How Design History Shapes Today’s Trends

by | Nov 7, 2023 | Handy Info

Mona Lisa pixelated. History of Design image.

Today we’re taking a trip through the time machine of design history. We’ll be rubbing elbows with influential designers, checking out epic art movements, and discovering how these ancient gems still sprinkle their magic in today’s design world. So, let’s put on our virtual helmets and 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 see echoes of the Renaissance in minimalist design trends. Think clean lines, balanced compositions, and an emphasis on the essence of a design. It’s like Michelangelo and Da Vinci left us their secret design recipe!

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

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 a sense of luxury and sophistication. Reminiscent of the opulent design aesthetics of the Renaissance.

Tiffany & Co.: The Tiffany & Co. logo employs a simple, elegant font paired with a robin’s egg blue background. This combination reflects a sense of 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, nods to the art and mythology of ancient Greece and Rome. A significant influence 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, with intricate details, flowing lines, and organic shapes. Gustav Klimt, Alphonse Mucha, and their gang were all about embracing the beauty of nature and creating designs that were, in a word, dreamy.

Today, you’ll find Art Nouveau’s influence in branding, packaging, and even web design. Those graceful lines and organic forms? They’ve snuck their way into logos and product designs, adding a touch of elegance to the modern world. 

Art Nouveau, with its flowing lines and intricate details, has influenced multiple company logos. Here are a few examples:

Airbnb: Airbnb’s logo features a simple, flowing “A” formed by a loop. This can be interpreted as a nod to the organic and decorative characteristics of Art Nouveau.

Ritz-Carlton: The Ritz-Carlton logo incorporates a stylised 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 guys were the punk rockers of design, tossing out the rulebook and embracing geometric shapes and functionality like never before. Walter Gropius and his crew were all about making design accessible and functional for the masses.

Fast forward to now, and you’ll find 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, known for its emphasis on minimalism, functionality, and geometric shapes, has influenced countless company logos including:

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

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

Volkswagen: The Volkswagen logo, with its circular shape and bold, sans-serif typeface, embodies the Bauhaus aesthetic.

IBM: The IBM logo, featuring a clean, horizontal stripe design, reflects the Bauhaus principle of simplicity and geometric shapes.

Sony: Sony’s logo, with its simple, bold lettering, aligns 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 bee’s knees. Eames, Saarinen, and more were all about sleek lines, organic shapes, and a love affair with natural materials. They turned furniture into works of art and made “cool” a design ethos.

Today, Mid-Century Modern is still rocking the design world, from interiors to product design. Those iconic chairs and tables? They’re still stealing the show in contemporary spaces. Who knew the ’50s could be so timeless?

Brands that draw inspiration from 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, which combines organic forms with clean lines, capturing the essence of Mid-Century Modern design in a contemporary context.

Westinghouse: The Westinghouse logo, while updated over the years, has roots in Mid-Century Modern design. The combination of clean, bold typography with a simple and balanced graphic element reflects the movement’s emphasis on functional and streamlined design.

It’s important to note that while these logos may draw inspiration from the periods mentioned above, they also incorporate modern design elements to create a unique visual identity for their respective brands.

So there you have it, design time travellers! From the Renaissance’s minimalist elegance to Art Nouveau’s dreamy details. From Bauhaus’ rebel yell to Mid-Century Modern’s cool cat vibes, history has gifted us with design treasures that continue to shape our creative landscape today.

Next time you’re sketching out 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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