The Rise of Retro Designs


Michael Hum, Staff Writer

 As the 21st century enters a second decade, a resurgence in the design world has given a new look to new products—something that is not futuristic nor modern, but a certain homage to an older era. Newer electronic devices, like phones and computers, incorporate more industrial designs, resulting in something that looks more like a futuristic proof of concept from the 1930s than a brand new device in the 21st century. Some modern graphics look like an undiscovered Roy Lichtenstein painting from the 1970s with neon colors galore, and visual symbols resembling older devices are beginning to define a more abstract definition of the things around them. Wherever the place, there is a new retro style that has been trending in the art world. 

A retro style does not necessarily mean a complete backtrack to the times of the midcentury world. Rather, more and more artists begin to use older designs or styles to modify or combine with more modern styles, resulting in something that looks both old and new. As technology and modern luxuries enable us to look to the past, we often find nostalgia in older designs. Take an iPhone, as an example. The modern versions of Apple’s mobile devices, the 12th, and 13th generations, seem to harken back to the boxy and squared-off designs of the older 4th and 5th generation, where phones factually do less, but our romanticized view embraces a simpler and no-nonsense way older phones seem to perform.

The same view of a simpler time also gives us a clue as to why retro designs are trending. A design that can successfully recall anything from the past helps with drawing more attention. To older people, retro designs serve as a catalyst for any older memories they have. For newer generations, a retro design to an older era gives a newer experience or design for them to experience. As a result, companies and artists begin to look more toward their past in their new projects. After all, the work giving a harkening back to the olden days has more attention.

A new series based on a classic franchise or movie is a great example. After all, very popular media franchises like Marvel have had a very popular following ever since their first original comic book almost eighty years ago, so it makes sense why newer series within the franchise often reference the older comics or movies. For people who read the comic books, watching a new series that uses a retro comic-book-like art style recalls their memories of when they read the comic books, even if the same art style is more or less older.

“Retro design makes sense in a lot of ways,” explained Arcadia High School junior Jersey Jiang. “Millennials usually have a lot of nostalgia for things like video games, while modern art favored by Zoomers feature more abstract and over-saturated colors, which give them a nice acknowledgment to the 1960s.”

As with any design trend, there will be a time when artists begin to adopt a new form, and our artistic works that let us reminisce about the past will be antiquated. However, the current resurgence of retro designs will influence artists everywhere for many years to come. As the technology to record the past becomes better and better, the times of the old will one day turn into the artwork of the new.


Photo by Jakob Owens