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Retro and Vintage In Modern Web Design

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Retro and vintage are becoming a new trend. Once rarely used in this robust, dynamic medium, early, retro and vintage elements are now becoming more and more popular in a variety of design contexts. Online shops, corporate designs, portfolios and blogs incorporate both styles on a small and large scale. When applying “old-style” elements to their works, designers produce creative and appealing designs that make their websites stand out and look really different. As a matter of fact, if executed carefully, such designs almost never look boring, although one might intuitively think that the opposite would be the case.

Retro and vintage designs exhibit graphic solutions that are strongly influenced by the time period that they are supposed to represent. While retro focuses on the style of the 1910s to 1930s, vintage recalls the time period between the 1950s and 1980s. In both cases, design elements reflect some old-fashioned motifs, trends, personalities and objects that had been an essential part of our lives in the past.

Such elements create a nostalgic atmosphere, awaken feelings and memories and attempt to communicate information effectively using emotions. Some such designs make use of so-called “classical conditioning” — a technique used to associate a stimulus with an unconscious physical or emotional response.

The Secrets Of Vintage and Retro Designs Link

What elements do designers use to create a genuine vintage or retro atmosphere? What colors are used? And what kinds of graphics are usually embedded in such designs? Let’s find out. According to our research, common graphic elements for such designs are:

  • illustrations from old posters, movies, newspapers, CDs, vinyls, ads;

    Retro and Vintage

  • old-style typography (e.g. Roman typefaces);

    Retro and Vintage

  • script fonts and handwriting;

    Retro and Vintage

  • old radio devices;

    Retro and Vintage

  • old TV devices;

    Retro and Vintage

  • old cars;

    Retro and Vintage

  • old packaging;

    Retro and Vintage

  • old photos;

    Retro and Vintage

  • vibrant rainbow colors (high contrast, neon-style);

    Retro and Vintage

  • torn, used paper with stains (often yellowish paper);

    Retro and Vintage

  • dark, dirty colors (brown, dark red, dark blue) and textures (e.g. paper);

    Retro and Vintage

  • scrapbooks;

    Retro and Vintage

  • pop-art elements (see also Pop Art Is Alive: Classics and Modern Artworks1);

    Retro and Vintage

  • retro illustrations;

    Retro and Vintage

  • old-style signs;

    Retro and Vintage

  • vintage and retro are often combined with a hand-drawing style2 and grunge style3.

Some designs go even further and not only use retro or vintage elements but try to achieve a Renaissance look. You can find some examples of such designs at the end of this post. You can find even more inspiration for similar designs in our post Celebration of Vintage and Retro Design4.

In all of these cases, designers use their creativity to offer something truly different and make the design literally stand out. Let’s take a look at some beautiful examples of what can be achieved using this technique.

Below, you’ll find a showcase of 50 beautiful retro, vintage and Renaissance designs. Some of them are Flash-based, and most of them are CSS-based: for us it was not important how the design was achieved; rather, it was more important what came out of the designer’s approach in the end.

Showcase Of Retro and Vintage Web Designs Link

CSS Tinderbox (the design is different now – the site was recently redesigned)

Retro and Vintage Designs - CSS Tinderbox

Custom Design

Retro and Vintage Designs - Custom Design | graphic, product and web design

Big Rig Design

Retro and Vintage Designs - Big Rig Design - Design and Marketing

AdaptD.com

Retro and Vintage Designs - AdaptD.com - Web Design and Development

FortySeven Media5

Retro and Vintage Designs

Jeffrey Sarmiento6

Retro and Vintage Designs - Portfolio and blog of Jeffrey Sarmiento a web designer/developer from Toronto, Canada currfigure working for FreshBooks

Klassiker in Acryl7

Retro and Vintage Designs

Level2D.com8

Retro and Vintage Designs -

Rob Across America9

Retro and Vintage Designs - Rob Across America

Slabovia.tv10

Retro and Vintage Designs - Slabovia.tv - Unimpressed With The West

Dallas Advertising Agency11

Retro and Vintage Designs - Dallas Advertising Agency, Dallas Advertising Agencies, Web Design, Website Designers, Dallas figure Design

Sensi Soft12

Retro and Vintage Designs - Sensi Soft

mediaBOOM13

Retro and Vintage Designs - mediaBOOM | ...delivering smart internet and design solutionsThe New York Moon14

Retro and Vintage Designs - The New York Moon - Neighborhood

~ The Statement ~ The Official Blog of The Old State15

Retro and Vintage Designs - ~ The Statement ~ The Official Blog of The Old State

MacTarnahan’s Brewing Company16

Retro and Vintage Designs - MacTarnahan's Brewing Company

ISO50 – The Visual Work of Scott Hansen17

Retro and Vintage Designs - ISO50 - The Visual Work of Scott Hansen

Tricycle Terror18

Retro and Vintage Designs - Tricycle Terror

Charlies Loan

Retro and Vintage Designs - Charlies Loan Payday Loans Short term cash loans fast

