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Blog / Style & trends / 9 Retro Design Trends to Inspire Your Next Collection

Style & trends

9 Retro Design Trends to Inspire Your Next Collection

9 Retro Design Trends to Inspire Your Next Collection
Sarah Reilly

By Sarah Reilly

12 min read

Everything old is new again, right? That’s certainly the case for design trends. 

Retro styling offers a curated blend of nostalgia and flair that resonates with today’s customers. Whether you’re drawn to the serene sophistication of quiet prep or the throwback charm of retro gaming, these trends are perfect for adding that je ne sais quoi to your product offering. 

Dive into timeless appeal with old-timey botanical prints, embrace the free-spirited groovy hippie vibe, or capture wanderlust with vintage travel posters. It just depends on what works best for your brand’s aesthetic and your audience. 

Since staying ahead of the curve is key for your print-on-demand store, we’ll explore how these fresh design trends can transform your POD lineup. 

Looking for new t-shirt design trends or vintage art styles to draw inspiration from? Here are 9 cool and captivating trends that’ll elevate your offering and surely bring about some bestselling print-on-demand products. 

1. Quiet prep

Step into the realm of “quiet prep,” where the country club aesthetic merges with an authentic American vibe. This design trend is characterized by a restricted color palette, bold block text, and streamlined iconography that offers a chic, enduring appeal.

What’s it all about?

Quiet prep uses graphic palettes ranging from a single sophisticated hue to a max of 3. This controlled use of color ensures a vintage look and a quiet luxury feel, perfect for creating a refined-yet-approachable product line. The simplicity of the color scheme adds elegance, allowing the designs to feel both modern and timeless.

A hallmark of quiet prep is the use of commanding, sizable text blocks that exude confidence in their simplicity. These bold block texts make a statement without overwhelming the viewer, ensuring that the message is clear and impactful. This typography approach is ideal for products that need to communicate effectively and stylishly.

Streamlined iconography and simple shapes add depth and charm to the graphics. These simple-yet-meaningful icons enhance the overall aesthetic without cluttering the design, contributing to the cohesive look of the quiet prep style.

For print-on-demand, quiet prep meets the current demand for understated luxury and nostalgic charm. Its clean, sophisticated look appeals to a broad audience, from young professionals to seasoned fashion enthusiasts. 

Product picks

To incorporate quiet prep into your store’s offering, consider apparel like custom t-shirts, sweatshirts, and polos featuring a classic, restrained color palette and bold typography. Home decor items like throw blankets and wall art also work well with the retro-yet-modern elements of the quiet prep aesthetic.

2. Retro futuristic streetwear

Quiet prep not your vibe? Retro futuristic streetwear may be a better fit. It’s a design trend that blends the edgy elements of urban streetwear with a vintage twist. This style features bold, layered graphics and a mid-tone palette, creating a novel and fun aesthetic.

What’s it all about? 

This unique retro design trend mixes futuristic line art and shapes, giving designs a distinctive, forward-thinking vibe. Collage-like compositions fuse vintage elements with modern twists, creating visually engaging and complex graphics. The muted palette is occasionally punctuated with 1 to 2 vibrant accent colors, adding a pop of excitement and energy.

Freeform typography plays a significant role in this trend, often leaning towards groovy fonts that enhance the overall retro feel. These elements work together to produce designs that are both nostalgic and cutting-edge, perfect for today’s fashion-forward consumers.

Product picks 

To play around with the retro futuristic streetwear look in your print-on-demand designs, apparel like hoodies and t-shirts are your best bet since they use full print areas to showcase the intricate graphics. 

Embroidery designs can also be used to complement this aesthetic, adding texture and depth to the pieces. By adopting this trend, you can create comprehensive collections that resonate with both vintage enthusiasts and modern streetwear fans, bringing a bold and innovative vibe to your store.

3. Old-timey botanical prints 

Before photography, botanical illustration was used to visually depict the different species of plant life. ​Now it’s a way to immerse yourself (and your store) in the beauty of botany, where vintage illustrations bring nature’s allure into your designs. This trend is characterized by intricate plant and flower illustrations, muted color palettes, organic shapes, and a subtle, charming aesthetic.

What’s it all about?

Old-timey botanical prints use detailed, hand-drawn illustrations inspired by antique botanical textbooks. These designs feature a range of subdued hues, creating an appealing, nostalgic look. The use of soft, natural colors enhances the vintage feel, making these prints perfect for products that give off a refined and classic charm.

