends that greatly influenced graphic design. People wanted to express themselves as extravagantly as possible through music, fashion, and art.

Hippie and disco were just a couple of scenes that defined the trends of the 70s and made an impact in the visual world. They brought with them a wide range of patterns, motifs and themes iconic of the decade’s style – including disco balls, flowers, peace signs, and paisley patterns to name a few. And these motifs are definitely back in fashion this year!

09. 70s Music

Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon 1973

While the psychedelic genre continued well into the 70s, the introduction of jazz, disco and funk – as well as the iconic Woodstock Festival – gave the 70s its groovy reputation. Dominated by mega famous musicians such as ABBA, The Bee Gees, and Pink Floyd, the 70s was a defining decade for music that continues to influence musicians to this day.

If you want to get the funky 70s vibe, have a listen to Upbeat Disco Funk by 99Instrumentals or Groovy 70’s Funky Fun by AllenGrey!

70s Design Trends Collection

For more on the 1970s, view our 70s graphic design collection.

The 80s

80s Design Trends

Vibrant colors, crazy patterns, lycra leggings, and larger than life hairstyles – there’s no denying that the 80s was an eye-catching era. A decade largely defined by technology, the 1980s saw bright neon colors, futuristic fonts, angular patterns, and an explosion pop culture, all influence the evolution of a much edgier, more rebellious style of design than we’d seen in the past.

Now, 30 years later, the aesthetic of the great-y 80s is popping up everywhere, from movie posters and music flyers to TV shows and catwalks.

To get the 80s vibe, here are some of the top trends making a comeback…

10. Pop Culture

1980s poster design

Movies, music, games, TV shows – there’s no denying that pop culture had a massive influence on 80s design trends. While always destined to make a comeback, we first saw the return of 80s pop culture in recent years with the creation of Netflix’s Stranger Things in 2017 – a show clearly inspired by 80’s pop culture. Now, there’s been a big increase in 80’s content as the style continues to infiltrate the zeitgeist.

Kyle Lambert – Stranger Things Poster
Kyle Lambert – Stranger Things Poster

The 1980s also had a number of huge box office smash hits in the Sci-Fi genre – such as E.T., Back to The Future, and Blade Runner – which was reflected in design via gradients, chunky text effects, and cosmic 80s fonts. We’re seeing this sci-fi style reemerge in the present day with a nostalgic nod to the decade, as seen in this AKQA Illustration by Romain Billaud.

To take a trip back to the 80s, check out this 80s Big Poster Design by PeakStar, this VHS Toolkit for After Effects by EnchantedStudios, or the Ultimate 1980s by Arkuma_Hiyomoto. Or recreate the Stranger Things font with this American Frights Horror Serif Font by TheBrandedQuotes!

11. Neon & Cyberpunk

Who would have thought that a chemical element could come to represent an entire decade? One of the most iconic styles of the 1980s, Neon was used everywhere – from film posters to album covers to video games. And it’s back to light up 2020! This year we’ve seen the neon trend used by big brands such as Nike in this video billboard and BMW in their Motorsport Sim Racing opener.

The 80s Cyberpunk trend has also made a huge comeback this year. Originating in the 60s, Cyberpunk was made famous in the 80s through the movie Blade Runner. In fact, many films, comic books, games, and designs that focus on futuristic high-tech, lawless societies, and big corporations originated from cyberpunk – and the trend is back with a vengeance.

“It’s 2020 and Cyberpunk is still going strong,” confirms Kate. “Personally I’m looking forward to playing the upcoming video game Cyberpunk 2077. The retro future aesthetic is everything I wished for and more.”

To see your designs up in Neon lights, try this Neon Sign Photoshop Effect by pixelbuddha_graphic or this Supreme Neon Photoshop Action by _Stardust. Or, to get the 80s Cyberpunk vibe, check out this Cyberpunk 2.0 Lightroom Preset by 1bereta or these Cyberpunk Text Effects by aanderr.

12. Tropical & 80s Deco

During the 80s, the tropical trend – think palm trees, sunsets, neon, and pastels – was in full swing. Represented in film posters, album covers (hello Wham!), clothing and home decor, designers began expressing themselves through extraordinary colors, florals, and angular shapes that embodied the colorful, tropical style.

Often incorporating the same pastels and tropical motifs, 80s Deco was also a popular design trend, often consisting of bright neon colors, drop shadows, clean sans-serif fonts and pronounced angles and curves. And both of these trends are popping up left, right and centre in 2020.

To create your very own 80s Tropical design, check out this Customisable 1980s Gym Logo and 1980s Beach Party Logo Design by wingsart, or this Summer 80s Party flyer by Guuver.

13. Memphis Style

Memphis style business cards

Named after its creators, the Memphis Group in Milan, Memphis style is said to be the pinnacle of 80s style. Memphis-Milano style combined elements of art deco, tropical, and pop art, and and set out to transcend modernism with its bold geometric shapes, striking colour combinations, linework and asymmetry. A trend that has totally taken off over the last few years, what’s become known as the Memphis Revival is now in full swing!

Memphis style

14. 80s Music

David Bowie Let's Dance 1983
David Bowie Let’s Dance 1983

An era that brought us hair metal, synth-pop, hip-hop beats, and lovelorn ballads, there’s no question that the 80s were an incredibly diverse time for music. Gracing us with the likes of The Cure, Whitney Houston, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, and ACDC, the 80s decade was a big turning point for the development of digital music.

For more on the 1980s, view our 80s graphic design collection.

80s Design Trends Collection

And there you have it folks. We hope you enjoyed travelling back in time with us to explore the most iconic retro trends making a comeback in 2020.

If you’re all about staying trendy, make sure you check out our Mid-Year Trend Review for 2020, or these blogs on the latest Mockup Trends and Instagram Trends.

Love the artwork in this article? So do we! Feature image created using items from a_slowik, themefire and creativemedialab on Envato Elements.

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