Retro Web Design

Retro Web Design

Retro inspired design can be a powerful tool in a designer’s toolbox. By drawing on iconic representations of a bygone era, designers can invoke a sense of nostalgia, class, and timelessness.

As effective as it is, a well-done retro web design can also be hard to pull off. Here are some examples of beautiful, well-executed retro web design to give you some inspiration on how to do it right.

Literary Bohemian

LiteraryBohemian.com is a great example of creatively using retro elements to convey a certain atmosphere. The design isn’t retro for the sake of being retro, rather it’s carefully calculated to convey a sense of nostalgia – a longing for a time when the written word held a different position in the world.

We’re reminded of a time when an editor had to tap out manuscripts with a typewriter, or when sending a letter involved taking pen to paper and meticulously crafting a message by a bare bulb, sealing it, affixing postage, hand delivering it to the post office, and waiting for weeks, even months for a reply. The retro elements contrast starkly with the reality of our world, where written communication involves hammering out a loosely edited stream of consciousness and clicking a mouse.

Von Dutch

von dutch retro

While the Von Dutch website isn’t all that great for anyone looking to get information on Von Dutch products, it does an incredible job of promoting the Von Dutch brand message. Anyone unfamiliar with the brand will instantly associate the brand with timeless style.

Christmas at Biltmore

christmas retro site

The Christmas section of Biltmore.com (Christmas.biltmore.com) does a good job of keeping the site in line with the look and feel of Christmas at Biltmore – a historic estate built by George Vanderbilt. By using some simple retro accents and vintage-style Christmas pictures, the site effortlessly conveys a sense of old-fashioned Christmas spirit while showcasing the Biltmore estate as a warm, friendly Christmas destination.

Mom & Popcorn

popcorn website

The retro design at momandpopcorn.com is very well executed and makes tasteful use of vintage elements to convey a sense of trust, nostalgia and timelessness. The retro look is perfect for a company selling popcorn, a product that most associate with childhood nostalgia.

Additionally, it’s interesting to note the “established” date in the Mom & Popcorn logo, which shows that the company was established in 2006 – thus proving you don’t have to be a centuries old brand to benefit from the trust signals associated with timeless brands.

Cantilever Fish & Chips

retro fish website

Fish & chips are another product that benefits greatly from association with the retro trend. In the case of Cantilever Fish & Chips, the site’s retro design demonstrates the fish and chip shops’ rich tradition. The use of vintage photos that demonstrate early fish and chip production are a nice touch, giving the reader the impression that Cantilever Fish & Chips has perfected a recipe of fresh sea fish dipped in rich golden batter and crunchy potatoes that has been enjoyed for generation upon generation.

Black Moon Design

black moon retro design

Like the other examples of great retro design on this list, blackmoondev.com uses references to an older era – in this case within the gaming world – to convey a certain brand message. Their website uses pixilated font and an “old school” gaming montage to show that they are a small independent studio run by hardcore gamers who have been around since the early days of gaming.

Conclusion

Any attempt to use retro design elements in a website should follow the universal design maxim – form follows function.  Make sure retro design is the right choice for the brand message you’re trying to convey, and don’t go retro simply because it’s the flavor of the month.

And while you’re incorporating vintage elements into your site design, don’t take the retro theme to a point where the site becomes difficult to navigate. The home button can still be the home button, it doesn’t have to be the “Port of Call” or “Humble Abode” in order for a site to achieve that retro feel.

Simon is a blogger for the email marketing system provider Jangomail. You can check out more of his work on his digital renaissance blog.

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(1) responses

Tom ORourke

May 9, 2013

Interested in redeveloping our site with a retro military feel

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