Are you looking for design inspo for your print-on-demand (POD) business? You’ve come to the right place!
If you’re already exploring the potential of a POD business, you know that finding a unique niche that resonates with your audience is key. Enter: vintage styles—an abundant source of inspiration for fresh retro design ideas.
Whether you’re passionate about art deco elegance or the psychedelic vibes of the ’60s, modern print technology allows you to incorporate vintage styles into your POD offerings, from prints and apparel to home decor and accessories.
In this blog post, we’ll delve into 8 vintage art styles that you can explore for your online business.
First things first, retro design elements have been making a strong comeback. One key area seeing a revival of everything vintage is the fashion industry. Timeless styles from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s are embraced by both high-end designers and fast fashion brands.
Retro design isn’t limited to fashion; it’s also made its way into interior design trends. In recent years, homeowners have been incorporating retro elements like mid-century furniture items, vintage wallpaper, and retro posters to add character to modern interior spaces.
When it comes to graphic design, contemporary designers are embracing retro-inspired color palettes, typefaces, and illustrations to evoke a sense of nostalgia in their work. Timeless design elements like geometry, bold colors, and classic typography make retro design both familiar and endearing.
Going back in time with your designs can help you tell a story or convey a specific historical context. This can be particularly effective if you want to remind people of past trends or cultural moments. People often have fond memories associated with specific eras, whether it’s the 1950s, 1960s, or the 1970s.
Another plus? Vintage style has a cross-generational appeal. While it captivates older generations who may have experienced these trends firsthand, it also intrigues younger shoppers who are discovering the charm of vintage aesthetics.
Designers and artists frequently adapt and interpret retro design to create fresh and innovative looks. This process of reinvention keeps vintage styles relevant and interesting to modern shoppers.
Below, we’ve gathered a list of 8 art movements and vintage styles from the past that you can leverage in your print-on-demand business.
Art nouveau was a highly influential art and design movement that emerged in the late 19th century and was popular until the turn of the 20th century.
The movement sought to create a new, expressive, and beautiful style in reaction to rapid industrialization. It’s characterized by curvilinear forms, intricate ornaments, and a deep fascination with nature.
In a way, art nouveau can be seen as a precursor to modernism in art and design. It laid the groundwork for the exploration of new materials and forms that would later characterize art deco and Bauhaus.
Alphonse Mucha, Reverie (1897). Source: Wikimedia
Artists and designers drew inspiration from natural shapes like plants, flowers, vines, and the human form. Stylized leaves, tendrils, and flowers (for example, the lily and the iris) were especially popular in art nouveau designs.
Another distinctive feature of art nouveau is the use of curved lines, which create a sense of movement and fluidity. Ornamentation and intricate designs also played a central role and were used in decorative patterns, furniture designs, and stained-glass windows.
One of the most famous artists of the period was Alphonse Mucha who produced decorative panels and posters of young women in floral settings. Now his work is a source of inspiration for contemporary illustrators.
The artist Sveta Dorosheva portrays idealized, graceful women with flowing hair surrounded by lush, intricate ornamentation. Her designs also feature curved lines and floral motifs, which are hallmarks of art nouveau.
The decorative aesthetic of art nouveau is a big hit with vintage lovers who appreciate intricate designs. If you’re thinking about starting a clothing brand that’s inspired by vintage designs, consider adding ornamentation to your t-shirt prints.
You can take inspiration from the muted shades of greens, blues, pinks, and purples that create a sense of harmony and calm. The soft color palette is especially fitting for nature-inspired designs with floral elements, vines, and tendrils.
Art deco is an influential art and design movement that emerged in the early 20th century, reaching its peak during the 1930s.
The movement represents a moment in history when artists and designers sought to break away from the ornate and elaborate styles of the past and embrace a bold, modern, and cosmopolitan aesthetic. Today, it remains celebrated for its timeless elegance.
Art deco is known for a sense of order and symmetry in its design. This was often achieved with geometric shapes like squares, rectangles, triangles, and zigzags.
As pushback against art nouveau, it celebrated the machine age and modern technology. As a result, art deco is flashier, louder, and sleeker to reflect the speed and efficiency of the modern era. The color palette is rich and bold with contrasting combinations like black and gold.
Designers also took inspiration from the emerging field of archaeology and infused their work with arches, ziggurats, and columns.
A contemporary twist on art deco—that’s how you could describe Johnny Wan’s illustrated characters. The contrasting tones with golden accents add to their elegance. The combination of straight lines and curved geometric patterns also pays homage to the art deco style.
Source: Johnny Wan
As patterns, art deco-inspired designs look great on stationary and home decor items, including coasters, throws, and cushion covers. For your POD store, offer a variety of patterns, color schemes, and product options to match your customer’s personal style and preferences.
The rich jewel tones, deep blacks, whites, and metallics evoke a sense of luxury. . . so much so that you may even be able to up your price point.
