What makes a design RETRO?

Retro vintage in website design

Using retro themed web designing templates is the latest trend in web designing. Retro templates are characterized by period icons, vivid graphics and pale colors. This popular theme is not only showing its presence in websites but also in paintings, ads and fashion designing. Let us find out the reasons behind this growing popularity of retro web designing.

Reasons of popularity

Retro designing transcends time, styles, tastes and ages. Web designing templates having retro style are well accepted by customers from different countries. Retro designing usually focuses on certain eras or pop cultures but enjoys a loyal group of followers across several countries. Color schemes and graphics are neither too dull nor too colorful. 

Interweaving of modern graphics with old designs helps in creating a vintage appeal. People have a tendency to associate “value” with old things. Retro designing aims to reap this normal tendency. While value element helps in drawing visitors, modern designing elements keep them hooked. As such, retro designing offers the site owners best of both worlds – vintage looks with modern designing.

Retro designing has brought a touch of romanticism in web designing. Most web surfers are guilty of romanticizing old things. Most of us have a feeling “how green was my valley”. They feel life was much simpler, less stressful and relaxed when they were in schools and colleges. This is probably where a retro design takes us. It takes us to those sweet and memorable days when life was more relaxed.

Elements of retro designing

characters vintage

Retro web designing has several approaches to theme and certain elements are often repeated. Handwritten scripts are very popular. Some designers use old cars, retro product models, old fashioned photographs, early electronic devices and other such old images for creating retro look.  Some web pages reflect the celebration of sixties to space travel while others prefer to highlight post-war optimism and ad campaigns of ‘50s. Some web designers use the military themes like old war planes and badges and some like to use images of pin-up girls of that era. There are several crucial elements that contribute in making a design retro. Let us explore some of them.

1. Using shapes and illustrations

simple retro shapes squares

Simple shapes works wonder in creating a retro look. Circles of different sizes are commonly used for this purpose. Going through designs of different famous eras revels how simple shapes were used by designers to create maximum impact. In addition to simple shapes, some of them also opted for a floral background. Bright colors were used in such cases for drawing attention. These techniques are widely adapted by many designers for creating separate space of different content within same area.

2. Color schemes

vintae colours

Limited use of colors is the prominent trait of retro designs. Full color printing was very expensive in the past. This prompted many designers to limit the use of colors in their designs. Two toned coloring was predominantly used by retro designers. Sometimes designers selected a focal color and blended it with few selected colors to create a unique theme. 

3. Typography

fonts in retro design

Typography has always played a vital role in designing a retro site. Designers of the retro eras used simple techniques like repositioning of fonts, duplicating and pixel strokes for adding unique flavor to a design.

4. Borders

Borders in retro websites

Use of borders is a fascinating part of retro designing. Borders can be used for framing a picture, highlighting content or creating focus areas. They can have ornamental designs or matching solid colors.

5. Textures and noises

Use of textures in vintage webdesign

Subtle use of texture and noise in the background helps in creating a visually appealing retro design. While some offer a canvas type background having worn out look, others love to use poster artwork with subtle colors. From blending of brush works to stained structures vintage designs are a treat to watch. Drop shadows and pattern overlays are used for creating retro look of a web page. Retro textures are usually simple to create with help of Photoshop.

6. Badges and logos

brand identity

Badges and logos play a crucial role in creating a retro feel. Badges are usually round shaped with a fluttering slim banner over them. Subtle and contrasting colors are used on retro logos and badges. Most of them can be created with Photoshop.


Using retro elements in web designing is an attempt to bring back the memories of past. When a designer purposely develops an old design and blends it with new services and technology we get true retro effect. Retro designs are void of older designing techniques, making them technologically compatible with modern site designing. There are several retro elements that may not fit with our modern web designing approach. Extensive use of Flash, horizontal rule lines, large rainbow fonts, hit counters are avoided by modern designers. Background images and music along with scrolling tickers used in earlier days of web designing may create problems in modern web designing. These elements should be avoided while designing and developing a retro website.

About Roxanne Peterson

The above article has been written by RP, who is associated with many online blogs and sites as their freelance writer. She is currently involved with various number of projects based on template and web designing including a project of Template Kingdom

27 Responses to What makes a design RETRO?

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  1. An the heady early 90′s! When advertising agencies like Y&R were booming and Garamond was king! I was a QuarkXpress whizz Andy Mac only had a 80MB hard drive! Adelaide Fring Festival logo is Retro this year.

  2. I really love how you break down what retro is. Retro logos have been making a splash again and personally i love it! I will be looking for a retro logo when I re-brand my photo business

  3. nice article on retro design…

  4. Very nice article. I love Retro design.

  5. I love retro and I just did a design for Trade Show Displays that the graphics were retro influenced. This post really helped! Thanks for the great post.

  6. Great article Roxanne, I love retro design! Thanks for sharing very useful tips.

  7. Hi, would you know the type of font used above in the “Typography” section? I am interested in the fonts used for “The Workshop” and “Send Telegram”. Thanks!

  8. Very well explored elements required in making a design retro.

  9. “Textures and noises” is looking very simple and great… thanks man for sharing with us…

  10. Retro style is really inspiring…

  11. I like retro design,exactly what i search…

  12. this is blog very good..

  13. Your color scheme and fonts selection is great!

  14. This is going to be really useful :) Thank you so much Mr. Raju! Retro has really caught me in the eye… it’s a style that would live for another million years :)

    Great post <3

  15. retro is very popular style in these days.

  16. Yes. I like retro web design, retro elementes too. Hier http://www.muenchen-webdesigner.com you can find something interesting.

  17. I think what makes a design retro is the Fonts and the specialy selected fiber colours behind a soft fibric background

  18. It’s awesome article but it would have been more awesome if the examples in the image was also added as links(Interested in websites snapshot links)

  19. Retro is a nice design-style, but unfortunatly everybody is using it these days. So it has become more of a hype than a style, which is a shame.

  20. i love the retro style in the webs. Here you have some beautiful animated images http://fromme-toyou.tumblr.com/

  21. Very good! It’s exactly what i search…

  22. Good works. Can be bookmarked as a reference guide. Esp. the color schemes helps. :)

  23. excellent work!!!!!!! Please share like this few more..

  24. Nice writeup. This is another trend that will never die :)