Admit it: sometimes you wish you could gel up your fauxhawk, put on those thick-rimmed glasses, hop in the Escalade and hit up your Top 8 one more time. You’ve got nostalgia.

There’s no shame in wanting to bring the 2000s back. And if anyone tells you it’s too soon to rock some vintage Uggs or that the world’s not ready for a cupcake comeback, remind them that Y2K babies will be legal adults this year. Makes you a little nostalgic for the design trends of the decade, doesn’t it? Let’s take a look at the power of nostalgia in design.

2000s era Verizon ad
Remember him? Via BusinessInsider
Sprint ad
Sprint worked 2000s nostalgia into its current series of ads starring Paul Marcarelli. Via gannett-cdn.com

Nostalgia is a sentimental view of the past that momentarily brings you back in time. Music, images, logos and even color schemes can trigger feelings of nostalgia, and companies use it all the time to connect with their consumers on a more comfortable, personal level. Sometimes marketers use nostalgia to court a specific consumer demographic. Other times, it makes a brand feel more wholesome because we often view the past as a simpler, happier time.

Throwback Pepsi and Mountain Dew bottles in an advertisement for the throwback packaging
A retro look to announce a throwback to the product’s original formula.

Brands also use retro packaging to highlight a return to an earlier version of a product—like Pepsi, who promoted a limited edition product sweetened with sugar, rather than high fructose corn syrup.

Want to use design nostalgia? That’s hot.

When you’re trying to incorporate throwback and retro trends into your design, it can be easy to end up with something that just looks dated. The key to working retro trends into your design is to find a way to make them feel fresh instead of just trotting them out for the sake of using an older design.

Using nostalgia should be a deliberate choice. Decide how and why you want to use it. Does playing on your consumers’ fond memories complement your brand? Or does it just feel random?

In 2015, General Mills changed the packaging of a few of their cereals to earlier designs in an effort to evoke nostalgia about their products.

Our favorite 2000s-era trends didn’t spring out of nothing.

Every decade, design trends shift away from trends of the previous decade and build on nostalgia for earlier times. The natural wood tones in 90s decór rejected the excess of the 1980s, which had said no to the earthy 70s. When the 2000s arrived, the revival of 80s glam returned in a creative way that fit with the changing times.

1980s Max Factor ad
The ad’s from the 80s, but wouldn’t look out of place in the 2000s.
man in two pastel polos with popped collars
In design, there’s nothing new. Just reimaginings of things we loved before.

Even today, design trends make heavy use of throwbacks to past decades.

Think about the rustic, folksy feel of the 2010s. Or, to take it in another direction, look at how industrial styles have inspired interior spaces this decade. And consider how “normcore” and “vaporwave” designs make you feel.

Copper Kettle Bakery logo
2010s design trends often involve old-fashioned typefaces and simple, minimalistic image. Via ultrastjarna
pastel image of palm trees and dolphins
The vaporwave aesthetic draws heavily from the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s web design. Via DisplejNejm
normcore ad
Normcore. The aesthetic of looking “normal.”

Nostalgia feels good. It feels like a warm hug from an earlier version of yourself. Just like hugs, there’s no such thing as too much nostalgia. So if you think bringing a smile to your peeps’ faces is the best way to connect them with your product, bring on the velour tracksuits and the emo bangs.

BRB. Gotta relive the 2000s!

Think back to the aughts. Emo hair, pop punk, MySpace. The X Games, XBOX, the RAZR phone.
And a whole lot of bling-bling.

Cam’ron in an all-pink ensemble
In the aughts, pink was for everybody. Via gq.com

From Cam’ron’s all-pink ensemble to pastel popped collars, the aughts were all about fun, bubbly optimism as we collectively celebrated life in the 21st century.

It was finally here! We were living in the future.

The turn of the millennium was a time to turn away from the grunge and grit of the 90s. It was also the era where the internet celebrity was born. With social media, reality TV and YouTube, anybody could make themselves a star.

Remember: this is what the 2000s looked like…

Paris Hilton in 2004 with flip phone
The aughts were when you could be famous for being famous, ala Paris Hilton. Via PopSugar
For the 2007 holiday season, Starbucks gifted us the White Chocolate Mocha. Via staticflickr.com
still image from Numa Numa video
Gary Brolsma (you probably know him better as “Numa Numa Guy”). Via Youtube
2002 Fanta ad
Ads weren’t subtle in the 2000s. Via writemeajingle.com
2000s Honda ad
And they were often non-sequitur. Via The Inspiration Room
Valentino ad
Did we mention the aughts were very pink? Via pzrservices.typepad.com
gem-studded Playstation controlled
An entire decade’s aesthetic summed up in an image. Via smosh.com
Pepsi ad with Mini Cooper
The 2000s were a decade in motion. Via adbranch.com
Hummer H2 ad
And we got around in the brightest, loudest way possible. Via Auto Tuned
2000s mac ad
Lots of beloved commercial characters were born in the 2000s. Via Wikimedia Commons
Geico cavemen commercial still
Like these guys. Via The Inspiration Room
2000s Dell ad
Dude, you’re getting a Dell! Via boygeniusreport.wordpress.com

Serve up some awesome sauce with 2000s design nostalgia

So, how can you work some design nostalgia into your work? Start by capturing the free, fun feeling of the decade. Steer away from the round, black and white images that define 2010s design. Go a little bit more youthful. And when it doubt, go pink.

Cartoon image of a cupcake with the phrase “bake some noise”
To give your cupcake shop that 2000s feel, do this. Via Petite.M
Glow logo
The only way to make pink better was to add glitter. Via TheBluebird
brain with thick rimmed glasses
The aughts made it cool to be a nerd. Via Zombijana Bones
Skate TV logo
In the 2000s, we got around on skateboards. Via DZ-DESIGN.FR
Boo Boards logo
And dressed the part. Via coccus
Take cues from popular images and branding of the day, like this book cover references the iconic iPod silhouette ads. Via Retina99
Cartoon punk guitarist
Unless you were an emo kid, nonconforming as can be. Via MODESING

Retro: it’s all good.

Think about your life in the 2000s. Who were you? What did you like? What did you hope to become? Use that as a springboard to bring a little bit of nostalgia into your current designs.

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