Retro American Design Styles

When a tech company releases their latest OS, an influx of design trends emerge. We’ve had:

  • Gradients
  • Glass
  • Orbs
  • Skeomorphism
  • Flat
  • Shadows
  • Material

As designers, we jump on the bandwagon and literally follow suit but if we look beyond the technology we’ll see a history of design styles that have a cultural impact worldwide. These styles become more than a trend, they become an identity for a nation.

That’s right! Its designers and artists who give different countries their visual identities.

And one of the most influential is the U.S.A.

Retro American Graphic Design Trends

Is it their power as a nation or their size? Or is it a natural stylish ability that allow the USA to have such a cultural impact with their design?

In my opinion, it’s down to their ability to market themselves well. The whole world knows at least a little about American design and culture because of the way they market it to the whole world through arts and entertainment but as modern and dynamic as America may be, their most famous styles of design are actually those of the past.

Designers today love nostalgia and throwing back to an established time period which clearly defines a true style.

Think about the Wild West. Full of so many icons, trends and style that it’s practically a stereotype.

The Wild American West
The Wild American West

Americas “Mid-Century Modern” (the 1960s) is visually one of my favourites, turning homes into artistic, cool and contemporary buildings with sharp edges and slanting slopes. 

Combine this with blobby curves and a hand-lettered type you get a friendly mood with a stylish tone using vibrant solid colours to create a design trend that fuses a futuristic theme with charm and character.

Mid century modern depicted by Disney’s Incredibles
Mid century modern fashion and lifestyle

Another could be the Art Deco style (Pre-War – 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s) which used a mixture of rich American flair with pretty decorative elements to produce a European style that’s a classy and eclecticcly reflection of an American city, taking influence from fashion, sophistication, layering, metals and nature.

Art Deco in America
Art Deco in America

But if we fast forward into the future we can see America’s biggest brands names using huge marketing budgets to push out exceptional digital pieces of contemporary design for commerce.

Coke & Nike Adverts Today
Coke & Nike Adverts Today

It’s clearly clever and definitely cutting edge but yet it still can’t outdo the most symbolic and retro styles of graphic design that America has produced in the past such as :

Uncle Sam & Rosie The Riveter
 Uncle Sam & Rosie The Riveter
Pin Up Illustrations of WW2
The Jet Plane Pin up girl

Whilst the Coca Cola & Nike adverts push the boundaries of design on a universal level, the old nostalgic and retro feel for graphic design has not gone away. American graphic designers utilise these retro styles notoriously over the years to give any piece of work from identity design to web design a friendly, bespoke and warm feeling thats American made.

By combining elements from Americas past we can easily create the American Retro design trend thats become so popular today.


Thanks for your input into design America.


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