Vintage Logos: Why Old School is the New Cool

When in a bind, go back in time.

That’s been the mantra of artists in every niche, and it’s worked for as long as we can remember.

The style of clothes we wear? Not new. Music we create? Inspired by the past. Mistakes we make? Not art – but also repeated throughout history.

We tend to look backwards at the decades that preceded us, taking their ideas and molding them into creations of our own.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we’re straight-up copying (or are we?); rather, we gravitate towards time periods’ whose art seems new and exciting, yet close enough that it doesn’t feel downright foreign. Then, we mimic what we like, while throwing our own modern spin into the mix.

That’s why vintage logos have such a powerful hold on the world of consumers – we love what feels familiar yet distant. Vintage seem safe and nostalgic to us, not to mention that eras of the past inspire some of the coolest logo designs.

So, who uses vintage logos, and what kinds of styles make something “vintage,” anyway? Continue on to find out.

Industries that Love Vintage Logos

Vintage logos can be used effectively in almost every industry, but they tend to dominate in a select few. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular forums for vintage logos, and the qualities they have that speak to their audience in each niche.

Music

From garage band leader to jukebox owner, anyone in the music world could benefit from a vintage logo. Most modern music is based off of the classics in some form or another – whether it’s Miles Davis seeping through an EDM riff or Billy Joel-esque piano improv over a track in production – and using a vintage logo connects your music to some of the greats by default.  

However, it’s not just band logo design that should consider going vintage; if you own a bar that swears by its record player or have the coolest sound engineering studio in town, timeless logos are on your side. 

Cafes and Restaurants

Remember what it was like to waltz into a diner at any hour of the day, sit on a barstool, crack open a paper and order your favorite milkshake from the counter? Coffee refills were on the house, and grilled cheese was almost always a meal possibility.

These old-school diners were about more than just the breakfast-for-dinner experience; they were familiar, communal, and assured you that you would be taken care of no matter what.

Vintage logos bring that same feeling of familiarity to eateries like cafes and restaurants. As diner-like experiences are shrinking with the emergence of hipster cafes, the places that want to call back that feeling of comfort do so with down-to-earth, retro designs.

Interior Design

Remember how we said that vintage logos give cafes a homey ambiance? Well, the same could be said for interior design firms – and thankfully so, because interior design usually involves entering your clients’ houses and trying to make it feel like a home.

These industry logos typically play off of the script fonts that are characteristic of the vintage world, lending an elegant effect to the brands they represent (and promising your clients to deliver that elegance). You can also take a more straightforward approach, focusing on muted tones and evocative typography to draw your audience in.

Breweries

Bars often use vintage logos to remind us of a time in which alcohol was forbidden (think Prohibition era, 1920-1930’s). Not only do these logos make us–perhaps subconsciously–feel grateful for the opportunity to pour one out in public, but they also create an air of exclusivity around any bar or speakeasy.

Microbreweries in particular like to take advantage of the retro look, in that it taps into nostalgia. Beer has been around forever, and vintage logos remind us of that connection to the past. Additionally, brew fanatics know that aged beer is quality beer, so connecting your brewery with the past will give the impression that your beer is of the most high-caliber out there.

Apparel

So many famous clothing companies have stood the test of time, and their logos have followed suit (pun intended!). While some apparel lines (like Levi’s or Nike) have done away with their own vintage logo in favor of a more classically modern design, others have embraced their connection with the past – and with it, their legacy as a timeless apparel line.

Types of Vintage Logos

Vintage logos are made in all shapes and sizes, and there’s a lot of room to get creative. That said, retro logo design comes with its own trends and unique characteristics.  

If you’re interested in making your own vintage-looking logo, it’s worthwhile to check out the different techniques that set vintage logos apart from the standard logos we’re used to seeing on the daily.

The Frame

If you’re looking to create a ‘50’s vibe, the frame is your best bet. Simple geometric shapes add a little edge to logos that recall the past, and the inverted edges and corners pictured above bumps the logo up a notch on the class ladder.

These logos are timeless, charming, and versatile; they can be used to represent any product or service that wants to appear reliable.

The Stamp

These vintage logos tend to fall into the emblem logo category, or logos that use a badge or insignia to instill trust in their audiences. However, you’ll note that the logos pictured above are specifically disc or stamp-shaped, which is ideal for brands that sell products or use their logo to watermark images or documents.

The beauty of the stamp lies in its simplicity, and the straightforward design gives more room to typography and colors to tell the logo’s story.

The Flourish

As we saw above, frames make their vintage logo mark – but nothing says retro like a frame with a little extra funk.

Notice how the symmetrical swirls around each frame pictured above are delicate and unobtrusive; they are used to accent the typography of the logos rather than overwhelming the designs. The flourish appeals to our sense of balance, propriety, and our overall desire to keep things classy.

The Drawing

Handmade items feel authentic and personal, as do designs that were created by hand – a popular trend in logos of the past. The pull of the “hand-drawn” logo is that it makes onlookers feel like the brand they’re interacting with is exclusively for them.

In this vein, this type of retro design is ideal for businesses who are offering high-end service or want to emphasize their attentiveness to their customers.

The Handwritten

Typography is a key element of any logo, and it’s usually what gives logos their personality. Vintage design is no exception, as logo designers of the past used to craft fonts by hand to get the exact type they wanted.

As a result, big, block lettering, expressive serifs, asymmetrical strokes and retro scripts are all vintage logo favorites, with each carrying a different meaning and connection to the past.

The Colorful

Vintage logos tend to work against the minimalism that’s more common of the 21st century logos, because sometimes, more is more. Muted color palettes are a classic vintage logo feature, although sharp contrasts occasionally make an appearance as well.

You may notice that all of the above logos use one color that stands out, but none of them overdo it – something to be conscious of when you’re designing your own vintage logo.


Over to You

Everything about vintage is cool – and most things that are cool end up being vintage. Luckily, vintage logo designs are yours for the taking, so long as you want your brand to stand out from your competitors’. Play around with colors and typography, try out different retro techniques, and see which type of vintage logo best tells the story of your brand!