Small Stone Recordings

Retro and Vintage Designs - Small Stone Recordings

Big Cartel19

Retro and Vintage Designs - Big Cartel » Bringing the Art to the Cart

The Ernest Hemingway Collection20

Retro and Vintage Designs - The Ernest Hemingway Collection

jrojr.com21

Retro and Vintage Designs - jrojr.com » Home » Front Page

Five Cent Stand – Bitter Kiss22

Retro and Vintage Designs - Five Cent Stand - Bitter Kiss

Tennessee Vacation23

Retro and Vintage Designs - Tennessee Vacation - The State's Official Travel Planning WebsitePrahba24

Retro and Vintage Designs - Prahba | Creative Minds: Graphic and Web Design

Thigpen Designs25

Retro and Vintage Designs - Thigpen Designs - 770.527.3958

Team Mongolmania

Retro and Vintage Designs - Team Mongolmania

tomatic26

Retro and Vintage Designs - » tomatic® - splendid hypertext | a thomas marban venture

The Superest27

Retro and Vintage Designs - The Superest: Who is the superest hero of them all?

Red&Blu Winter ’08-’0928

Retro and Vintage Designs - // / RedBlu Winter '08-'09 // /

Lataka29

Booreiland30

Retro and Vintage Designs - Booreiland - platform for creative productions

Fuelhaus31

Retro and Vintage Designs - Fuelhaus Brand Strategy, Marketing, Design Agency

intensify.org32

Retro and Vintage Designs - intensify.org

Mister-Aero33

Retro and Vintage Designs

The Dollar Dreadful Family Library34

Retro and Vintage Designs

Creating Passionate Users

Retro and Vintage Designs

Dennis Jones Artwork35

Retro and Vintage Designs

Capitol Media

Retro and Vintage Designs

One Horse Shy36

Retro and Vintage Designs

The Lippincott37

Retro and Vintage Designs

BlackMoon Development

Retro and Vintage Designs

Sourcebits TangledDecals

Retro and Vintage Designs

FOWA Miami

Retro and Vintage Designs

Bestial design38

Retro and Vintage Designs

The First Twenty39

Retro and Vintage Designs

The Blizzards

Retro and Vintage Designs

Thuiven40

Retro and Vintage Designs

Internet Zillionaire41

Retro and Vintage Designs

Renaissance-Designs Link

Timoni.org42

Retro and Vintage Designs

Theocacao43

Retro and Vintage Designs

Footnotes Link

  1. 1 /2008/07/21/pop-art-is-alive-classics-and-modern-artworks/
  2. 2 /2008/06/18/hand-drawing-style-in-modern-web-design-volume-2/
  3. 3 /2008/03/11/the-secrets-of-grunge-design/
  4. 4 /2008/04/21/celebration-of-vintage-and-retro-design/
  5. 5 http://fortysevenmedia.com/
  6. 6 http://www.jeffsarmiento.com/
  7. 7 http://klassiker-in-acryl.de/
  8. 8 http://www.level2d.com/
  9. 9 http://acrossamerica.robweychert.com/
  10. 10 http://www.slabovia.tv/
  11. 11 http://www.targetscope.com/
  12. 12 http://www.sensisoft.com/
  13. 13 http://mediaboom.com/
  14. 14 http://www.nymoon.com/
  15. 15 http://www.theoldstate.com/blog/
  16. 16 http://www.macsbeer.com/
  17. 17 http://blog.iso50.com/
  18. 18 http://tricycleterror.com/
  19. 19 http://bigcartel.com/
  20. 20 http://www.ernesthemingwaycollection.com/
  21. 21 http://www.jrojr.com/
  22. 22 http://www.fivecentstand.com/
  23. 23 http://tnvacation.com/
  24. 24 http://www.prahba.com/
  25. 25 http://www.thigpendesigns.com/
  26. 26 http://tomatic.com/
  27. 27 http://www.thesuperest.com/
  28. 28 http://www.redblu.com/
  29. 29 http://www.lataka.com/
  30. 30 http://www.booreiland.nl/
  31. 31 http://www.fuelhaus.com/
  32. 32 http://www.intensify.org/
  33. 33 http://mister-aero.com/
  34. 34 http://dollardreadful.com/
  35. 35 http://www.dj-art.com
  36. 36 http://www.onehorseshy.com/
  37. 37 http://www.thelippincott.net/
  38. 38 http://www.bestialdesign.com/
  39. 39 http://thefirsttwenty.com/
  40. 40 http://www.thuiven.com/
  41. 41 http://internetzillionaire.com
  42. 42 http://timoni.org/
  43. 43 http://theocacao.com/
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Vitaly Friedman loves beautiful content and doesn’t like to give in easily. Vitaly is writer, speaker, author and editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine. He runs responsive Web design workshops, online workshops and loves solving complex UX, front-end and performance problems in large companies. Get in touch.

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  1. 1

    Nice list. I believe Big Fat Institute deserved to be on it, though.