The key to this trend is the meticulous attention to detail, design-wise. The intricate depictions of leaves, flowers, and stems showcase the beauty of nature in a delicate and artistic manner. This attention to detail ensures that each design feels unique and carefully crafted.

For print-on-demand, old-timey botanical prints cater to customers seeking a touch of nature and elegance in their everyday items. This trend appeals to a broad audience, from nature enthusiasts to those who appreciate vintage aesthetics or simply a tasteful, classic design.

Product picks

Offer customers a piece of nature’s fine artistry by infusing your product line with the retro botanical design trend. Consider products like tote bags, custom hoodies, or phone cases featuring these beautiful illustrations. Home decor items like pillow cases, bedding, and wall art can also benefit from the loveliness of botanical prints. 

4. Groovy hippie

Embrace the calming essence of the groovy hippie look, a design trend celebrating earthy tones and free-spirited vibes. This style captures the laid-back mood and hippie patterns of the ’70s, with its muted-yet-captivating color palette, vintage distressing, and wavy fonts creating a nostalgic and warm aesthetic.

What’s it all about?

The groovy hippie style uses a ’70s-inspired earthy color palette, featuring warm, tranquil hues that ooze a cool retro feel. These colors create a soothing and inviting effect, perfect for products that aim to provide comfort and a touch of nostalgia. The natural tones ensure that the designs are attractive without being overwhelming.

A key element of this trend is vintage distressing—it adds a worn-in, well-loved look to each piece. This technique provides depth and a yearning for the past, making products appear cherished and that they’ve stood the test of time. It’s an excellent way to convey authenticity and character in your designs.

Along with flowing patterns, groovy fonts characterized by fluid, relaxed lines are another must for this psychedelic style. These fonts echo the free-spirited ambiance of the ’70s, spreading positivity and good vibes through every piece of text.

Product picks

To work the groovy hippie trend into your print-on-demand offering, apparel like t-shirts and wide-leg pants or boho-chic accessories featuring earthy color tones and distressed vintage patterns are it. By adopting this trend, you can offer dropshipping products that resonate with the iconic appeal of the ’70s, bringing warmth and positive vibes to your customers.

5. Vintage travel

Step back in time with vintage travel images, a design trend inspired by the golden age of travel. This trend brings to life the excitement and glamor of mid-20th century journeys with bold typography, stylized landscapes, and vibrant colors. It’s a graphic design world perfect for those who love exploration and yearn to infuse their lives with a sense of adventure.

What’s it all about?

Vintage travel images feature simple, stylized graphics and dynamic color schemes that capture the spirit of classic travel posters. The rich hues and artistic landscapes transport viewers to iconic destinations, creating a visual escape. Bold typography adds to the magic, with fonts that echo the grandeur and optimism of a bygone era. These design elements all work together to create a look that’s reminiscent of a time when travel was seen as the apex of sophistication and excitement.

With many people still dreaming of far-off places, these print designs tap into that wanderlust, offering a way to bring a piece of the wide world into everyday life. For the print-on-demand market, this trend appeals to a range of different customers, from seasoned travelers to those inspired by the idea of exploring new destinations.

Product picks

To infuse the vintage travel aesthetic into your store’s offering, consider home decor products like custom posters, wall art, and tote bags featuring iconic travel scenes and bold colors. Stationery items like notebooks, planners, and postcards can also be adorned with these retro designs, offering customers a stylish way to plan their next adventure or relive past trips.

This trend not only helps you build out your product line but also connects your brand with the globetrotting spirit of a wider audience, making it a perfect addition to your print-on-demand store.

6. Classic ads

Journey back in time with classic ad imagery, a design trend that pays homage to vintage advertisements. This trend captures the spirit of Mad-Men-era marketing with bold, centralized images, compelling calls to action, and a distressed aesthetic.

What’s it all about?

At the heart of retro ads is faded, vintage-looking photorealism. This technique places the primary image front and center, drawing viewers into a world of yesteryear. The detailed visuals evoke a sense of history, creating a connection with an era when advertisements were crafted as much for art as for marketing.

Compelling calls to action and catchy taglines are paired with small blocks of additional text, reminiscent of classic magazine ads. This strategic text placement highlights the retro feel, and makes the designs informative and visually appealing.

The weathered, lived-in look adds character and authenticity to each piece. This aesthetic gives products a unique flavor in a market often dominated by mass-produced designs.

Strategically-placed logos and iconic accents complete the look, evoking the genuine feel of classic advertisements.

Product picks

For this design trend, consider products like custom t-shirts, hoodies, and posters featuring iconic vintage advertisements. You can offer your customers a unique blend of throwback lure and modern relevance when drawing on classic ads.

