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January 3, 2023
October 20, 2023

A Guide to Retro Logo Design

Rangan Das

A Guide to Retro Logo Design

January 3, 2023
October 20, 2023
Rangan Das


Retro logos are incredibly popular right now. It gives your brand a classic and timeless feel. Retro logos are very prevalent right now because they are heavily influenced by symmetrical designs, geometric designs, and rich color variations that evoke a nostalgic feeling. Moreover, retro designs can also be modified to go well with flat and minimalistic design trends.

A retro-styled logo can recreate the visual trends of a particular era because art is currently the only way to return to the golden age, which was marked by revolutionary trends. Creating a retro logo for a modern brand can be a difficult task, but in this article, we'll present some straightforward methods for making a distinctive logo with a sophisticated, vintage vibe.

What is a retro design?

The term "retro" describes an archaic aesthetic that was once well-liked and had cultural significance but has since lost favor as time has gone on. It is a design aesthetic that is heavily influenced by art deco and features symmetrical, line-graphic designs with vibrant colors and smooth surfaces.

Now, the term "retro" refers to something that was once considered fashionable or culturally significant but has since lost its luster. The 1920s to the 1970s are referred to as the retro era by contemporary designers. The time was frequently called the "golden era." Now, these designers are attempting to depict this era through their artwork and evoke a sense of nostalgia by utilizing retro and vintage techniques.

One of the main factors behind the success of retro or vintage logos is the romantic feel they give the field of web design. Such logos frequently serve as the main point of sale for most prospective customers because they indicate simpler, less stressful times.

How to create a retro logo

Before you begin designing a logo for your business or brand, keep in mind that it will remain in use for a considerable amount of time. As a result, design a logo that you want to continue using for many years to come.

Additionally, keep in mind that not all logo elements need to have a vintage feel. Moreover, your brand’s existing logo may not be quite compatible with the retro aesthetic. So, you must choose the elements carefully, and you might consider using Brand compliance software solutions to ensure brand consistency.

1. Research exhaustively

Two retro logos have different design languages and a different vintage color palette. Source: Cross the Lime

A thorough investigation of retro designs is a good starting point. The ability of a retro logo to evoke the mood of a bygone era is what distinguishes it from other logos. People value vintage items that have stood the test of time, so you can capitalize on that emotion by incorporating a retro-styled logo design.

The most important aspect of your research for a retro logo is choosing the decade you want to concentrate on. Look at the classic styles decade by decade to identify the era that most closely reflects your aesthetic. If you like a particular logo, you can examine it to determine what decade it comes from.

It's also a good idea to combine the aesthetics of various eras to produce something special and original. Do thorough research on how to combine modern design with vintage elements so that your logo evokes a retro feel while still appearing current.

2. Explore the typography

Fonts are especially important when creating a retro-themed logo. The idea you're trying to convey could be ruined if you don't select the right font to evoke the retro feel. Your font's shape, size, and selection are crucial components of your overall retro logo design because they affect how appealing your logo will be.

Typography plays a crucial role in creating authentic vintage designs. Source: Freshinnet

Despite how timeless they may seem, stay away from using fonts like Century Gothic, Helvetica, or even Baskerville Old Face. Stylized fonts are typically the best. However, avoid choosing one that is overly stylized because it will be difficult to read the brand name. For a complimentary design choice, it is best to combine a cursive font with cleaner retro typefaces.

3. Use a minimal color palette

A retro design using a 60s color palette. Source: Amy Hood

When creating a logo, colors are an important design element. When used in a specific context, choosing the right colors can help your audience respond favorably to your brand.

Remember that people did not have the same access to a wide variety of color options as they do today for printing. Most vintage designs relied on a limited color palette, whether due to financial restrictions, technological constraints, or merely aesthetic differences. 

A simple retro color palette of both rich and subtle colors that complement the overall design of the logo and make it stand out in the eyes of your target audience is typically used to create retro logos.

4. Implement the retro visual elements

The use of thick, clearly defined borders and badge-style iconography is one of the most distinctive traits of retro design. In many ways, badges embody classic logo design. They frequently consist of straightforward shapes like shields, circles, hexagons, and diamonds that help make eye-catching patterns without taking up a lot of room. They can also assist in making your brand logo stand out from the crowd.

