Nostalgic revival of the 80s

Nostalgia and flashbacks are common in advertising, fashion and design. Whether we're looking at the 1920s or the 1990s, retro is always present in one way or another. Right now, there’s a lot of talk in the trend world about the 80s making a comeback in 2024. Stefan "Trendstefan" Nilsson shares some interesting insights to help you embrace the 80s trend in your visual communication!

Stefan Nilsson

Stefan Nilsson is Sweden's most medial trend expert and appears regularly on TV, radio and in magazines. Constantly on the move, he scouts for new tendencies and phenomena in interior design, fashion, food and other things we dream of.

The 1980s was a complicated decade. We faced an economic downturn while concepts like 'yuppies' emerged. Wars were being fought between Ireland and Britain, and Iran and Iraq. It was also a decade characterised by famine and disasters like AIDS, but also Band Aid. But the 80s is also the period when popular culture references flourished. Icons like Madonna, Prince, and Whitney Houston emerged, shaping the cultural landscape of the decade. In the 80s, we still identified ourselves by music - maybe you referred to yourself as a synthpopper or a hard rocker.

My main focus as a trend spotter is design, especially interior design. During the recent Milan Design Week, it was clear that we are now shifting from earthy tones to blue, metal and glossy laquered surfaces. It had more of an ironic yuppie feel than the warmth of "The Golden Girls." We saw color combinations like 'yankee blue' with grey and hints of mustard yellow.

Analogue symbols in a digital era

But there's also a softer and more nostalgic side to the 80s. Nostalgic objects are increasingly appearing in pictures and illustrations. It might be a game-boy, a cassette tape, a boombox, or something as banal as an ordinary yellow pencil. We're looking back to a time when digital didn't really exist. Pixels are becoming part of images, along with obvious 80s references like the smiley or homemade flash earrings.

And yes, we're even seeing a return of 80s-inspired food. Trend agency Food & Friends reports that the quirky Swedish dish "Flygande Jacob" is back in fashion, and the same goes for prawn cocktail.

Nocturnal magic in neon and black

Speaking of food and nostalgia. In 1985 Coca-Cola launched "Cherry Coke" with a soda can against a gradient background. The night was prominent, and the decade was defined by a lot of black surfaces. Movies like Cocktail, Cat People or the TV series Miami Vice all featured the night – with elements of neon, of course. In 2024, the desire for pure blacks in imagery is returning. Images might be placed next to a completely black square, free of any text.

Return of the serifs

The 80s are also reflected in our choice of fonts. We've had a long period of minimalist typefaces, or for that matter melting, morphed options. Now, classic serifs are making a comeback. With their heels, they carry a classic vintage feel about them. One of the reasons why sans serif is being replaced is that it simply feels overused. Regular serifs then appear more authentic. They are also said to be perceived as friendlier and more trustworthy.


80s vibes in modern design

One of the hottest hotel projects of 2023 was Drei Berge in Switzerland, designed by French-Moroccan Ramdane Touhami. He has infused the entire hotel with his aesthetic, from the coffee cups to the bedrooms. If you look at the pictures, you'll see that the hotel has this warm, nostalgic 80s vibe about it, kind of like John Irving's "Hotel New Hampshire". There are pennants in saturated colours and the font is in serif, of course. Certainly, the images are reminiscent of Wes Anderson's aesthetic, and that's definitely a vibe that can be amplified this year.

So, we're going back to the 80s. Some guidelines:

  • Display offline symbols such as a pencil or cassette tape.
  • Switch from Sans serif to Serif.
  • Embrace the night, or utilise black elements in the image.
  • Use large pixels and gradients for a sense of bygone charm.
  • Make it nostalgic and colourful like a Wes Anderson movie.

Learn more about visual communication!

Photographers: Plattform (IMA241041, IMA211614, IMA241044, IMA237780, IMA222214), Sara Danielsson (ETS9284), Jeppe Wikström (IMA50189), Maskot Bildbyrå (MASMA78110, MASMA86652), plainpicture (plap0452920, plap3870078, plap947m2273209, plap3670018), Ingimage (INGINH_47129_82167), Oscar Wettersten (IMA161346), Mikael Svensson (IMA199103), Åsa Siller Kristensson (IMA194945), Jenny Gaulitz (ETS18497).