20th Century Print Design Is Alive And Well On The Web

What's old is new again when it comes to the future of web design. Inno Garage designers find inspiration in 20th century print layouts for responsive websites.

As designers, we try our best to innovate constantly, but much of our work can find its structural and stylistic roots in print design from the 20th century. From books to billboards, the influence of physical media can be sensed throughout the internet. This is truer than ever with the influx of Flat Design/Flat UI, responsive layouts.

Print ad from 1993 vs. Tiffany & Co. in 2013
Although the presentation medium has changed drastically, layouts that feature large dramatic photography and strong typography are timeless. With bandwidth ever increasing, rich photography has taken center stage and pushed the small boxed-in and typographically bankrupt websites of the early to mid aughts into obsolescence. Solutions like Google Web Fonts and Typekit are also influencing this movement. Multi-column layouts, drop-caps, blockquotes and other hallmarks of print design are now commonplace.

Timex ad from the 1970’s vs. Nixon.com 2013
Magazine-type layouts are now commonplace amongst ecommerce sites especially those of fashion brands. Designers are no longer feeling the pressure to use flash(y) technologies simply because something is on the internet. They are focused on clean, easy to use interfaces that place branding on equal footing with functionality.

Print advertisement from the 1980’s or modern ecommerce site?
Responsive web design is a technique for creating a single page that works seamlessly on any sized screen. We tend to think of it as a modern set of problems to solve but many of the design challenges associated with it have been tackled in the past with brochure and pamphlet design. Maintaining engagement on the “cover” while making all other content easily accessible and usable when the pamphlet is unfolded. It might be a bit of a stretch to call a brochure responsive, but I think some of the concepts carry over.

Responsive Design?
Although designing for the internet certainly creates unique challenges, high-quality design will always remain universal. Technology has reached a point where it is not a hinderance and we can deliver rich, print style layouts on the internet. While it is great to try and raise the bar and innovate with new work, it is never a bad idea to look to the past for solutions.