The Bauhaus was a highly influential art and design school founded in Germany in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius. It’s one of the most important and enduring movements in the history of modern art, design, and architecture.
Its legacy can be seen in the design of furniture, buildings, and everyday objects that prioritize form, function, and modernist aesthetics.
The Bauhaus attracted a diverse group of influential artists, including Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and László Moholy-Nagy, among others. These figures played a crucial role in shaping the school’s philosophy and creative output.
Bauhaus designs favored clean lines, simplicity, and minimal ornamentation. In reaction to the ornate and impractical designs of the past, it sought to eliminate unnecessary decoration.
Bauhaus artists tried to achieve balance and harmony while avoiding strict symmetry. To achieve this, artists favored asymmetry to create dynamic compositions. Artists also used grid systems to organize information and create clean, uncluttered compositions.
Another key element is the use of squares, rectangles, circles, and semi-circles. Plus, the shapes were typically in bright primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) for contrast and visual impact.
Graphic design of the period has been a great source of inspiration for designers who opt for geometry, color blocking, and sharp corners to create eye-catching, Bauhaus-inspired posters.
You can create a Bauhaus feel in your work by integrating a few iconic elements of the style, like primary colors, minimal lines, and geometry—or try them all at once! Designing prints and posters is a popular choice but you could also expand your product range to include home decor items like cushion covers, coasters, or throws.
Mid-century modern is a design and architectural movement that emerged in the mid-20th century, primarily in the post-World War II era, from the 1930s to the 1960s.
The style is known for its blend of functionality, minimalism, and organic forms. It’s a direct successor of the Bauhaus movement and was especially popular in the US. It has influenced various aspects of design, including interior design and furniture.
Similar to Bauhaus, mid-century modern is known for clean, straight lines and geometric shapes. On top of that, it favors organic, nature-inspired shapes. These can be seen in furniture with curved, flowing contours, and the use of natural materials like wood and stone.
While the overall aesthetic is minimalist, mid-century modern designs don’t shy away from bold colors. This is noticeable in home decor, textiles, and artwork, adding visual highlights to the otherwise clean and neutral palette.
Another key influence in this period was modern abstraction, led by artists Anni and Josef Albers. Working with color theory and simple geometric forms, Albers produced striking visual effects.
Josef Albers, Homage to the Square, 1967. Source: Wikimedia
The bold design associated with mid-century modern advertising and branding continues to influence contemporary graphic designers. It’s a popular design choice for those seeking a stylish and functional aesthetic in their homes.
Take inspiration from the Mid Century Style Shop which sells home decor, mugs, bags, and more. The colorful geometric patterns are versatile and look great on a wide range of products that you can sell with print-on-demand providers like Printful.
Pop art is an art movement that emerged during the late 1950s and 1960s. It’s known for embracing pop culture and mass-produced items as subjects for artistic expression.
Pop artists drew inspiration from everyday life and advertising, creating artwork that both celebrated and critiqued the world of mass production.
Original pop art often featured images and icons from pop culture, including advertisements, comic books, movie stars, celebrities, and household products. These familiar and easily recognizable subjects were a departure from the traditional subjects of fine art.
The movement is characterized by its use of bold, highly saturated colors. Artists used bright, flat colors to create eye-catching compositions.
Collage techniques were also frequently employed by pop artists, who would cut and paste images from magazines and advertisements.
Pop art continues to be a major influence on contemporary art and culture. Its ideas about the relationship between art and mass media remain relevant to artists today.
Jirapat Tatsanasomboon is a contemporary Thai artist known for his playful artwork that draws inspiration from pop art and Thai culture, among other influences.
Like pop art, Jirapat Tatsanasomboon’s work is vibrant and doesn’t shy away from bold colors. His use of thick, black lines, dynamic composition, and graphic storytelling techniques is a nod to the artist Roy Lichtenstein.
Source: Jirapat Tatsanasomboon via Number 1 Gallery
For your POD store, you could create the look and feel of a comic book, which is another significant influence on pop art. Try adding elements like speech bubbles, bold letters, and black outlines to your illustrations.
Additionally, you could take advantage of the customization options and offer personalized portraits in the style of Andy Warhol. These could be based on customer photos and transformed into bold, colorful pop art interpretations.
Source: Pittura Portraits on Etsy
Psychedelic art is a style that emerged in the mid-1960s, primarily as a visual expression of the counterculture and the psychedelic experiences associated with the use of hallucinogenic drugs.
This art style was closely linked to the broader countercultural movements of the period and sought to explore altered states of consciousness.
John Van Hammersvelp, Record cover (1968-9). Source: Flickr
Psychedelic art often features organic shapes and patterns that seem to flow into one another. Artists favored swirling, paisley-like designs, and biomorphic shapes that were inspired by nature, plant life, and cell organisms.
