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The Return of the 90s 

As the 90s era makes a swift and stylish comeback, impacting everything from fashion to music, toys, and movie reboots, our Senior Designer Mike finds himself reminiscing about his early career and the web designs and trends of the 90s. Join us as we take a nostalgic trip back in time with Mike.

As someone who focuses on data and objective-driven decision making, the concept and cyclical nature of trends amuses me greatly. Trends, by their very nature, are fleeting and often shallow, so the idea of pinning your web-based marketing on something so unreliable is frankly puzzling. I appreciate my opinions on this may be polarising. Given these strong opinions, my heart sank when I was informed that 90s web design trends were coming back. That decade more than any other was a transitional time – moving away from the garish glitz of the 80s through to the more technology-driven age of the noughties and beyond. Creatively it seemed like a time where anything goes – a golden era for music in particular, with grunge and hip-hop being the big winners not to mention the Spice Girls – yet my overarching memory of it all was that it was all a bit of a mish mash, it didn’t know what it wanted to be so tried to be everything to everybody.

The 90s were the beginning of my web design journey; fresh out of college and into my first role as a Junior Designer I was keen to impress. I learned to build static HTML, table-based websites in my spare time so that we could sell these into clients – I felt like I was on the cutting edge of things, very exciting times. Little did we know we were living in the Dot-Com Bubble. The internet had started to become more available to the masses, despite dial-up being unreliable and expensive for most. Email crept into workplaces, and soon became the interruption we all know and love today. The future was finally here, and opportunity came with it!

My memory of the early years of the internet consists of dodgy fonts, under construction gifs, guestbooks and hit counters… not forgetting the obligatory Splash page before you got the site content itself. Colourful chaos. Why would we ever want to go back to that when websites have come so far?

1. Nostalgia

Nostalgia can be a drug, and thirty years ago the internet was a wild, exciting frontier – very addictive indeed, I promise you. Websites were simple things, often terribly garish, but generally simple in construction and concept. Amongst the neon colours and Comic Sans fonts, people were having fun and staking a claim to their corner of the Net. In today’s digital world, websites have become very sleek, scientific, and often clone-like in appearance. Perhaps we are yearning for the more chaotic and exciting nature of those early years to counter the more mechanical qualities of the modern-day internet.

2. Vibrant Colours and Pixel Art

Neon colours and animated pixel art define that era (and became very cringy very quickly). Yet is cannot be denied that they are bold and playful, adding life and energy. Maybe we could use a bit of that in our modern-day projects, as our websites become more cold and monolithic.

3. Geometric Patterns and Layouts

Geometry was often weaved into the pages of websites back then as integral patterns, and the table-based layouts offered the opportunity for grid orientated displays. They offer a sense of order and structure and are a functional as well as pleasing way to display content.

4. Quirky Typography

Websites today are often so keen to present a professional, slick image that it can come at the cost of personality. That was something that 90s websites had in spades, and there is an opportunity to inject some of that uniqueness into modern day projects. Obviously, it won’t be suitable for everyone, but could we injection a little more life into our typography?

5. Animated GIFs

Originally a quick and easy way to get movement onto your website, they quickly became the bane of most user journeys through volume and overuse. Websites often embraced these garish eyesores or adopted a more evolved form of animation in Macromedia’s Flash (at the cost of load times). Animated GIFs may have a stigma attached to them, but the concept of small, ‘lite’ animations is still very relevant. Or are we actually missing the cheesiness of the 90s version?


The design discipline straddles both the creative and the logical. Inspiration comes from many sources and there is always value in looking back at what has gone before. However, the real skill comes in not lifting a design from another source or era and plonking it wholesale into a new project but evolving the concept to fit the parameters of the new work and make it unique or fresh. With all my cynicism, I can admit that injecting aspects of 90s design into modern websites could produce some exciting results, on the understanding that they are not taken at face value but evolved to fit the now. Do we have an opportunity for some new exciting times?

Are you missing anything from the 90s?

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