The past is an endless resource for design inspiration. Learn about the 5 must-know vintage design styles so you can lift them, twist them, and reinvent them for contemporary projects.
When it comes to material goods, “vintage” means any design style that’s older than 20 years, but younger than 100 – that would make it antique. In design you can take more creative liberty with the word, but it still means an older style that developed in past eras. In this article we look at five popular vintage design styles and schools of thoughts that modern-day designers should know.
Rather than outright copying historic designs, the most original work makes a subtle nod to the past, blending old styles with a novel approach. From Art Nouveau to Sixties Psychedelia, these are the vintage styles designers are revisiting in 2019.
1. Art Nouveau
The Art Nouveau movement was inspired by natural forms, particularly the curved lines of plants, trees and flowers. This informed an organic and dynamic design style. This highly decorative style was at its most popular between 1890 and 1910.
The style has been revisited periodically through the 20th and 21st centuries; its influence was particularly notable during the ’60s psychedelia design phase. While Art Nouveau is known for its ornamentation, contemporary designers strip this vintage design style down to its basic elements for a more minimal look.
In this example, Mexican design agency Parámetro Studio use a Nouveau-inspired typeface for the identity of luxury real estate developer MONAT.
In a similar vein, Poland-based 247 Studio looked to the refined serif styles of the early 20th century to inform their identity for coffee brand Pello Caffe.
Art Nouveau style harks back to a period of luxury and “polite society.” Portuguese graphic designers Pi Creative Studio translates these values to a modern era with this golden brand design for event brand Synergy.
Typography is a quick and high-impact way of accessing Art Nouveau style. This ‘Germanium & Cobalt’ font by contributor Mott Jordan is a reinterpretation of a typeface originally designed by Otto Heim in 1925.
Discover a wide range of Art Nouveau borders, graphics, and fonts on Shutterstock. Check out 5 Contemporary Illustrators Paying Homage to Art Nouveau for more inspiration.
2. Art Deco
The stylistic reaction to Art Nouveau, Art Deco is a geometric style that was popular during the 1920s and 1930s. It lifts inspiration from a wide range of influences, including Cubism, Ancient Egyptian art, and the design of transportation. Art Deco is characterized by rich materials and colors, abstract forms and symmetry, and a generally glamorous mood.
Art Deco is associated with the ‘boom’ period of the 1920s, so it is an oft-revisited vintage design style for makers looking to add a touch of luxury to their projects.
As with Art Nouveau, typography is a simple way to tap into the Art Deco style. Designer Enrique Presa uses a simplified Deco geometric type in his brand identity for Bo Bom, a gelateria in Palma de Mallorca.
Inspired by the client’s trade — a gallery that specializes in Art Deco furniture — design agency Mother New York envisioned a dark and moody take on the Deco style, complete with gold detailing and delicate, thin type.
Art Deco is perfectly suited to celebratory designs. Try embellishing a wedding invitation or event collateral with a geometric frame in the Deco style.
Find this, and more Art Deco borders, fonts and stationery templates in the Shutterstock library. Look for more Deco inspiration in 4 Art Deco Graphic Design Techniques and Applications.
The Bauhaus movement was developed at the progressive art Bauhaus School in Weimar, Germany in 1919. As with Art Nouveau and Art Deco, the Bauhaus was a “total” design style, influencing a wide range of artistic fields, including architecture, graphics, typography, theatre, and furniture.
With the centenary of the establishment of the Bauhaus falling this year, many contemporary designers are reflecting on the legacy of the German art school, and in the process rediscovering its ever-relevant values of simplicity, functionality and modernism.
Simple geometric shapes, minimal color palettes, and sans serif typefaces are trademarks of the Bauhaus vintage design style. Here, Lisbon-based agency Musa WorkLab translates these trademarks into an effective brand identity for For Arts Sake (FAS).
Primary colors and stripped-back typography are also key legacies of the Bauhaus. Creative agency Red&Grey make the most of Bauhaus’ functional heritage in this campaign and identity design for International Literature Festival Dublin.
Influenced by the modernist style of the buildings designed by Bauhaus students, Bauhaus graphic layouts were suitably geometric. Channel a Bauhaus style in your print designs with these simple and striking brochure templates by contributor Uladzislau Baryschchyk.
Discover more Bauhaus templates, fonts and graphics on Shutterstock, and learn more about this legendary movement in The Legendary, Influential Bauhaus Movement Turns 100.
4. Mid-Century Modern
Inspired by the growing popularity for modernism in Europe, Mid-Century Modern developed in America in the 1930s. Coined as Mid-Century Modern (MCM) by writer Cara Greenberg in the 1980s, MCM is recognized as a hugely influential style that inspired interiors, products, architecture, furniture and graphic design from the 1930s until the mid-1960s.
Especially prevalent in California and Brazil (the latter due to the prolific work of architect Oscar Neimeyer), Mid-Century Modern is celebrated for its characterful approach to modernist design. Graphic designers of the MCM period favored flat design, dynamic shapes and a joyful, bold approach to illustration and type.
MCM gives designs an inclusive, energetic mood, which makes it the perfect vintage design style for community events. Here, Indonesian designer Mirza P. Wardhana creates a jaunty, MCM-inspired layout for the poster and flyer design for a House of Sale event.
Inspired by the work of MCM-era designer Saul Bass, this visual identity for an exhibition by Austrian graphic designer Marina Lewandowska uses pastel tones, playfully arranged shapes, and Fifties-inspired type.
Graphics inspired by the shape and color of natural elements is a key trait of Mid-Century Modern. Incorporate this vintage vector pattern into a poster or brochure layout to inject instant 1950s style.
In the 1960s, youth counterculture discovered a new voice through the psychedelic music of artists like The Beatles. Psychedelic art developed alongside this music to visually convey the hallucinogenic style of the songs.
Posters of the psychedelic era mimicked the effect of hallucinatory drugs like LSD; designs typically featured whirling shapes, intense colors, and illusions. Designers also radically reinterpreted Art Nouveau, blending vintage styles to create an even more mind-bending effect.
The optimism, energy, and experimental approach of psychedelia has enticed a new generation of designers looking to stand out with vintage design.
Designer Verena Michelitsch uses warped type and intense colors in these logo and business card designs for Brooklyn-based design practice Jumbo.
Pizza restaurant Rosa by Martín Azambuja makes a milder nod to 1960s and 1970s psychedelic design. Their brand identity retains the era’s vivid colors and ballooning typography, but pares back the layout for a contemporary look.
Music was the natural home for psychedelic design in the 1960s, and many music artists still look to the era for inspiration. Adapt this vector graphic into a groovy poster or album cover for your next project.
Discover a world of psychedelic style on Shutterstock, with Sixties-inspired graphics, fonts and illustrations. Learn more about this characteristic era in 8 Models and Designers Who Redefined Beauty in the 1960s-70s.
Check out these articles and tutorials about vintage and historic design:
- Industry Trends: What Does Vintage Mean in Design Today?
- Three Easy Vintage Text Effects to Add Retro Charm to Your Designs
- How to Make Photos Look Vintage in 10 Easy Steps
- Using the Creativity in Naive Art for Your Design Style
- Good as Gold: The Symbolism and Design Power Color Gold
Cover image via Uladzislau Baryschchyk