The terms ‘retro’ and ‘vintage’ are similar, but they’re not the same and if you happen to work in the design world, you must not confuse the two of them.
What is the difference between retro and vintage?
As there is no formal regulation regarding these concepts, they tend to change depending of the source, but these seem to be the most accepted.
Retro design is any contemporary design that features elements from the recent past. For example Ikea’s Fillsta lamp is a good example of retro design because it’s style is from the 70’s, but it’s produced today. On the other hand, vintage refers to design that was produced anytime between 20 years ago and the 1920’s. These are products that were made in the past and have somehow managed to survive to our days. Anything that has been made, designed or produced before the 20’s is considered an “antique”.
Why does retro design work?
Back to basics
Retro designs are usually simpler that contemporary ones. One of the main reasons being that in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s designer had less resources to work with and therefore it was all less complicated. For instance, for a really long time printing in full color was impossible or just too expensive. That’s why the older the design, the less colors it will showcase. We tend to admire simple design that works because, as any person who has studied design can tell you, it is harder to create something simple that works than something complex that does the same.
Brands and marketing agencies have been using nostalgia to sell us stuff for years. Some may see it as cool way to bring back something we love, while others think it’s a manipulation of our feelings. Entertainment industries like Disney and Nintendo are experts in this type of marketing. Through this technique, they’ve kept alive characters that debuted 20, 30, 40 and sometimes even 50 years ago. It is no coincidence that we’ve been seeing so many remakes and superhero movies lately. Nostalgia is a big incentive to spend money on a movie, that may not be that good, but we still enjoy because it reminds us of our childhood.
Graphic design fans in particular tend to admire the designers of the past because of their hard work. Nowadays we tend to equate graphic design with Adobe, but Photoshop didn’t make it to the personal computer until 1985. This meant that mockups were done by hand, which took days if not weeks to complete. The thought and research process had to be much more carefully planned. A single mistake could take projects back days if not weeks.
When the digital revolution came it meant that designs could be completed in a fraction of the time, but it also meant that anyone that could get their hands on the software was able to produce a flier. And that was just the start. Nowadays websites offer free applications that generate logos and sometimes a computer is not even necessary with apps that allow you to be creative in your smartphone or tablet.