How Design History Shapes Today’s Trends

by | Nov 7, 2023 | Handy Info

Mona Lisa pixelated. History of Design image.

Today, we’re hopping on the design history time machine! Prepare to rub elbows with influential designers, explore epic art movements, and witness how these ancient gems still sprinkle their magic in today’s design world. So, strap on those virtual helmets and let’s get going. 


Example of Renaissance-inspired logo.

Our journey kicks off in the 14th century, where all the cool cats were showing off their mad art skills. Yes, it’s the Renaissance, baby! Picture Michelangelo sculpting David and Leonardo da Vinci sketching like a boss. These Renaissance rockstars weren’t just about great hair (although, let’s be honest, they had that too), they laid the foundation for the “less is more” philosophy that modern designers still swear by.

Fast forward to today, and you’ll spot echoes of the Renaissance in minimalist design trends. Think clean lines, balanced compositions, and a focus on the essence of a design. It’s as if Michelangelo and Da Vinci left us their secret design recipe!

Brands that draw inspiration from the art and design principles of the Renaissance include: 

Starbucks: The iconic Starbucks logo, featuring a twin-tailed mermaid or siren, has been influenced by the rich history of maritime imagery. The flowing lines and intricate details in the design echo the elegance and artistry of the Renaissance period.

Adobe: Adobe’s logo incorporates a stylised “A” that resembles a brush stroke. This design choice links back to the artistic expression and craftsmanship during the Renaissance.

Prada: The Prada logo features an ornate, cursive font that exudes luxury and sophistication, reminiscent of the opulent design aesthetics of the Renaissance.

Tiffany & Co.: The Tiffany & Co. logo utilises a simple, elegant font paired with a robin’s egg blue background, reflecting refined craftsmanship and attention to detail, values associated with Renaissance art and design.

Versace: The Medusa head logo of Versace, with its intricate detailing and classical inspiration, pays homage to the art and mythology of ancient Greece and Rome, significant influences on Renaissance art and design.


Example of Art Nouveau inspired logo.

Next stop: the late 19th century, where Art Nouveau was all the rage. This movement was like the original hipster party, boasting intricate details, flowing lines, and organic shapes. Gustav Klimt, Alphonse Mucha, and their crew were all about embracing the beauty of nature and creating designs that were simply dreamy.

Today, Art Nouveau’s influence can be spotted in branding, packaging, and even web design. Those graceful lines and organic forms? They’ve stealthily crept into logos and product designs, injecting a dash of elegance into the modern world.

Art Nouveau, with its flowing lines and intricate details, has left its mark on numerous company logos. Check out these examples:

Airbnb: The Airbnb logo features a simple, flowing “A” formed by a loop, hinting at the organic and decorative characteristics of Art Nouveau.

Ritz-Carlton: The Ritz-Carlton logo incorporates a stylized crown with elegant, swirling lines, reminiscent of the ornate and graceful patterns often found in Art Nouveau design.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM): The iconic roaring lion in the MGM logo is framed by an elaborate, swirling banner that bears a resemblance to the intricate detailing and flowing forms seen in Art Nouveau.

Absinthe Brands: Some absinthe brands, known for their association with Art Nouveau, incorporate the style in their logos, often featuring swirling, decorative elements and nature-inspired imagery.


Example of Bauhaus inspired logo.

Skipping ahead to the early 20th century, we stumble upon the Bauhaus movement. These folks were the rebels of design, tossing out the rulebook and embracing geometric shapes and functionality like never before. Walter Gropius and his gang were all about making design accessible and functional for the masses.

Fast forward to today, and you’ll spot Bauhaus principles in everything from architecture to user interface design. Clean lines, grid-based layouts, and a focus on functionality? Thank you, Bauhaus, for keeping it real!

The Bauhaus movement, renowned for its emphasis on minimalism, functionality, and geometric shapes, has left its mark on countless company logos, including:

Adidas: The iconic logo, featuring three parallel stripes, embodies the Bauhaus principle of clean, simple design with a focus on functionality and form.

Braun: The Braun logo, recognised for its clean lines and minimalist design, reflects the Bauhaus philosophy of simplicity and functionality in product design.

Volkswagen: The Volkswagen logo, sporting a circular shape and bold, sans-serif typeface, encapsulates the Bauhaus aesthetic.

IBM: The IBM logo, characterized by a clean, horizontal stripe design, echoes the Bauhaus principle of simplicity and geometric shapes.

Sony: Sony’s logo, boasting simple, bold lettering, aligns perfectly with the Bauhaus emphasis on clarity and functionality in design.


Example of Mid-Century inspired logo.

Let’s groove into the mid-20th century, where Mid-Century Modern was the epitome of cool. Eames, Saarinen, and more were all about sleek lines, organic shapes, and a love affair with natural materials. They transformed furniture into works of art and defined “cool” as a design ethos.

Today, Mid-Century Modern still dominates the design scene, from interiors to product design. Those iconic chairs and tables? They’re still stealing the spotlight in contemporary spaces. Who would’ve thought the ’50s could be so timeless?

Brands that find inspiration in Mid-Century Modern:

Target: With its simple red bullseye, Target embodies the clean and iconic design elements often associated with Mid-Century Modern aesthetics.

West Elm: West Elm’s logo features a stylised tree, blending organic forms with clean lines, capturing the essence of Mid-Century Modern design in a modern context.

Westinghouse: The Westinghouse logo, though updated over the years, traces back to Mid-Century Modern design. The combination of bold typography with a simple and balanced graphic element reflects the movement’s focus on functional and streamlined design.

It’s worth noting that while these logos draw inspiration from the mentioned periods, they also incorporate modern design elements to establish a unique visual identity for their brands.

So there you have it, design time travelers! From the Renaissance’s minimalist elegance to Art Nouveau’s dreamy details. From Bauhaus’ rebellious spirit to Mid-Century Modern’s cool vibes, history has bestowed upon us design treasures that continue to shape our creative landscape today.

Next time you’re sketching a logo or crafting a killer layout, tip your hat to these design legends of yore. They may have left their mark on history, but their influence lives on in every pixel, every brushstroke, and every beautifully designed space.

Until next time, keep creating, keep innovating, and keep paying homage to the OG design icons! Cheers, and happy designing!

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