The style is also known for exaggerated depictions of objects, figures, and landscapes, sometimes blending reality with the fantastical. Artists often used neon-bright colors like electric blues, fluorescent pinks, and bright purples.
The psychedelic style also played around with optical illusions and visual tricks to challenge the viewer’s perception. These illusions include the appearance of movement or patterns that seem to pulsate.
Psychedelic retro and dream-inspired designs have remained popular with contemporary illustrators. One of them is the Australian artist Lively Scout who creates bold, groovy art that’s inspired by the music and culture from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.
Swirly lines, dark outlines, and warm colors—it’s a winning combo for a psychedelic, retro-inspired graphic design style that’s on trend right now.
The warmth and vibrancy make this retro style adaptable for different seasons and occasions. For example, you could create a fall-themed design collection with illustrations of harvest elements like pumpkins or woodland creatures. Using retro-inspired typography with swirling, curvy fonts is also a popular choice.
When it comes to product selection—don’t hold back! Groovy, psychedelic designs look great on apparel items, accessories, stationary, and wall art.
Op art (or optical art) is a visual art movement that emerged in the 1960s. It’s characterized by optical illusions, geometric patterns, and abstract forms that create a sense of movement and depth.
Drawing on color theory, artists employed precise and calculated techniques to manipulate the way light and color interact with the eye. The optical effects range from subtle and barely noticeable to completely disorienting.
Bridget Riley, Untitled (La Lune en Rodage-Carlo Belloli) (Schubert 6), 1965. Source: Artsy
The main feature is the creation of optical illusions with a sense of movement or three-dimensionality. To achieve this, artists go for high contrast and precise shape alignments.
Optical artworks often feature a contrast between light and dark, typically black and white. The style relies on squares, rectangles, circles, and lines which are arranged in repetitive patterns.
Op art remains a fascinating movement that continues to inspire designers who explore the interplay between visual perception, geometry, and abstraction.
Ray Dak Lam is a contemporary illustrator whose works incorporate optical illusions and abstract geometries, lines, and patterns. The saturated blues, pinks, and yellows in Ray Dak Lam’s illustrations give the style a contemporary look.
If you’re designing clothing items for your POD store, consider adding abstract geometric shapes for an eye-catching look. Whether you go for a monochrome design or incorporate saturated colors, this style will appeal to all shoppers who like bold fashion ideas.
Memphis style, popularized by the Memphis Group, was a short-lived design movement that was influential in the 1980s. It was a postmodern design movement characterized by its bold and whimsical approach to design, architecture, and interior decor.
Memphis style was a sharp departure from the minimalism and functionalism of the previous modernist movements. It celebrated the idea that design could be a form of self-expression and playfulness, even to the point of being outrageous.
Room view of part of a Memphis-Milano design collection. Source: Wikimedia
Memphis style is known for bright, contrasting colors. Designers favored vibrant hues like hot pink, electric blue, neon yellow, and fiery red. These colors were often used in bold, blocky combinations.
The movement was all about geometric shapes in playful and asymmetrical arrangements. Squares, circles, triangles, and irregular polygons were all part of the design vocabulary. Memphis designs also featured abstract patterns, including zigzags, squiggles, checkerboards, and irregular stripes.
Camille Walala’s art is a contemporary homage to the spirit of Memphis style. It captures the exuberance and joyful creativity that characterized the Memphis Group’s design philosophy.
Bright geometric shapes are a hallmark of Memphis style, and Walala incorporates them extensively into her designs. You’ll often find patterns and motifs consisting of geometric forms like triangles, circles, and squares—all with an eye-catching color palette.
What’s more, her designs look equally great on large-scale projects, as they do on small home decor items like mugs and pillow cases. Fun, colorful items are making a comeback in interior design, so now is definitely a good time to add some color (or the whole palette!) to your POD store.
If you’re looking for the best home decor products to sell with your art, aim for designs that seamlessly fit a wide range of items. This way, you’re not only creating a matching home decor collection, but developing a style that your audience will know and love.
Feeling inspired and ready to embark on a creative adventure with vintage art styles?
Each of these art and design movements carries with it a unique sense of history, nostalgia, and aesthetic charm. Whether it’s the ornamentation of art nouveau or the whimsy of Memphis style, each vintage look has a distinct appearance that speaks to an audience of design lovers.
From fashion and interior decor to graphic design and typography, retro is a popular design trend that’s here to stay. Embrace the design elements that go with your style and adapt them to modern product designs. As you do, you’ll be bringing your art to a broader audience, while also enriching your own creative journey.
We look forward to seeing your retro-inspired creations. Happy designing!
Sandra is a freelance writer and educator with a background in art and communication. She holds an MA in Art Museum and Gallery Studies, and in her free time enjoys reading, museum visits, and outdoor adventures.