Ready to go down memory lane? Let's explore the cool 80s style with neon lights, pastel colors, and cyberpunk!
One of the most iconic eras in the last 100 years is the 80s. Everyone references it, talks about it, and reminiscences about it. What was so cool about the 80s, besides the cool toys and the albums? The 80s gave us some really bold fonts, futuristic styles, neon colors, and anything that screamed ‘bolder is better’. It’s safe to say that the 70s were a direct reaction to the 60s, and the 80s just took it a step further.
The introduction of more sophisticated computers radically changed graphic design during this decade. All this new technology and the development of graphic software paved the way for a plethora of new and radical styles. Software allowed designers to create 3D images and handle elements a lot more easily than before. PageMaker was introduced in the mid-80s, making it Adobe’s very first desktop publishing software. This was a whole new way for designers to experiment with layouts, move images, and set type.
We saw a resurgence of the 80s styles around 2010 with the movie Drive and Tron: Legacy. It brought back all the cool visuals like the neon colors and 80s script. Most recently we’ve seen it in Stranger Things, with the classic neon red title sequence.
There were multiple trends happening in the 80s simultaneously, with visuals ranging from neon lights to tropical settings to childish rainbows. We've narrowed down the key characteristics:
- In the 80s, we saw a variety of pastel colors inspired by 50s kitsch, like light pinks, turquoise, and light blue. Neon colors were inspired by technological advances during the decade. There were electric blues, neon greens, and magenta, creating a strong contrast against dark backgrounds.
- New graphic technology influenced many of the design styles we saw in the 80s. Grids in space were featured in many movie posters, and monospaced fonts that mimicked those of computer screens were featured in many movie title sequences.
- The 80s didn't have only one specific graphic style. There were many designs that took inspiration from previous years' styles and others that had built up over the years. The 80s Deco style drew many characteristics from the 20s Art Deco scene, while Cyberpunk had been building up for a few years with new technological advances. The Memphis style was a mix of 50s kitsch and pop art, which made it the most playful and cheeky style of the 80s.
Art Deco originated back in the 1920s, but just like all styles, it comes back every few years. The 80s Deco style had an impact on multiple design disciplines. In graphic design, it was the use of soft pastel palettes and sans serif fonts.
Similarly to the 20s Art Deco, the 80s used sharp and pointy angles in typography. This resulted in a combination of thick/thin strokes typefaces with a stencil look like the Miami Vice show logo. Geometric sans serifs that neared perfectly rounded.
Visby is a geometric font with hard lines and sharp corners. Geometric sans serif fonts were commonly used during the 20s and the Art Deco era. They always stayed around, but we saw a resurgence in the 80s that mimicked much of the original Art Deco.
Fiver is another style of font that was big during the Art Deco era in the 20s. Inline fonts are characterized by hairline strokes, making it stand out from the rest of its environment. This type of font can give you a three-dimensional effect, perfect for large display sizes.
To everyone’s surprise, the neon style wasn’t created in the 1980s. It originated way back in 1898, when two English chemists by the name of Sir William Ramsay and Morris W. Travers discovered the gases that gave off the vibrant neon colors. It wasn’t until 1910 when neon tubes made a public appearance at the Paris Motor Show. The neon tubes were used beside a building to light up the perimeter.
Neon design made quite a few appearances in history, just like in the 80s, thanks to channel lettering. By then, neon design had been used in Las Vegas because it was a prominent holiday destination. Channel lettering allowed for custom-made lettering for public signs. The show Miami Vice heavily used neon colors, making this key characteristic part of pop culture in the 80s.
This neon style had many qualities that made it perfect when designs needed to stand out. Due to the qualities of the gases in the lettering tubes, the neon colors were bright and vivid. The colors also created a strong light and dark contrast, especially during the night-time.
Part of the 80s was about bright and vibrant colors due to discos and sci-fi movies. Scripts were mainly used for movie posters as big headlines to make them stand out from the rest of the design. A recent movie that uses this style is Drive, which uses a classic neon pink color for the script title.
The 80s wouldn't be the 80s without neon lights. We saw them everywhere because the colors created a strong contrast against the night. If you happen to be set on a font, this Neon Layer Style add-on is perfect to apply that 80s effect. Choose from multiple colors and light intensity and create the classic look.
