If you’ve been thinking about creating a vintage or retro-looking logo for your business, you’re in great company. This kind of look is very popular, yet leaves so much room for creativity and personalization that it’s still unique looking and far from played out.

Today I have a roundup of some of the best, most beautiful, creative, and inspiring vintage-style logos that are out there right now, along with a discussion of some of the biggest trends in retro logo design. Each of these vintage-style logo trends says something a little different about a brand, so it’s important to get a sense of what’s happening in this type of logo artwork.

Badges and stamps, alone or over photos

The idea of the badge or stamp is a classic theme in vintage logo design. Designers who create these logos typically choose basic shapes like circles, ovals, diamonds, or shields that look good just about anywhere or on top of any photo of a product or a business. These badges are usually fairly simple, with just a few contrasting colors, and several clear objects that signify the business standing out.

The simple badge style logo is easily converted into a monotone stamp that can overlay photos. Given the online nature of so many businesses and the dominance of social media marketing, this kind of stamp logo overlay is perfect for a brand that sells using images of its product.

Overall, retro-looking badges and stamps are perfect for brands that want to appeal to customers using images of their products, and brands that want to connote an “old school” approach. If you’re hoping to express that your business creates artisanal goods or provides hands-on services with a kind of personal attention that people don’t see as much in our modern age, this kind of logo is a great choice.

Using shapes, illustrations, and color schemes

Another fabulous way to create a retro look—especially one that hearkens back to the 1950s or 1960s—is to use simple geometric shapes of different sizes in several bright colors to create maximum visual impact. The colors draw attention to the design, and the harmonious play of the shapes keeps the eye interested.

donut logo
Vintage-style donut shop logo featuring several bright colors and geometric shapes. By ::scott::.

For this kind of food business, which sells decadent treats, relating their products back to an era when the shelves at the grocery store weren’t filled with low fat this and sugar-free that is a great move; they’re reminding us that their donuts are the real deal, and that they’re part of a time when splurging with a donut for breakfast and a three martini lunch was just what you did. (Or so we like to think today, anyway.)

Full color printing is a modern invention, so a limited use of retro-looking colors a great way to create a vintage look. Two-tone coloring in particular suggests a very vintage feel, as does one focal color with one or two related shades as accents making up a unique theme.

The use of just a few bright colors and geometric shapes is particularly useful to businesses hoping to appeal to customers based on an idealized sense of 1950s and 1960s. If your brand wants to represent the fun of a sock hop, or a day at the beach with Gidget, or even a sense of glam a la the very first James Bond movies, this kind of vintage-style logo may be the right choice for your business.

Hand-drawn, noise and textures, line art and flat design

In the mid-twentieth century it became glamorous for things to be factory-made, but today handmade items have come back into style in a serious way. Hand-lettering and hand-drawn illustrations go hand-in-hand (heh) with this trend. This kind of logo also gives the designer a chance to showcase their artistic talents. In short, the hand-drawn or hand-lettered vintage logo has an authentic feel to it, and a sense of exclusivity; it’s clear that this was created by an artist, not punched out by a computer en masse.

The use of noise and textures in the background of these kind of logos offers more subtle appeal and furthers the homemade feeling of the designs. The texture of a canvas or crumpled newsprint, brush strokes, or the grain of wood are some examples of this kind of texture.

Modern design trends also influence how we perceive and create retro-looking designs. Flat design, for example, is very hot now; this impacts vintage-style logos in that many of them use flat, simple designs or line drawings as their focal point.

Hand-drawn designs, whether they are detailed or simple, flat line drawings, are a counterpoint to a world that is filled with computer-generated facsimiles. Logos set against textures and backgrounds that feel organic also produce this feeling in consumers. If you are hoping to emphasize how unique your smaller business is within a sea of corporate competitors, this kind of logo is an excellent choice.

Industrial, land and sea, and manual labor in the outdoors

Logos of the early- and mid-twentieth century lacked the technical sophistication we have today, so they relied on simple, strong imagery depicting the world of that era. This meant that there were many images of axes, factories, hammers, wrenches, and other tools of the day. In contrast, today we see logos that attempt to depict a virtual world and a more abstract sense of what work is. Vintage logos, then, tend to go back to the imagery of the industrial revolution, featuring simple tools and images again.

Another small rebellion against living in urban centers and working in cubicles is the trend of depicting animals and the outdoors in vintage logos. Natural themes, nautical elements, animals of the wild, and old school transportation themes all suggest the perceived freedom of “simpler times.”

Vintage-style logos that use imagery from the industrial revolution, the outdoors, and animals take viewers away from their sedentary, indoor lifestyles. If you hope that your brand will appeal to consumers who long for more adventure or freedom, or if your business aims to provide those things, these types of retro-look logos could be your best bet.

Typography and borders

Big Rigs & Pancakes logo
This Big Rigs & Pancakes vintage-style logo uses an Art Deco style typeface and a pinup girl to transport customers to a sort of hybrid era in the past. By Freshinnet.

Typography is one of the most critical elements of any vintage design. Designers of the past used specific fonts or hand-lettering to get the looks they wanted, and there’s no question that choosing the right typeface can instantly take your logo into a different era.

The thoughtful deployment of borders is another fascinating aspect of designing vintage logos. Designers can use borders to set off or frame a picture or badge, to set off focus areas, or to highlight certain content. Depending on how ornamental a border is and which colors are used, the border can make or break a retro design.

Sometimes the right typography and details like borders are the principal touches you need to give your logo the retro look and feel you’re aiming for. If you have a particular era of time in the past that you feel really “speaks” to your customer or exemplifies your brand, creating a logo with the typography and details of that area may be the right choice for your business.

Conclusion

There are so many ways to use vintage design themes and techniques to create a unique logo that will work for your business. Contrary to what you might think at first, these kinds of logos are not limited; because they are focused more on what consumers want and enjoy today more generally, they are versatile and can work for just about any kind of brand. Especially for smaller businesses looking to stand out, retro- and vintage-style logos can be a real game changer.

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