7. Dark grunge

This next retro design trend isn’t for everyone, but can be a real revenue driver for the right brands. Dive into the raw and powerful vibe of the dark grunge trend, a style that channels the gritty essence of metal band aesthetics. This trend embraces a dark, intense vibe characterized by oversized garments, distressed details, and chaotic graphics.

What’s it all about? 

The dark grunge trend is defined by mixed-media graphics and distressed treatments. Logos are creatively incorporated, often featuring edgy designs with sculls, weaponry, or other bold elements. 

These designs capture the rebellious spirit of the grunge and metal scenes, offering a raw and authentic look. The dark color palette and layered visuals create a sense of depth and intensity, perfect for making a strong visual impact.

Product picks 

If dark grunge is a good fit for your audience, focus on oversized t-shirts, hoodies, and distressed denim jackets. These items serve as the ideal canvas for the dark, chaotic graphics and bold logos that define this style. Accessories like beanies and patches are great additions to main apparel pieces. 

8. Retro gaming 

Retro gaming style is making a comeback! This design trend brings back the iconic graphics and aesthetics of early video games from the ’80s and ’90s. It’s characterized by pixel art, classic game icons, and references to old-school gaming consoles, offering a playful and colorful look that resonates with gamers and pop culture enthusiasts alike.

What’s it all about?

Retro gaming designs feature pixel art that recreates the look of early video game graphics. These designs often include beloved characters, game elements, and iconic symbols from classic games, creating a sense of familiarity and fun. The bright, vibrant colors and geometric patterns used in these designs echo the dynamic visuals of vintage games, making them stand out in any product lineup. It’s definitely a front-runner among current graphic design trends.

For your print-on-demand store, retro gaming is particularly relevant as there’s a big market for gaming-related goods, which includes early gaming designs. With the resurgence of appreciation for classic video games and consoles, these retro graphic designs appeal to a wide audience, from dedicated gamers to casual fans. The playful and engaging nature of retro gaming graphics also makes them perfect for a variety of products.

Product picks

Consider items like custom hats, tees, and hoodies featuring pixel art and classic game icons to sell in your store. Accessories like phone cases, stickers, and tote bags with retro gaming designs can also provide customers with a fun way to express their love for vintage games.

By using retro gaming designs, you can offer your customers a delightful blend of nostalgia and playfulness, ensuring your products appeal to both longtime gamers and new fans of retro culture. This trend diversifies your product range and connects with a growing community of gaming enthusiasts.

9. Heartthrob/bootleg tees

Revive the electrifying energy of the ’90s with the heartthrob/bootleg tee trend, a design style that combines the bold flair of bootleg tees with the classic appeal of movie poster aesthetics. This trend glorifies characters through dramatic collages, vibrant colors, and striking visual effects.

What’s it all about? 

This retro design trend is all about creating character-centric designs with multiple poses and inset images. The character collage approach highlights the subject in a dynamic and eye-catching manner. 

Large text, often featuring the character’s name or a memorable phrase, adds a powerful focal point. Lightning, glow effects, and nebulas enhance the overall impact, creating a sense of excitement and movement. 

Product picks 

For this trend, focus on hero items like t-shirts, hoodies, and crewnecks. These pieces showcase the vibrant character collages and bold text best, making them stand out. Also think about adding classic embroidered elements to further enhance the collection. Pair products and designs that capture the nostalgic pull of the ’90s while still appealing to modern tastes. 

Get retro with it

Incorporating experimental styles and new design trends into your print-on-demand store is a strategic move that can set your product offering apart in a competitive market. Retro trends, in particular, bring a unique blend of nostalgia and modern appeal, attracting a diverse customer base. 

By tapping into these styles, you can cater to various tastes, from vintage travel enthusiasts to avid gamers and fashion-forward individuals. Updating your product line with fresh, trendy designs keeps your store relevant and engages your audience, encouraging repeat purchases. 

Embrace these retro styles to elevate your brand, diversify your catalog, and create products that resonate deeply with your customers. 

Read next: 20+ Greatest ’90s Fashion Trends & How To Recreate the Most Iconic Looks

author

By Sarah Reilly on Jun 28, 2024

Sarah Reilly

Sarah is a Senior Content Writer at Printful with experience in editing, translation, and teaching. She holds a Ph.D. in International Relations and is passionate about language.

Sarah is a Senior Content Writer at Printful with experience in editing, translation, and teaching. She holds a Ph.D. in International Relations and is passionate about language.