Are there any parts about 1990s graphic design that are still considered modern or retro? I'm talking about certain colors, fonts, patterns, etc.

Hotline Miami for example has a graphic style, that I would say is very 1980s, but also modern. Are there any modern works, that you would consider inspired by 1990s?

  • 1
    I'm not entirely clear what you mean by 'modern or retro'. Retro typically means you're borrowing from a well defined style in the past. Modern tends to eschew that. It's hard t be both retro and modern.
    – DA01
    Oct 10, 2015 at 21:34
  • @DA01 I`m sorry for the missuse. I am looking for something from the 90s that would be still considered a good design practice/style.
    – Tim
    Oct 10, 2015 at 21:39
  • Modern and retro would be considered opposites when referring to design! Oct 11, 2015 at 11:52

3 Answers 3


The 90s had quite a few styles over the span of that decade that I think would be identifiable as big graphic design trends.

It started with a holdover from the late 80senter image description here that I'd perhaps call 'neon':

The mid-90s were dominated both visually and musically by the grunge/seattle-sound. Two of the big names from that era would have been Art Chantry (and a lot of the work he did for Sub-Pop)

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...and David Carson and his magazine Raygun:

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Related in its grunge-iness but coming from an entirely different perspective would be CSA's retro clip art style work:

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Then there was the return of Steve Jobs to Apple where a lot of the more classic layout styles of the late 70s advertising were combined with the bright and playful product designs of the era:

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And then, of course, the internet came. For print design, WIRED magazine is perhaps the most memorable showcase of 'cyber' (I use that term with tongue in cheek) design:

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Are any of those 'modern'? I'd say, no. Are parts of these styles used today? certainly. I'd say the photo-copy low-fi-ness of both Art Chantry and CSA are still in widespread use today. But keep in mind that's been a style that's been around 100 years or so, so isn't necessarily strictly 90s-related.

To answer the question in your comment:

I am looking for something from the 90s that would be still considered a good design practice/style.

There is no particular style that would fit that broadly speaking. Whether a design trend or style is considered 'good' has everything to do with how it's applied and the context of what it's being applied to.

  • 1
    Excellent recap of 90's design.
    – bemdesign
    Oct 11, 2015 at 1:35
  • Do you know who made that graphic with the yellow rectangles and white striped triangles? I was hoping to use it for some cover art background but I didn't want to just steal it. Wanted to inquire to whomever made it if anybody can be of assistance. Thanks so much! Aug 14, 2017 at 2:32

Are there any modern works, that you would consider inspired by 90s?

Yes, grunge.

Hotline Miami for example has a graphic style, that i would say is very 80s, but also modern.

The thing is, some trends stick and become "classics" in a way. They have personality, an identity to refer to in a way. And trends often get on a cycle, they rotate and evolve. For example, the neon colors; They took a 15-20 years break and now they're back for some reason!

And in every cycle, there's always a modern and a retro trend; this way everybody is happy when they go shopping. It's a "marketing script" that works and is really present in the fashion industry for example. 15 years ago, the miami style looked a bit outdated while the style gogo and hippie from the 70' was very strong. You might think miami is modern because that's the cool retro right now (possibly). Or as I said, it became a classic.

Then there's trends that don't stick. This is an example below from the 2000:

example trend from the 2000

Unlike the grunge or miami style, it has no personality besides being "cute." You don't associate this with rebellious mind, Fight Club, independence, speed, coolness, alternative lifestyle, or anything. There is nothing memorable about that kind of design. It might come back differently in 15 years though when some creator will pretend to be original and re-use the idea again... and serve it to us as a new one :)

  • I'd say that last example is very much 70s inspired both in color usage and visual style.
    – DA01
    Oct 10, 2015 at 21:32
  • @DA01 That's the whole point; old trends recycled but this particular one will need a break again. And the one from the 70' can probably be linked back to an earlier version, and this goes on and on. There's always a different floral style, teddy bears, stripes, etc. in every cycle!
    – go-junta
    Oct 10, 2015 at 21:42
  • Yes, I completely agree!
    – DA01
    Oct 10, 2015 at 21:53

[This question is very speculative as there is no definitive answer as such. But here are a few pointers.]

When communicating a certain era through design, look to fashion, history, power-influences and the zeitgeist in general.

A Case Study: Early 90s Clubbing Culture For example, in late 80s-early 90s Britain, a "working-class" fashion trend which culminated in a mish-mash of influences from the Eastern-influenced hippie look seeped into clubbing fashion. This was probably a reaction as a result of Thatcherite policies which opposed rave culture and valued conservatism (Public Order Act - 1994) and the rise of corporate culture. At this time, mines were being closed down in Northern Britain also by the govt., which hugely impacted the region's economic viability. By adopting a "working-class" trend, subculture resonates its values in contrast to the super-power (in this case "Middle Britain"). At this time, dungarees, even boiler suits were not uncommon in clubs. The Hacienda club even adopted colours and patterns based on signage from health and safety standards. Interestingly, the nineties trend is prevalent again today even in music, possibly as a pastiche, or a recurrence of similar values held today.

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Today we are still recovering from a worldwide recession, much like the eighties/early 90s. A back to basics mentality seems prevalent, hence the surge in "vintage", hand-made aesthetics and parodies of corporate visual identities.

In typography, the "undesigned" look is in vogue, with a lot of hand-made typography and lettering. I suspect that mono-spaced typefaces such as Inconsolata and Courier are also trendy too to a similar effect, but probably not for long. Aphex Twin's album art for Syro is an example of this, and supposedly this "alien" type was fashionable in the 90s also. The FF Meta typeface was described as the "Helvetica of the 90s" for what it's worth. Helvetica was very popular back then also, along with Frutiger and Univers. Have a look at Peter Saville album covers also.

As you can tell, trends are very speculative; for this reason, designers try to avoid them when possible. I hope this was of some help.

This book demonstrates an excellent resource for deconstructing trends from the 20th century: Subculture: The Meaning of Style by Dick Hebdige(1979)

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