Retrofuturism Unveiled: A Mesh of Past and Future Tech

retrofuturistic graphic design example

Welcome to the world of Retro Futurism — a time machine filled with streamlined rocket ships, flying cars, and sleek robots that will transport you to an era of wonder and nostalgia.

Retrofuturism allows us to uncover and explore the frontiers of advanced old and new technologies and celebrate a blend of retro designs with progressive ideologies. Continue reading to learn more.

What Is Retro Futurism? Explore the Retro-Futuristic Art & Design Trend

But what is Retro Futurism, exactly? Simply put, it’s a design movement that blends cutting-edge technology with vintage aesthetics. It considers the fusion and contrast between past and future and the ever-changing relationship between technology and the human race.

victorian era retro futuristic design

From daydreams of futuristic cities and flying cars to the effects of technology on society, Retrofuturism encompasses a wide range of themes that have captivated creators in industries as diverse as entertainment and social media.

Additionally, Retrofuturistic art and design offer endless possibilities for imagining possible and impossible futures, all while building on the timeless aesthetics that make this trend so beloved.

When did Retrofuturism start?

Retrofuturism as an artistic movement initially emerged in the mid-20th century. Still, it gained significant prominence in the 60s and 70s as a response to technological advancements and the growing nostalgia for preceding eras.

The term “retrofuturism” began to gain prominence in the 1980s, and it draws inspiration and influence from earlier periods that originated from the Art Deco era to the 20th-century early science fiction literature and films. 

This movement impacts and shapes various literature, visual arts, designs, and architecture and continues to evolve, leaving an indelible mark on our present and future perspectives.

What is Retro-Futuristic Design?

Retro-Futuristic design is a mashup of graphic design, Art Deco, and the Victorian era. The genre emits a vibe that takes the audience to a time when past and future meet.

composition of retro futuristic design
Images credit: allthatsinteresting 

Drawing inspiration from Art Deco’s bold geometric shapes and sleek lines, Retro-Futuristic Design has a touch of class and flair.

This genre blends the old and the new, creating a groovy visual experience. The retro-Futuristic aesthetic has vibrant colors, retro-inspired fonts, and super-creative concepts that get our imaginations going. Retrofuturism invites us on a ride to see what the future could look like if we added a retro twist!

From raygun gothic to Steampunk: key retrofuturist designs

Retrofuturism encompasses a rich mesh of design movements that transport us to imaginative worlds that merge past aesthetics with futuristic visions. Two prominent styles within Retrofuturism are Raygun Gothic and Steampunk, each offering a distinct interpretation of the genre.

woman in a space suite holding a ray gun

Raygun Gothic originated in the 1940s and 1950s. The Space Age and old science fiction inspire it. It is comparable to the spacepunk genre. Raygun Gothic is about smooth designs influenced by rockets, futuristic buildings, and space exploration.

The rayguns that look futuristic and gadgets like that became iconic symbols of Raygun Gothic. They represent that sense of adventure and surprise accompanying new and innovative technology.

On the other hand, Steampunk merges Victorian aesthetics with steam-powered machinery and imaginary stuff. This style creates a different universe by mixing brass, gears, and intricate clockwork mechanisms. A world where steam-powered airships fly among goggles and Victorian-inspired fashion. It’s a dope mix of retro and future vibes.

Raygun Gothic and Steampunk show how cool Retrofuturism can be by uniquely letting you see the past and future. They inspire us to get creative, to imagine something different in terms of technology and design. They remind us that our dreams and ideas can shape our future.

The relationship between Retrofuturism and science fiction

Retrofuturism and science fiction have a unique relationship, much like peas in a pod! Imagine science fiction as the wild imagination that dreams up fantastical stories about the future. Meanwhile, Retrofuturism is the refined cousin that takes inspiration from those stories and fashions them into sleek designs.

space odessy movie poster
Image credit:

Retrofuturism has shaped the themes and aesthetics of science fiction by influencing its approaches to storytelling. One of the key ways by which Retrofuturism has influenced science fiction is through design and visual elements.

The retro-futuristic aesthetic in science fiction

The retro-futuristic aesthetic has become an iconic element of science fiction storytelling, blending futuristic visions with retro aesthetics. It influences how the future is manifested in literature, film, and other media regarding worlds, architecture, technology, and fashion. Adding retro-futuristic details bonds the audience to the past and future, lending a sense of familiarity.

Furthermore, Retrofuturism enhances narrative possibilities, particularly in future technology. It inspires creators to envisage alternate histories and anticipate how the present and future might differ if certain technologies or cultural movements had progressed differently.

Retro-futuristic in science fiction storytelling

Moreover, retro-futuristic storytelling incorporates themes of progress, social change, and technological advancements. These offer us thought-provoking scenarios challenging our perceptions of the past and future. Retrofuturism reshapes technology portrayal in science fiction.

retrofuturistic illustration of automated car

The concept encourages reflection on modern technological advancements. It provokes critical consideration of scientific progress’s social, ethical, and environmental implications. 

Therefore, it invites discussions on future technologies’ potential benefits and pitfalls. Retrofuturism enriches our understanding of the complex relationship between humanity, technology, and visions of tomorrow, expanding creative possibilities in science fiction.

Why is Retro Futurism Popular?

The Retrofuturism movement is popular for several reasons, including:


Retrofuturism enables the audience to explore the past and imagine what the future would have looked like from the perspective of those people who lived during that time. It evokes feelings of nostalgia for a time that never was but that people wish had been.

Aesthetic appeal

Retrofuturism combines futuristic technology and themes with old-fashioned design, resulting in a unique and interesting design trend. It features bizarre technology, faded colors, and dystopian themes. It often includes imagery of eccentric gadgets and machinery, virtual worlds, robots, space colonies, and interstellar travel.

