Retro and vernacular design

The idea of faking authenticity is common in the practice of graphic design. It is a technique often employed to connect with viewers on an emotional level. Much as the Delancey Dessert company used an aged-looking photograph to evoke ideas about history and culture, designers often employ visual cues to reference a time, place, etc. In “No More Rules” Rick Poynor descripes a trend in the 1990s: “many commercial ventures deployed postmodern nostalgia to trigger reassuring emotions in consumers”.

 

Retro Vernacular Design

 

Retro Vernacular Design

 

Retro Vernacular Design

 Retro Vernacular Design

 

Tibor Kalman and his design firm M&Co. were known for employing vernacular design, or design that was created by the general public, i.e. not trained in the graphic arts. One example of this is a print advertisement Kalman created for Restaurant Florent, a trendy restaurant in the meatpacking district of New York. The design mimicked the plastic letter signs often used by delis in which some characters may be re-appropriated and used in place of another character.  In a way, Kalman was doing something that was similar to the Delancey Dessert Company. He was using a recognizable visual style that evoked a sense of localism, tradition, and perhaps even nostalgia.

Retro Vernacular Design

 

Retro Vernacular Design

 

Retro Vernacular Design


The idea of truth and authenticity arises again in the case of these designs. Both are intentionally replicating the aesthetic of something old or traditional. In the case of Kalman’s ad, it is intentionally replicating the look of a local, non-professionally designed deli sign.

Retro and vernacular design

 

 

Retro Vernacular Design

 

Retro Vernacular Design

 

Retro Vernacular Design

The nostalgic design trend rose to a peak in the 1990s when ads were replicating the retro style of designs from the 20s to 50s. Old Navy built an entire ad/branding campaign around a postmodern nostalgic style that referenced retro advertisements. The retro style offered consumers something that was reassuring and familiar. Though different in their approaches, the same can be said for the vernacular style of the Restaurant Florent ad and the Delancey Dessert Company packaging. Each was re-visiting a recognizable design language as a way of emotionally connecting the consumer to the brand.

2017 History of Graphic Design

Please publish modules in offcanvas position.