This Photoshop neon effect is awesome if you are looking to customize colors and background textures to display your cool designs. If you are looking for realism, you can add the braces that were commonly seen holding the signs on the wall. There's no shortage of neon effects at Envato Elements, so make sure to check them all out!
Looking to get into neon effects? Check out these tutorials that can help you learn more:
- Text EffectsHow to Create a Realistic Neon Light Text Effect in Adobe PhotoshopRose
- NeonHow to Create an 80s Neon Horns Photo Manipulation in Adobe PhotoshopAbbey Esparza
We can’t talk about the 80s without mentioning technology. Cyberpunk originated in the 60s, but it made a stronger impact in the 80s mainly through scenes of the movie Blade Runner. Cyberpunk focused on futuristic high-tech, lawless societies, and big corporations. Many films, comic books, and designs originated from cyberpunk.
Some of the characteristics of this style were the use of grids and computer-based fonts that gave the design a “digital” look. The album for the Tron soundtrack and the opening credits for The Terminator are a few examples of cyberpunk.
Technology-inspired fonts were another staple of the 80s. With the introduction of new computers and software, monospaced font designs made a big appearance. This sans serif font is a contemporary take on the 80s tech-inspired font. While it isn't as pixelated and includes curves on some characters, it is a great addition to your library.
Arcade Machine is inspired by everything 80s, from shows like Miami Vice to video games and a combination of cyberpunk. This type of font features pointy lines on every character, making it look edgy and aggressive. This highly stylized font is perfect for display copy, and it features uppercase, lowercase, and ligatures.
Gnome is slightly italic and very geometric, which gives us that computerized feel from the 80s. There were big technological and graphic advances, but not as much as the present time. Fonts were constructed through bitmaps, and that's how the geometric and pixel style came into place. This font is suitable for display type—are you ready to take it back to the 80s?
Throwing a retro party anytime soon? Everyone loves one, and this flyer is perfect for that. It's set on a black background to get that neon-at-night effect. It features a grid within a bold geometric shape on the background and a script font that completes the design. With a flyer like this, no one will want to miss the party.
These awesome tutorials can help you create 80s-inspired text effects and photo manipulations:
- Photoshop ActionsHow to Make a 3D Hologram Text Effect Photoshop ActionAnderson Luiz
- Photo ManipulationHow to Create an 80s-Inspired Double Exposure Manipulation in Adobe PhotoshopMelody Nieves
Postmodernism: Memphis Style
In the early 1980s, Ettore Sottsass founded a group of designers that came to be known as the Memphis Group. During their first meeting, the song Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again by Bob Dylan was playing in the background, leading the group to call themselves the Memphis Group.
Inspired by previous art movements like Art Deco, Pop Art, and 1950s kitsch, the group created a very flashy aesthetic. The group was ready to rebel against the modernist ethos of the 1970s by creating something completely radical.
This Memphis Style business card design includes all the characteristics that you need. This bold card design template is perfect for you if you want something fun and vibrant. The geometric shapes and pastel colors are easy to edit. You can simply input the information and the cards are ready for print!
Seamless patterns can be tricky to make, so Envato Elements has got you covered. This colorful and geometric pattern is made up of basic graphical elements that have been tastefully arranged. Perfect for the summertime, this stylish set is perfect for social media banners, backdrops, and even clothes!
Stylish three-dimensional styles are tricky to put together unless you put in the work. Luckily for you, we have this Memphis Style text effect that can help you create depth in your design in just minutes. There are eight different styles you can choose from and easily edit. Are you ready to make your design pop?
The Memphis Style was all about simple geometric shapes, and if this font existed back then, it would have been the perfect fit! Geometricity is a display font that was carefully designed to make it highly legible. You can add multiple colors to it or use it as a layered font—so much fun!
If you are looking to learn more about the Memphis Style, check out these tutorials:
- InDesign TemplatesHow to Create a Memphis Style Club Poster in Adobe InDesignGrace Fussell
- Text EffectsQuick Tip: How to Create a Memphis Style Text Effect in Adobe InDesignGrace Fussell
Show Us Your 80s Designs!
This retro trend was one to remember, and it keeps coming back in one way or another. There have been many movies and shows in the last ten years that featured characteristics of the 80s. If you're as fond of this 80s trend as we are, then show us your work! Let us know about your favorite style from this era.
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