Anticipation of the future

Retro futuristic illustration of a man holdin a hand held phone

Retrofuturism provides a lens that we can use to look at the future with anticipation of what science, technology, and design will look like.


Retrofuturism has been a past movement and is referenced many times for inspiration. It provides endless possibilities for fantasies about possible or impossible futures. Still, it allows creators to build their creative ideas around existing aesthetics they love and know well.

Bridging The Generational Gap

The Retrofuturism movement bridges the gap between generations, appealing to younger audiences eager for futuristic visions and older generations who appreciate the nostalgic throwback. It acts as a cultural bridge that unites different age groups through a shared appreciation for the aesthetics and ideals of the past. This is achieved by fusing with other subcultures like cassette futurism, where the 80s and 90s mesh with ideas of a technologically advanced future.

Celebration Of Human Creativity

Retrofuturism celebrates the power of human creativity and the enduring allure of visionary design. It reminds us of our capacity to dream, innovate, and shape the world around us. Blending retro and futuristic elements creates a harmonious blend of tradition and progress, offering a unique visual language that resonates with a broad audience.

The retro-futuristic look and design trends

woman in room with light emiting from eyeware

Several retro-futuristic fashion trends have emerged in recent years, including:

Retrofuturism aesthetic

The retrofuturism aesthetic combines old-fashioned, retro styles with futuristic technology and mainly depicts how the past viewed the future. It features recognizable aesthetics of the past, and it has a nostalgic vibe.

Futuristic retro

Futuristic retro is built on an appeal of old styles of retrofuturism art, clothing, and movies, with futuristic technologies grafted onto it. It creates a mélange of past, present, and future elements, often found in fashion styles.


Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction that features a dystopian future dominated by computer technology and large corporations. It has influenced retro-futuristic fashion, often including skin-tight garments and leotards paired with army-like plastic boots or futuristic women’s sneakers.

spacepunk visual art

Retro-futuristic graphic design

Retro-futuristic graphic design features futuristic imagery, faded bright colors, cyber-inspired typography, and rounded geometric shapes. It combines modern-day aesthetics, futuristic technology, and old-fashioned innovation.

The Matrix-inspired trend

The Matrix-inspired trend is rocketing, with many adopting a “cyberpunk” style alongside elements of gothic dystopia. It features post-apocalyptic looks and narrates futurism through the luxury lens, introducing the look to the mainstream.

Retrofuturism In Movies

image of the car from the movie back to the future

Retrofuturism has significantly impacted the world of movies, creating visually stunning and thematically rich cinematic experiences.

Film directors and production designers often utilize retrofuturistic elements to transport audiences to captivating worlds that blend the past and the future. 

Some movies with strong retro-futuristic themes include: Back to the Future, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Blade Runner, Tron, and The Matrix.

Back to the Future

The movie features a retro, futuristic hoverboard, a glimpse of what Retrofuturism is all about, returning to the past, which looks at the future.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

The story is set in 1939 in New York, which is invaded by robots, and the main characters are set to fight a German scientist. It is another example of Retrofuturism.

Blade Runner

The 1982 movie is an example from the Cyberpunk genre, exploring another dystopic world where extreme consumerism and reliance on machines are normal, but most people are unhappy and controlled.


The movie is a classic example of Retrofuturism, featuring a world inside a computer where programs are living beings.

The Matrix

The Matrix is a classic example of the fusion of cyberpunk aesthetics and Retrofuturism. The movie is set in a contemporary yet dystopian future where humans are trapped in a simulated reality created by machines.

Why graphic designers love Retrofuturism

retro futuristic graphic design composition
Image credit: Sakke Soini

In essence, graphic designers love Retrofuturism for its nostalgic appeal, visually striking nature, storytelling potential, adaptability, and the opportunity it provides to blend the past with futuristic concepts. 

It sparks creativity, allowing the opportunity to craft visually captivating, conceptually intriguing, and emotionally resonant designs.

Retrofuturism in graphic design is represented by bright colors, computer-inspired typography, curves, and rounded geometric shapes. Here are some of the critical characteristics of Retrofuturism in graphic design:

– Bright colors

– Computer-inspired typography

– Curves and rounded geometry shapes

Designers can use Retrofuturism to remind consumers of the power of idealism and make them feel like they’ve found a safe harbor in the storm.

retrofuturistic composition by kuziola
Image credit: kuziola

Designers can bring Retrofuturism into their designs by taking cues from templates such as the steampunk aesthetic or the space age.

They can also work in general retrofuturist features such as focusing on machines or technology, classic or vintage design features, and a mix of historical and futuristic objects.

Retrofuturism examples and sources of inspiration

Here are some examples of Retrofuturism:

– Tour Of The Universe book from the 80s, which features cutting-edge futuristic images from that time.

– Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) is a film set in 1939 in New York, which is invaded by robots, and the main characters are set to fight a German scientist.

– The 1985 science fiction film Brazil centers on a world where people live in a dystopian reality because of extreme industrialization and over-consumption.

– The art of Simon Stålenhag, a Swedish artist whose retro-futuristic designs can be seen in the famous TV series “Loop.”

– The Neuromancer, The Matrix, and Cyberpunk 2077 are retrofuturistic literature and film examples.

– Retrofuturism posters, movies, books, graphic novels, and futurology magazines can be an excellent place to start for inspiration and references.


To summarize, the retrofuturism movement has widespread appeal because it feeds the human imagination.

Retrofuturism permits daydreaming and prompts the audience to reimagine the future by providing a conceptual and visual archive of possibilities.

It lets designers and creatives explore thought-provoking visuals and experiences that challenge our notions of time, technology, and the human experience.

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