Vintage logos are powerful. If you drew one in the sand on an empty beach, a hundred hipsters would instantly emerge from the sea, looking for adventure, freshly ground coffee, and scented beard oil.
Vintage is the sign of the open road, the Walt Whitman of logo styles. It insists on rugged self-reliance, a love of the good earth, and on facing the unknown with whatever tools you happen to have at hand.
And while a vintage logo is sometimes hard to define, you know when you see one. So saddle up and dust off your pre-faded H&M work boots, because we’re about to go lookin’.
What makes a logo ‘vintage’, anyway?
At its heart, vintage is about storytelling. Think prohibition-era USA, or the Golden Age of Exploration. Think mountaineers, pioneers, and Henry David Thoreau in his cabin with a Herschel backpack.
Vintage brands are a nostalgic departure from the present to some faraway time and place. Often, this takes the form of going back to your roots with visual elements that refer to an old pedigree, heritage, or tradition. Whiskey-makers, for instance, still use the same techniques they have for decades, so it makes sense to incorporate this into their brand identity.
At other times, Vintage inspires a restlessness for the outdoors. A good vintage logo should make you want to immediately quit your job and hit the road, maybe stopping briefly at Cabela’s, before plunging onward into the wilderness. (Disclaimer: don’t do this, a bear WILL eat you).
From liquor companies to adventure gear and coffee shops, vintage is a versatile style favored by an eclectic group of industries.
However, it’s important to note that vintage logos aren’t industry-specific. It’s the underlying themes like self-reliance and – paradoxically – togetherness and teamwork, that often make vintage logos so appealing to some sectors.
But how does a vintage logo actually look? Here are a few pointers to get you started:
Common themes and symbols in a vintage logo
A vintage brand identity or logo often involves one or more of these visual themes:
And they often contain one or more of the following motifs:
- Faded textures
- A cursive flourish of text (usually, the brand’s name)
- All-caps trademark text (telling you what the company does and when it was established)
- Farm tools
As we mentioned, these aren’t hard rules, but guidelines to help you orient yourself.
Famous brands with vintage logos
Studying famous vintage brands is a great way to prepare for designing your own logo. Here are a few of our favorites!
The logo that reads like a six-word Hemingway story: “Old No.7 Brand. Tennessee Whiskey.” Say no more. Jasper ‘Jack’ Newton Daniel’s famous charcoal-mellowed whiskey has a classic vintage design, known the world over.
If we say “vintage” and you don’t instantly imagine yourself in a pair of Levi’s, do you even have legs? Although they recently went through a logo evolution, Levi Strauss still incorporates the original trademark on its clothing and jeans from time to time.
Herschel Supply Co
Two Sasky boys from the prairies of Herschel, SK, who now run one of the most successful clothing and backpack brands in the world. Herschel is a great example of a vintage logo that’s inspired by a brand’s homegrown roots.
Now we don’t mean to curse, but Cabela’s is a gosh darn Canadian icon! With a more subtle vintage feel, the Cabela’s logo still uses common vintage motifs like a simple cursive wordmark logo in a vintage color palette.
You’ve just pulled into port after spending a long week tangled up in the main sheet. Your poop deck is totally swabbed, your new tattoo is peeling because you forgot to keep it out of the sun, and your Dropkick Murphy’s CD got eaten by a narwhal. At least while you’re drowning your sorrows, you can admire one of the best vintage logos ever.
Design your vintage logo now!
10 vintage logo examples
It’s not just famous brands that use vintage logos. Let’s take a look at a few more examples to help you understand why these vintage logos work!
A beautiful prohibition-era vintage style with overtones of art deco, this tea seller in Bordeaux has a fantastic logo and brand identity to match. Rice Creative has done a great job using color and line to encapsulate their client’s customer experience; a bright gold against a dark palette invokes the richness and aroma of the fine tea that La Diplomate sells.
Farm Boy is an organic market-style grocer based out of Canada. Its logo perfectly encapsulates vintage style with a rough, imperfect sketch, all caps Serif font, and curved container.
A great, Herschel-esque clothing logo. The designer does a great job showing how even simple arrangements of text and texture can combine to give a vintage feel.
Cbt.design incorporates subtle color tones into this vintage-inspired logo. The muted pastels and faded textures combine to give just the right vibe for Farmer’s Union Coffee Roasters.
Adding a monogram logo design gives this butcher great flexibility for different platforms. Think about what elements you might take from your ‘full’ logo to use in a monogram. What is the defining feature of your logo as it is? Could it be turned into a monogram somehow?
Beatles lyrics! Exotic birds! Color! Texture! (begins hyperventilating). Basically, this is a beast of a logo. A great use of contrasting font to tell a story, unified within one beautiful vintage logo mark.
Kowaleski and Co. (whose own logo is awesome) have an amazing range of vintage logos, from barbershops to indy grocery stores.
Truly stunning text pieces by Polish designer Mateus Witczak. Witczak uses a tattoo-script inspired style to tell stories using just words and their shape. A unique take on using shape to convey meaning in logos.
Made in our very own logo maker, this logo combines a vintage color palette with an old-style film camera and heavy typeface for that ultimate vintage feel.
One more for the road. Notice how this hand-drawn proposal piece by Dalibor Momcilosvic incorporates the word ‘tavern’ into the flare of the cursive text. Really cool!
Tips for designing a vintage logo
The first question to ask yourself is: is vintage the right style for my industry? If you work in Cybersecurity, the chances are it’s not. Vintage pairs well with services and products that have pre-existing mythology, tools that have evolved over time, and traditional ways of doing things.
If you answered the above question and still want to know how to make a logo in the vintage style, there are a few things to remember:
Vintage logos don’t have to include the visual elements we mentioned above, but they do often have a distinct ‘theme’. Generally, this is a set of characteristics that transport you to another place and time and inspire a sense of curiosity.
When designing your logo, think about the objects that directly relate to your industry. You don’t have to be a brewer or a clothing company for this to work. Look at old signage, trademarks, photographs of your city back in the day, or watch old movies to get a sense of how things looked. Start building a visual catalog for yourself.
If you’re making a logo for your barbershop, for example, look at old pairs of scissors, classic haircuts, and vintage tattoo culture. Collect as much classic visual ephemera as you need to help you decide on:
Just to show you that anyone can make a vintage logo, here’s one I rustled up in 5 minutes using our logo maker.
I kept things simple, using basic but effective elements to tell a story. The inkwell for the i-dot was super simple to achieve, by just adding a symbol and getting creative with the positioning.
For the brand text, I chose a vintage font and only capitalized the ‘O’, giving it a little bit of dynamism and setting up the shape of the logo nicely.
For the trademark text, I told a story about what I do. ‘Copywriter’ is about as interesting as the resume it’s written on, so I switched things up and told a story.
And for colors, I chose a nice complimentary setup between a rich, dark teal and a bright but muted yellow.
With a little flash of character, anyone can make a vintage logo in no time!
Ultimately, vintage is a style that tells a story, and a vintage logo is a great way to start that story. If you’re looking to capture a sense of adventure, or perhaps a nostalgia for bygone days, a vintage logo is a great way to do just that.
Overall, the best way to create a brand is to fall in love with the process and tie it to your own personality. Yes, it’s about your customers, but it’s who you are that will resonate with your customers most.
So embrace that wanderlust, journey back into the past, and make a kick-ass vintage logo design for your brand today!