    0
  2. 2

    Nice collection, thank you so much! I will have a great time exploring these sites.
    I have to disagree on this point, though: While retro focuses on the style of the 1910s to 1930s, vintage recalls the time period between the 1950s and 1980s.
    As a collector of vintage clothing and ephemera, “retro” is most certainly applied to the 50s/60s-80s. Vintage is definitely earlier (00s-40s). Retro is more of a kitschy feel (think the 60s “retro” craze of the 90s), whereas vintage implies there is a history and quality behind the product that is “vintage-inspired”.
    Sorry, that was way more than I intended to type!

    1
  3. 3

    Nice old stuff here. Good collection, very inspiring

    0
  4. 4

    way to go retro!
    …though some of us have always been retro. at least that what my kids keep telling me. — steve
    http://photoportunity.com

    0
  5. 5

    Antonio Ciccarone

    October 7, 2008 9:21 am

    It seems like this style is coming back with a vengeance – there’s more thought put into it this time over though.

    0
  6. 6

    Jesus I love retro design. And love this post. Love, love love ….

    0
  7. 7

    Max | Design shard

    October 7, 2008 9:38 am

    retro and vintage definatly have a place in my heart, good stuff thanks

    1
  8. 8

    the example of “old-style” typeface is anything, perhaps Early 20th Century Display Type would have been more appropriate, old style typefaces were created in the 18th century and would be something like the typeface used in the renaissance example

    0
  9. 9

    Alex (Blogsessive)

    October 7, 2008 9:49 am

    Amazing effort put into compiling this. Thanks for that, very inspiring post!

    0
  10. 10

    These are how sites looked before the age of internet :)

    1
  11. 11

    Excellent post!
    Retro is sweet!

    0
  12. 12

    wow… huge collection!

    0
  13. 13

    I love this post. It’s a great source of inspiration. Thank you for posting.

    0
  14. 14

    Love retro! :D thanks for the inspiring posts!

    0
  15. 15

    Nice post guys, I have been a fan of some of these sites for a while. It was nice to see some new ones.

    Thanks!

    0
  16. 16

    Good Work

    0
  17. 17

    Nice post.
    And btw, Fallout 3 has also an ultimate retro and vintage web design.

    0
  18. 18

    very nice collection and a lot of work was done for this post.
    but if something is “back” it usually means it is “done” (or soon to be done)

    i’m more interested in what is NEXT…

    1
  19. 19

    You left out one of my favorites. You can find vintage inspiration in the design and content of

    The MangoFalls Project

    0
  20. 20

    Great collection of some amazing sites. Always a pleasure to see these posts here on Smashing Magazine.

    0
  21. 21

    EXCELLENT!

    So many GREAT sites and designs posted!

    One of the best lists I’ve seen!

    0
  22. 22

    Andrew Cornett

    October 7, 2008 10:48 am

    Thanks so much for the great list!

    0
  23. 23

    this is some really awesome stuff. I love the music and bomber that flies by every few minutes on the Dallas Ad Agency site, sweet!
    Very inspirational. Great post, thanks!

    0
  24. 24

    That ‘old radio device’ is actually a Roland SE-201 Space Echo.

    0
  25. 25

    Great collection:) (btw. thanks for adding our site in such a marvelous company;)

    0
  26. 26

    Legal, muito legal esta lista.

    Parabéns!

    Tem um site muito bacana aqui no Brasil que se encaixa no estilo deste post: http://www.laticiniosaviacao.com.br

    0
  27. 27

    Wow!
    Simply awesome these webdesigns!
    Great collection! I think I’ll try this style by my own.

    0
  28. 28

    Great sites, but no retro designs without retro fonts.
    , , .

    0
  29. 29

    We work with many brides and grooms and they even love a vintage flair! Our highest selling designs have vintage patterns and style. You might enjoy them too. Check us out. http://www.markedevent.com

    0
  30. 30

    Nice collection! Here is another one: islandphotobooth.com

    0
  31. 31

    Im looking for a retro / modern design for a kitchen design website. Any ideas or inspiration – http://www.kitchen-designs.co.uk

    0
  32. 32

    although they look old,
    but they are cool!
    nice!

    0
  33. 33

    Big fan of the Big Rig’s design, nice work.

    0
  34. 34

    here is another great one …. Silverspoon Films a 50’s drive in movie theme!!!!

    0
  35. 35
  36. 36
  37. 37

    Matthew Riches

    October 8, 2008 12:19 am

    Hi,

    It’s funny this. I have just taken a t-shirt order this morning for a load of distressed looking vintage t-shirt designs! And I have been doing this type of image for the past 3 or 4 months, I do think it is coming back as well.

    I haven’t had any requests for a retro styled web design yet though. I like to think I keep things clean and simple (http://www.richescreative.co.uk isn’t finished yet and I doubt it will ever be).

    I might have a go and just mock up a dummy retro looking site and see what I can come up with :-)

    Wish me luck!!

    Matthew Riches http://www.richescreative.co.uk

    0
  38. 38

    Brilliant stuff.
    So many insiring creations.
    I would like to some day design a site with a taste of “retro”

    Good on Ya ;0)

    0
  39. 39

    cool!

    0
  40. 40

    Simply amazing! Go crazy for the vintage style!

    0

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