Graphic Design Through the Decades: The ’80s

The 1980s were so totally tubular that it can be challenging to find authentic graphic design from that decade – so much of what is on the Internet is actually current and was only inspired by the ’80s. And why not? Carrying the brashness of ’70s graphic design over, the Me Decade was all about grabbing attention, with its bold, neon colors, jagged typography and hair-raising styles.

The ’80s saw the launch of such memorable ad campaigns as “Where’s the beef?” from Wendy’s, “Just do it” from Nike, “Be all that you can be” from the U.S. Army and “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” Urban culture became mainstream through movies such as “Breakin’” and “Krush Groove,” with the fashions and designs infiltrating themselves into pop culture and advertising.

What were some of your favorite campaigns to come out of the ’80s?

Note the disco text effect that carried over from the ’70s.

The “Just Do It” ad campaign, launched in 1988, was chosen by Advertising Age as one of the top five ad slogans of the 20th century.

Artist Patrick Nagel was perhaps best known for designing Duran Duran’s “Rio” album cover.

Inspiration for Dharma products in “Lost?”

Japanese graphic artists also turned toward brighter hues in the ’80s.

Kodak’s 1987 logo redesign.

The skin-ripping skull adorned many skateboards and hoodies back in the day.

The ubiquitous ’80s logo: blocky text in pastel colors.

This 1981 cult classic starred a very young Diane Lane.

Even the Rolling Stones couldn’t escape the trends of the decade.

Heavy metal of that decade tended toward shock and gore.

A lot of ’80s design incorporated the American flag in some way with stripes and red, white and blue.

The 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles followed that same trend.

Microsoft introduced the Windows operating system in 1985 – note Microsoft is following the line trend in its name.

More of the popular “liney” text effect, like with the 1984 Olympics logo.

The short-lived McDLT was an environmental controversy with its extensive styrofoam packaging.

The phrase “just say no” was first uttered by First Lady Nancy Reagan in 1982.

Co-founder Shawn Stussy used to scrawl his surname on his handcrafted surfboards with a marker.

Before becoming parody fodder, Sylvester Stallone received critical acclaim for “First Blood.”

The font for Mattel Electronics is so cliche 1980s.

The selective color stands up to the severe hairstyle.

Time magazine made curious use of selective color in this 1983 cover.

The Swashbuckler Bowl featured skulls and serif fonts. UPDATE: Totally wrong decade! Thanks to commenters for pointing out my error. Which Super Bowl of the 1980s would you include?

Rolling Stone’s font and header matched Jim McMahon’s headband.

The album cover font resembles neon tubing – a popular text effect of the decade.

In 1984, most Visa credit cards began to feature a hologram of a dove.

So much text in this ad – and all of it in a serif font.

Be sure to check out our ’50s, ’60s and ’70s posts in the Graphic Design Through the Decades Series.