Nostalgia is a powerful feeling; it can drown out anything. - Terrence
That’s right, nostalgia is a feeling, so how do you create a feeling? You dont! Instead, you evoke it. The key thing is to find the right triggers and incorporate them into your design; however, before you start, you must understand how nostalgia works. What people remember isn’t necessarily what happened, and you need to walk that fine line in order to achieve your goal of creating an optimal, nostalgia-driven design. Here are seven tips to help you out.
This process needs to start with audience profiling. What’s the average age of your audience? Once you figure this one out, it’s only a matter of going back in time to their formative years. We’re talking about when they first started spending time online and what the internet looked like.
Remember, however, that you’re not trying to steal other people’s IP. All you need to do is identify the elements of their design. Look at several different sites and figure out what fonts they used. What were the layouts like back then? You don’t have to go into deep statistical analysis; all you need to do is get a general sense and recognize a recurring element or two.
In the previous section, we’ve talked about different eras of the internet; however, why not step outside of these boundaries? Think about it this way: no one used the internet in the 1980s, but does this mean the 1980s theme wouldn’t work?
People deliberately go with retro design on their pages, and it gives incredible results. This is especially the case when things are thematically appropriate. TV shows and video games in these eras have extra reasons to abuse this trend, so why not do so yourself? For this, you might want to do some research on the history of your industry and pick something notable.
According to specialists behind a renowned webflow design agency, you’re trying to use nostalgia, not travel back in time. Therefore, you could consider researching relevant eras and combining elements from different periods. Remember, these are just trends and not strict rules you must abide by.
This allows you to combine nostalgic elements with modern ones. Remember, you’re not just aiming to replicate a UI from the past. This is a simple thing, and if it weren’t a copyright infringement, you could just find a design that’s no longer in use and “borrow” it. No, what you’re trying to do is make something new. So, borrow a few elements and, even better, borrow some inspiration from these designs. Just for everyone’s sake, avoid plagiarism.
Another thing to remember is the importance of making the right selection of imagery. Just think about it: there are so many items from this era’s past, but you probably don’t recall all of them. Some images, icons, and elements are just more “iconic” than others, which is why you need to stick to them.
The process of discovering which elements to use is the simplest thing in the world - all you have to do is look up the keyword of the era that you want to use and select the first items that you discover. Those that rank the best will usually be the most recognizable ones. It’s a simple trick but an effective one.
When people think of nostalgic designs, what they remember are two things:
Sure, they like the dial-up aesthetics, but they might not be too fond of the loading times. This is something that they’ve probably repressed. However, this is your opportunity to shine. You can give them all they want (the feeling and the aesthetics) while giving them higher responsiveness and all the quality-of-life upgrades they’re now taking for granted.
Just think of it this way: if they could try the “old design” in its authentic state, they would be deeply displeased. This is not an empty statement, either. An average online user gets frustrated if the site doesn’t load within two seconds.
In other words, they want something that looks retro, not something that’s actually retro.
Previously, we’ve mentioned that you’re trying to evoke an emotion. This is the very point when creating websites that tell a story. Of your design, to begin with, so why not create a narrative or backstory that can connect your design to the past?
You see, a narrative is relatively easy to construct if you have some pointers.
First of all, you need to put users’ personal experiences at the forefront. Sure, everyone has had a different life, but you would be surprised at how many common events there are. Try to send them back to that particular moment by appealing to all of their senses. What’s in the oven? What show is on the TV? What’s blasting from the radio? This is a part of your experience and can be incorporated into your design nicely.
The art of storytelling can help to engage and captivate your audience, making your message more memorable. By leveraging principles of storytelling in presentation, you can create a compelling narrative that enhances the nostalgic experience.
Why not play around a bit? After all, graphic design automation frees time on menial tasks and allows you to try out more ideas before settling on a definitive choice.
As we’ve already mentioned several times before - people are chasing a memory, not a factual state of things. This means it’s more important to recreate the memory as they remember it than as it happened. In other words, being true to the overall feel of the era is more important than being completely accurate to how things were. Authenticity is more important than fidelity.
With that in mind, you might want to survey your own. Ask people what they remember from that era and use their memories more than archives. This way, you’ll give them what they want on the plate, and they’ll be none the wiser.
Ultimately, you’re a designer, and your ultimate goal is to produce a great design. This means you should use any element that helps you get closer to that goal. In the case where we weren’t clear - you’re only using nostalgia as a tool to increase the appeal of your design, not trying to evoke it for nostalgia’s sake.
Author: Nebojsa is a seasoned professional in the SEO and link-building industry with significant expertise and a history of leading successful teams. With a keen focus on client satisfaction, our team at Heroic Rankings has built a reputation for hard work, high standards, and consistent results.