retro ad design visual marketing

Why do vintage ads evoke such curiosity? Sometimes, especially on social media, it’s the humor from old-time political incorrectness that draws us in. Other times, the appeal stems from emotions that go much deeper than humor.

The reasons why vintage marketing continues to draw us in are based on some fundamentals that can help us in our visual marketing efforts today.

Retro Ads Offer Design Clues for Effective Visual Marketing

Here are two ways to think about, and benefit from, retro ads.

First, you can draw upon the emotions evoked in vintage ads to inspire your own modern, retro-style marketing ideas.

Vintage ads tap into emotions that simply cannot be present in modern-looking advertising. Dictionaries define nostalgia as "1: the state of being homesick or 2: a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition."

You can’t create that feeling in a design that looks like it was created today. A nostalgic design must evoke a memory or feeling that's linked to yesterday.

Nostalgia for simpler times is appealing. Memories of times gone by soften with age and even less-than-glamorous memories can evoke some level of charm when re-visited decades later.

Is there something nostalgic in your product or service?

If not, can your product be tied to something nostalgic?

Nostalgia is but one of many emotions that can influence your buyer’s behavior. Don’t be afraid to dive deep when examining emotions that are related to your product.

Second, you can draw upon the basic visual elements that appear in vintage advertising design.

Trends in visual design change over the years. Yet the fundamentals that support effective marketing and advertising do not. It’s all about the psychology of human behavior.

The vintage ad infographic from Invaluable (below) illustrates six elements of traditional and successful advertising design.


What held true decades ago still works today. We may even have gone too far to the opposite extreme. Today there are many sites that seem to be nothing but headlines created to draw us in but that often lead to very little information, sometimes just a sentence or two. Which leads to element #3 below.


They’re called something else today (USP, or Unique Selling Proposition) but they’re just as effective and necessary for the long term success of a brand.


Yes we’re talking about visual marketing design, but copy can be one of the most effective components of a good visual campaign as this old Cadillac ad shows. Good headlines are necessary to attract your ideal customer. But what are you going to give them when they arrive?


The art and science of color in consumer psychology has evolved yet some of the basics haven’t changed since man first painted animals on cave walls. Color influences behavior.

Style and Design

These simple ad examples showcase some fundamentals of good visual design. They also give us one good resource for design inspiration.

If you give careful thought to all six elements in the vintage advertising infographic below, you’ll have a good foundation for creative influential design today.

Done right, you can incorporate retro style elements to give freshness to your current marketing designs and increase customer response.

If you like the vintage ad graphic, be sure to share with your colleagues using the social buttons upper left.


vintage ads visual marketing design


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