For people that were around in the 90s, there are two pieces of news that is sure going to at least provoke a reaction out of you guys. The first is that Space Jam 2, the sequel to 1996’s Space Jam, that absurd mash-up of a film where basketball great Michael Jordan played on the same team with Bugs Bunny and other Looney Tunes characters, is finally confirmed for release on July 16, 2021. The second is that Marvel has finally unveiled the official website for the Captain Marvel film, which carries a neat 90s aesthetic that is not unlike the website for the original Space Jam film that is somehow still accessible even to this day.
Space Jam was actually one of the first films I remember watching at a cinema and even though I haven’t seen that film again in over two decades, there are scenes and images from that film that I still fondly remember, especially that shot of Jordan’s elongated arm near the climax of the film. Nostalgia can be a powerful drug and as can be seen with the success of anything that’s considered retro or vintage, they can definitely be used as a marketing gimmick. That Captain Marvel website has even shown that this nostalgia has a place in the world of web development as well.
The surging of nostalgia in pop culture
As has been mentioned before, there’s the upcoming Captain Marvel that aims to adapt Marvel Cinematic Universe into a 90s setting the way the first Captain America film uses WW2 as a backdrop. Last year’s Ready Player One and Ralph Breaks the Internet leans heavily into the nostalgia factor by including numerous pop culture references that stretches way back into the 70s all the way up to the contemporary era. And these are just some of the examples in film; other industries too have taken note of the potential of nostalgia.
Recent Grammy winner Greta Van Fleet is pretty much a Led Zeppelin cover band at this point with one notable publication describing them as “overly precious retro-fetishism”. In the world of video games, we’re seeing the trend of pixel art, where the game’s graphics is rendered using pixels more common to the 8-bit and 16-bit era instead of the more modern polygonal graphics. Other than their clear attempt of mining things from a bygone era, they all have one thing in common, they’re wildly popular.
If decades ago the one advertising trick people like to fall back on is that sex sells, in 2019 it’s nostalgia that sells and what I find to be interesting is that they’re also popular with people who aren’t old enough to recognize where they came from. I have a cousin still in high school that can’t get enough of Stranger Things even though he’s never seen E.T. or any of Amblin classics from that era. Utilizing nostalgic aspects is actually pretty easy to do in web development as there are multiple elements you could take advantage of in any given webpage.
Use retro illustrations on your website
Are you familiar with the role-playing video game series Fallout? In case you aren’t, here’s a quick overview. Fallout is a series of post-apocalyptic role-playing video game set mostly in the 23rd century after a series of nuclear blasts in late 21st century devastated most of the earth. What’s unique about Fallout is that despite being set in the future, it uses graphics and sounds from the 50s, lending the series an instantly iconic look compared to the rest of the industry.
Pictures speak a thousand words and as with Fallout, one of the things you could do to evoke past eras is by using images that are reminiscent of a given era. Use vintage fonts or include popular items that you think best represent a period you’re going for. In Fallout, there’s this fictional in-game soda named Nuka-Cola and it’s easy to imagine art for the fictional brand being used to promote the very real Coca-Cola in the past. If you’re unsure of where to start, try looking at vintage posters that are related to your industry.
Bring back vintage designs for your product
Take a look at the wide range of mirrorless cameras available in the market and you’ll notice that the majority of them look strikingly similar to classic rangefinders from Leica, who also has a line of modern M cameras still using the same design carried from the 50s. My trusty Olympus E-M10 actually uses a similar aesthetic and I have to admit, it looks downright fantastic. This isn’t just strictly for your website, but if you’re considering of where to go with your next product, the past could give you several inspirations.
Try using throwback pictures
This is a bit like the 10 year challenge that went a viral earlier in 2019. Nothing can make people more nostalgic than to see just how much things have (or haven’t) changed in the intervening years. Side-by-side photos of a landmark or a specific place could be used for this purpose. This is pretty neat and you could also showcase your older and newer works in a single image and who knows, you might find a new audience for something you’ve done in the past.
Go all in with retro website
If you’re willing to fully commit, go the Captain Marvel route by designing a website that looks as if it’s lifted straight out of the 90s. You should be careful however as this can be a pretty divisive move. Some of the people I’ve shown it understands what Marvel was going for but claims that it looks tacky while others simply say that it looks bad. I mean, I can see what they’re talking about but since it’s just a website for a film, I don’t think we’re supposed to take it seriously.
If you’re curious, take a look at Neocities, a web builder that takes the spirit of Geocities and apply them to the 21st century. A lot of the websites in Neocities are decidedly retro but from the pages that I’ve seen, they don’t look as old as the Captain Marvel website, which I think went a little bit too far with the nostalgia. I don’t necessarily think that going all in with retro website is a viable idea but if it’s something for a limited time promotion, I think going retro could definitely work.