5. Experiment with textures

Textures in a retro logo. Source: Adam Trageser

One of the best ways to give your design a vintage vibe is to add a noisy gradient that makes your logo look worn out and aged. You can also experiment with gradients, textures, and layers to improve the logo. For instance, you can make your design stand out and appear a little less formal by including extra effects like sheen, or flares. But watch out for going too far. The retro icon and font must match any visual effect you choose.

Points to keep in mind

It can be overwhelming to create a retro logo, especially for those with little background in vintage design. The need to include superfluous elements can quickly become out of control and make the design difficult to understand.

Like this, the font may be difficult to read, the texture may be overwhelming, or the decades may merely blend. Here are some retro logo design dos and don'ts that you need to keep in mind as a guide.

1. Stick to a single design language

Each person has a unique sense of what is retro or vintage. For instance, a person born in the 1950s will perceive old-fashioned in a very different way than a person born in the 1990s. To choose your retro design style, you must classify your target market and stay consistent with that design. 

2. Put great emphasis on typography

It's all about the drama of ornate typography in retro logo designs. By this, we mean that you must make use of every crevice of the logo and try out various pairings. You can look for the fonts that were most popular during the era you are looking at.

3. Keep the design simple

Make a logo that is simple to understand and remember. Strike a balance between adhering to the retro aesthetic and considering the commercial logo's requirements. Creating a retro logo is undoubtedly challenging and enjoyable but do maintain a balance in design. You do not want to overdo the textures or make the design too intricate.

4. Know the industry well

Retro designs vary between industries. So, ensure that you have researched the industry properly. A bannered shield is a smart choice when creating a logo for an auto manufacturer or repair shop. If you are designing for an upscale restaurant, your vintage logo must be more polished and sophisticated.

5. Design for a modern audience

Don't use intricate illustrations in your logo because doing so will reduce its clarity. Keep in mind that your audience is still contemporary and anticipates some degree of simplicity in understanding your brand's identity.

5 famous examples of retro designs

The following retro logos have maintained their popularity since they were first created. They have not only endured through the years but many other brands have been inspired by them to give their logos a retro feel. Here are the top 5 logos.

1. Jack Daniel’s

See the source image

Jack Daniel’s retro logo perfectly reflects their premium whiskey business, as alcohol is considered to get better as it gets older. The vintage look is not only appropriate but also goes well with the business strategy of the brand. The product labels use a gothic color palette.

2.  Levi Strauss and Co

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Despite having recently undergone a logo evolution, Levi Strauss occasionally still uses the original trademark on its clothing and jeans. Since denim is usually made to last, the vintage branding makes it look like their apparel has a long life. 

3. Altoids

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Along with a tried-and-true mint recipe, Altoids has the ideal appearance of tradition and old-world craftsmanship thanks to its straightforward tin box branded packaging and capitalized serif font vintage logo. However, to keep the design looking fresh, they use a vibrant 90s color palette. 

4. Peroni

peroni vintage logo

Since 1846, the Italian company Peroni has been in business; its beer was first introduced in 1963. It has preserved its historical emblem and depicted its tradition and illustrious history with a straightforward wordmark logo and decorative ribbons. Since the brand has been around for so long, the retro design seems like an obvious choice.

5. Trader Joe’s

See the source image

With its vintage logo and distinctive product lineup, Trader Joe's aims to maintain that traditional and neighborhood-focused vibe. It has a friendly and established appearance thanks to the whimsical font style and straightforward vintage color scheme.

Wrap up

Retro is essentially a style that tells a story, and a retro logo design is an excellent way to introduce that story. Therefore, using a vintage aesthetic for your brand is the best way to convey an air of adventure and nostalgia for bygone eras. 

Designing a logo can often be a collaborative venture. While tools like Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, or Affinity Designer can be used to develop a logo, you need specialized tools to collaborate and communicate. Tools like a color extractor, or an online scale can greatly simplify communication when developing logos. 

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