No items found.

What is the Retro-futurism Design Trend? And Should You Use It?

The Tribe
March 6, 2023

What I have seen recently is a growing trend called “retro-futurism”. You probably have seen this most noticeably in packaging design with nostalgic elements. Used in a modern twist or with an edgy-looking logo with sci-fi elements next to some kind of strange-looking marble bust. What does all this imagery mean and should you use it in your designs? First, let's define. If you were a person of the past think about what the future would look like and draw a picture. As a result, your picture would be defined as “retro-futurism”. It is a contemporary way of looking at the future with the anticipation of what science, technology, and design would look like. This has been a movement of the past and is referenced many times for inspiration. I personally love looking at retro-futuristic interior design with curvy loopy shapes with modern materials. It's exciting to see a juxtaposition between new and old. The other major component of this movement is using traditional imagery with modern materials.

sci fi city with tubes
Image source: Klaur Bürgle
retro futuristic interior design bedroom
Image source: Pierre Cardin

Now should you use this design trend? It depends, does your client want to explore nostalgic ideas or explore ideas of current trends in technology? If yes, then this trend might be beneficial to your work. A great example of this is making a poster about the crazy new artificial intelligence that is being used in the creative space in a positive or negative light. A lot of “sub” categories of retro-futurism also have their tones. Cyberpunk is one of the pillars of retro-futurism. Just a more dysfunctional take on technology. Using elements of glitching and digital artifacts makes the viewer feel like they are interacting with technology that might shut down on them at any moment. My favorite example, if you like video games, is Cyberpunk 2077. I'm currently playing it and I'm enjoying seeing all the nuanced details. The design team did a great job using this style to drive the dystopian tone around the game. The look is gritty but still clean. Using neon to relate to the 80’s synth style as well as using modern san serif fonts that envision a technologically advanced future. While occasional glitches animate and simple 3D rendering display in front of me making me feel that even though this world is advanced the culture around it has devolved into chaos.

poster of 4 different types of styles in the video game peoples
Image Source: Konstantine Studio
robots on dark background with large red type
Image Source: Konstantine Studio

Another subgenre of retro-futurism is “vaporwave”. This one is similar to the cyberpunk aesthetic but influenced by the Y2K look and early 90’s culture and technology. Saturated colors influence the emerging internet with hits of the Windows 95 web browser interface.

Vaporwave Aesthetic Poster
Image source: Neverwave
Close up of caned drink
Image source: Baikal

I am excited to see more of this trend especially since our current real-world technology is not going away any time soon. It is only going to get crazier and more advanced.


Meet the People


See the work

Tribu Creative Logo. Marketing and Advertising firm in San Antonio TX

Stay up to date with the latest from our Tribe, celebrate achievements with us, and soak in new marketing insights.