Tap into the Secret Power of Nostalgic Design

Nostalgia – the notion of longing – is an essential part of the human condition. It’s also a powerfully effective design strategy, according to Rebecca Gross writing in Canva’s Design Inspiration blog.

“The psychological phenomenon of nostalgia is triggered physiologically from sights, sounds, smells, and tastes,” Gross writes. “A particular song might remind you of your wedding; a smell might take you back to your grandmother’s cooking; or a photograph might have you recalling the heady days of summer vacations past—or even reliving as Expedia did for its Throwback Thursdays campaign, which used nostalgia to engage its social media audience.”

This kind of campaign has a visceral appeal, and that makes it eminently engaging, almost irresistibly so. As Gross explains, nostalgic design elements can create a powerful emotional connection with your audience. We saw this happen last holiday season with the retro focus of eBay’s toy catalog, and the homemade look of the cover of Amazon’s wish list catalog.

“Designers can use nostalgia to appeal to their audience on a feel-good level. By tapping into people’s desire to feel a sense of belonging, meaning, and security, designers can endow their creations with emotion and sentimentality that connects with their audience and elicits a pleasurable feeling,” she writes.

Twitter showed us just how compelling this idea is when #InThe90sIThought became a viral hash-tag for both people and brands. When done well it can cement your brand with feel-good emotions in your audience.

Gross pulled together a great list of design ideas that leverage nostalgia beautifully, from reinventing childhood memories that bring us back to the noise, lights and energy of the arcade, to holiday design inspiration that looks like something your grandma might knit.

It’s not just for small brands, either. American Express is a great example of a brand that has remained true to its design roots for 60 years. Vintage photos in sepia tones, fonts that recall old-time advertisements, retro color palettes – all these design ideas can help you tap into that rich, emotional vein we all possess.

Canva’s Design Inspiration blog is always a great source of new ideas. And they really nailed it with this one. Well worth the read!