In recent history, the 1980s style stands out as an era of vibrant colors and unforgettable subcultures. This vibrant decade, remembered fondly by Generation X and rediscovered by Millennials and Generation Z, left an indelible mark. It was a time of experimentation, flamboyance, and individuality, particularly in the realm of graphic retro design. As we revisit the 80s, we find a treasure trove of inspiration in its dynamic design trends.
1980s Retro Design: An Era of Unmatched Individuality
The 80s, often referred to as the “Me Decade,” exuded a vibrant personality. It was an era characterized by pushing boundaries, breaking rules, and championing individuality. In alignment with this cultural sentiment, the design ethos gave rise to a multitude of trends, each possessing its own unique flavor and charm.
Graphic Design: Pushing Boundaries in All Directions
Graphic design in the 80s was a captivating blend of contrasts. It embraced a “bigger is better” mentality, where vibrant colors and boldness reigned supreme. Patterns clashed, colors competed, yet everything harmonized with unexpected flair, reflecting the era’s celebration of diversity and boundless creative spirit.
80s Typography: A Standout Element
The 80s left an indelible mark on typography. Its typefaces were striking and exuberant, unafraid to make a statement. Even today, the iconic 80s font style resonates in retro design, capturing the essence of the decade in every curve and corner.
The Neon Noir: A Fusion of Past and Future
One of the most recognizable trends, thanks to Risky Business and Miami Vice, is neon noir. This style combined dusky or dark visuals with strong neon lettering. Against a shadowy backdrop (palm trees and sports cars optional but strongly encouraged), neon noir design made a bold statement in everything from movie posters to album artwork. Fonts in this design trend were often hand-written scripts, like Bayshore and Starlit Drive from Set Sail Studios (follow them on IG).
Riding the Memphis Design Wave
Memphis Style emerged around 1981, and it’s easily recognized by its bold geometric shapes and vivid hues. The Memphis Group was a team of designers based in Milan, which is why the style is also known as “Memphis-Milano.” If you’ve ever caught an episode of Saved by the Bell, you’ve seen Memphis Style firsthand. While it originated as an interior decor style, it found its way everywhere — from apparel to Trapper Keepers and even chunky foam earrings and accessories. Hello Mart’s Blocks From Memphis is a digital art pack inspired by Memphis Style graphic design, and it’s perfect for everything from product packaging to fabric prints, decor accents, logos, websites, merchandise, marketing materials, and publishing.
The 1980s Tropical Retro Design Aesthetics
Tropical design was huge in the 80s, too. Pastel colors, palm trees, and dolphins adorned various items like Trapper Keepers and t-shirts, regardless of proximity to the ocean. Tropics from Aleksandra Popova is a collection of 12 vector patterns that evoke tropical design with a playful and fun-loving 80s flair.
Rekindling the Magic of 80s Cute
The 80s brought forth the vibrant design trend of “80s cute.” This trend found its examples in Sanrio’s Hello Kitty and the imaginative creations of pop artist Lisa Frank. Girls worldwide coveted Frank’s stationery and sticker designs, which were characterized by their bright colors, abundant hearts, rainbows, balloons, cuddly animals, cupcakes, and flowers. In the 1980s design movement, Lisa Frank’s illustrations breathed life into cuteness, capturing the true essence of the era. The cute trend continues today, with great stuff like Unicorns & Rainbows Patterns from Irene Demetri and Heart from YouWorkForThem Design Studio, vector sets that make it easy to add a little 80s cute to your retro design projects.
The Futuristic Aesthetics of 80s Deco
80s Deco recalls design elements of the original Art Deco period, with era-inspired art that added a more “futuristic” vibe. The logo for Miami Vice is one of the most recognizable examples of 80s Deco, featuring sharp lettering and a neon glow. This design style favored minimalism yet still embraced the free spirit of the decade, often with pastel hues. Perper Bloeren from Wordshape is a complete font family with several stylistic sets that totally rocks the 80s Deco design trend.
Capturing the Digital Evolution of the 80s Design Vibe
In the 80s, computer technology was advancing by leaps and bounds. The 80s digital design trend was all about the future and science fiction. Grids were huge, especially when paired with fonts that evoked a sense of technology and computers. Millennia from Fonthead Design Inc. is a great futuristic font and would work beautifully with Hello Mart’s Minima IV.
Dystopian Undertones: The Early Rise of Cyberpunk Design
On the heels of digital design, cyberpunk emerged alongside Blade Runner and William Gibson’s Neuromancer. It featured similar technological overtones with a darker side. Cyberpunk was more about living in a dystopian society, so this design style encouraged a bleak thematic edge. Radial from Art for Machine is a vector collection of circular drawings that’s perfect for cyberpunk designs.
Into the Realm of Fantasy: Cinematic Magic and Enchanted Typography
In the 80s, fantasy thrived with films like The Dark Crystal, The Last Unicorn, and Labyrinth. The fantasy style of the 80s embraced fairy tales with bright visuals and typography. Zoltana from Michael Parson is a gorgeous letter set that evokes a sense of magic through ornate curls, while Imprenta Royal Nonpareil from Intellecta Design revives antique text from 1799 for a realistic aged texture in all-caps.
Looking Back, Moving Forward with YouWorkForThem
The 1980s retro design trends hold great influence. Vibrant neon colors and bold typography marked this decade. Its wild visual language still inspires contemporary design. In its own flamboyant way, the 80s changed the design landscape, challenging norms and embracing the new. The creative energy and individualistic spirit of the era continue to inspire designers today. At YouWorkForThem, we celebrate this rich design heritage. With our vast selection of 80s fonts, graphics, and design resources, we help you bring a touch of the 80s to your creative projects, all while providing a seamless experience, cash back rewards, and easy licensing options. Our commitment to independent ownership and our 20+ year history stand as a testament to our passion for design. As we look back at the 80s, we also look forward to helping you create designs that stand the test of time.