• Olly Jordan

Chapter 36 - Teen Choice - Have the 80's made a Return in Modern Design? - Uni 3rd Year 2017/18

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

When looking into current trends of design, I would say that neon is very much taking over the world at the moment with shows like ‘Riverdale’ and ‘Stranger Things’, as well as films like 'Thor Ragnarok' taking to a very 80’s feeling.

Case Studies: Stranger Things, Riverdale, Thor Ragnarok

Stranger Things

‘Stranger Things’ is a show on Netflix that is set in the 80’s where the children have to help save the world from an outbreak of creatures from another dimension breaking through into the real world and wreaking havoc. You can see in the promotion posters that the children have been edited to just a duo-toned red and blue colour palette. These are the colours used throughout the show quite a lot. The logo below is one that when animated, glows like a neon sign.


‘Riverdale’ is also a hit show on Netflix at the moment which is currently running it’s fourth season, but was on it's second season at the time of making this Teen Choice project. You can see that similarly to ‘Stranger Things’, neon and duo toned red and blue colours are being used within the colour palette of the promotion posters. ‘Riverdale’ is not actually set in the 80’s like ‘Stranger Things’ is, but it clearly has a similar design aesthetic going on.

Thor Ragnarok

Current design being influenced by the 80’s is not limited to TV shows, it can also be seen in films as well as in many other places. But one very fitting example of the 80’s being reborn in current design is the use of design in ‘Thor Ragnarok’. It is being used very efficiently in the promotion posters there too, but in a different way to what ‘Riverdale’ and ‘Stranger Things’ previously have.

Obviously, two of my three actors I am choosing to work with are from this film, so that makes it interesting to discuss how the design of the promotion material has been used here. Yes, it could be said that a duotone is being used here - red and green. But what it is that makes this design feel very 80’s is the way that a combination of neon and geometric shapes have been used.

Further Research into 2018 Being Inspired by the 80's

‘10 Graphic Design Trends to Watch in 2018


1. Responsive Logos 2. Gradients 3. More depth (with semi-flat design) 4. Dashing duotones 5. Palettes & patterns inspired by the 80’s and 90’s 6. Movement: animation & GIFs 7. Bold typography 8. Custom graphic art and illustration 9. Authentic photography 10. Highly-detailed vintage’ With just this list and not knowing any information about what the details are for each in the list, it is clear that ‘Riverdale’, ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Thor Ragnarok’ all follow quite a lot of the things on the list - gradients, dashing duotones, palettes & patterns inspired by the 80’s and 90’s, bold typography. It could be said that this article really does speak the truth and that 80’s really is everywhere in design now.

The article continues: ‘Duotones are traditionally created through a halftone printing process where the halftone printing process where one halftone is printed on top of another of a contrasting color, creating two-toned image. This fundamental printing technique has found life in digital media. Imaging software has made it easier than ever to create duotones, as well as related variations like monotones, tritones, quadtones and “fake duotones” (tinted images).’

‘Palettes & patterns inspired by the 80’s & 90’s From pretty pastels (“millennial pink”, anyone?) to electric hues, color schemes from the 80’s and 90’s have been gaining popularity once again. With the movement away from ultra-flat designs, expect to see the abstract and geometric patterns inspired by the era move from the fringes into the mainstream as well. As children of the 80’s and 90’s become more prominent and influential as both brand leaders and key target audiences, this trend can add visual excitement as well as a touch of nostalgia to your designs.’

As you can see with the examples above as well as the descriptions to go along with it, 80’s and duotones are very in at the moment, the graphic font used in the ‘Bliss Thai’ brand above has helped confirm to me that my kind of typography from my logo would really suit the current movements that are all around us in design because it is so expressive.

Looking deeper again into the origin of the 80’s aesthetic, I came across a video that discusses some of the designers of the time.

The Origin of the 80’s Aesthetic


‘The 80’s set the trend for bright colours, graphic pattern, and geometric shapes.’ ‘The Memphis Group dominated the design world in the 80’s, the collective led by Italian architect Ettore Sottsass came together in 1981. The had a huge impact on the postmodern designs of the decade. GLENN: Memphis is probably as influential as a design group there has ever been. And they did originate a lot of that visual vocabulary. So I give them a lot of credit for the look of the ‘80s for sure. Although the majority were Italians, (Ettore Sottsass, Marco Zanini, Andrea Branzi, Aldo Cibic, Marco Znausa, Massimo Iosa Ghini, Matteo Thun, Michele De Lucchi, Giovanni Levanti, Beppe Caturegli), the group had architects and designers from all around the world. Japan, France, Britain, Austria, America… And unlike the name, the group wasn’t from Tennessee, they were actually based in Milan, Italy. The name Memphis came from a Bob Dylan song that was playing during a meeting.’

‘Radical design was a movement-formed by architects in reaction to the minimal and practical aesthetics of modernism. Radical design allowed designers to express distortion and irony, moving far away from functionality of design.’

‘But despite the impact that the group had, their furniture never quite made it into people’s homes. GLENN Adamson, senior scholar, Yale Center of British Art: It was very very unusual to decorate with Memphis at the time. There is only one single piece of furniture from Memphis that was ever mass produced and that’s the First Chair. I think about 3000 of those were made.'

‘A brilliant idea and a terrible chair.’ ‘The life of the Memphis Group was short lived, 6 years to be exact. And even though their designs failed to serve a function in people’s homes, they left a colourful mark in history and inspired many designers to come.’

‘The designs have a distinctive look that continues to come up time and again. And that’s how design works sometimes, it often spreads around the world without the designers’ names attached. So even if you recognise this look as the look of the 80’s, most people probably have never heard of Memphis at all.’ It has been very interesting listening to the history of the 80’s and how it has inspired the times of today. Continuing on with my own research however, I can see a couple of directions that my branding could head into.

Here are just a couple of examples of typography and branding that I have come across while searching the internet. The typography is very bold and expressive in the examples above, much like my own typography, but it has been elevated to create an 80’s feel by having a glow or a coloured drop shadow beneath it. The use of geometric shapes and gradients are what I think could work nicely in my favour when it comes to creating the branding for my portraits and 2018 Teen Choice. I think it would be a good idea to keep with a cool colour palette like pink and blue, not only because it screams what is currently happening on TV and film with ‘Riverdale’ and ‘Stranger Things’, nor because it matches with the cool colours of previous Teen Choice logo designs, but it also gives a heavy and instant suggestion to being inspired by the 80’s. Experimentation of branding and typography will be key for my work over the next couple of days - experimenting with print processes, mark making, colour combinations, gradients, layering, background vs. portrait vs. foreground?

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