Embracing my geek nostalgia to the max

Thuy Gia Nguyen
Dec 13, 2018 · 7 min read

Being a multidisciplinary designer doesn’t necessarily mean that life gets any easier for you. It might land you some good jobs, but your internal fear of losing your artistic skills is quite the opponent to fight. At least mine is. Mine is very egoistic, eager and lustful for new ways to do things and new angles into the visual world just so it can be prepare for whatever challenge the future might hold. And it always wants more. “Deeper Thuy! More! More!”.
And if it gets hold on an opportunity to do something it has been lusting for, it is game over for me. Night sleep, goodbye!

That other side of me, mo-capped by Andy Serkis

The brief

That is basically what happened to me when Pernille, who was arranging Tech Day at FINN.no, slacked me and said that she had heard that I was the “Sticker Guy” at FINN and wondered if I could help them make a logo and sticker for the conference. Apparently you get that title after helping out with one sticker. The conference had never had a logo before so they were basically up for anything. There was this one thing she did want though.
-“I want holographic stickers, Thuy! That would be really cool!”.

What I’ve learned throughout my career is that boring and demotivating projects is usually never worth the effort. So if I can affect what somebody wants me to use my artistic skills for, I usually do.

-“I need complete creative freedom!” –I told Pernille.
-“Yeah, sure, whatever. Will you do it or not?” she said.
-“Yeah, yeah, yeah of course!” I said.

Little did she know that I had been waiting for an opportunity like this for a while.

My nostalgia for 80s retro-futurism

Ever since I was a kid growing up in the 80’s and 90’s I’ve always had this facination for these shiny, chrome like logos you saw in TV-shows, video games and movie posters. They were stark, bold, shiny and super cool. When you saw these logos you wanted to do the “🤟🏿-sign” while you nod your head and say YEEEAH!.

I’ve had the opportunity to make such logos a couple of times but never gone to the true depths. But when you get the opportunity to make a logo for a bunch of geeks at work that mostly grew up in that era, that contains the word TECH and they also want it to be with a holographic effect you don’t hesitate. You just have to grab it and start running.

This was my call to share my love and nostalgia for the atmosphere of the 1980s culture.


I did a couple of days of inspiration seeking on Pinterest gathering the details of the expression, tone of voice, ambience, typography and style before I went into designing the actual logo. I really wanted to get this one right. For one, if people at my workplace knew what hidden talents I had, they might give me more of what I loved to do. And second, I just didn’t know when I would get to do this again.

Last time I had a chance to do this was 2 years ago, when me and my design team at Hyper decided to make a physical card game based on all 70 employees.

A physical card game me and my design team at Hyper made for Christmas 2016

My heroes

Although my Pinterest board was filled with great examples, I wouldn’t be right to leave out some of the logos that had inspired me most in my upbringing in front of the TV set. My heroes that shaped my childhood and youth.

Distant desert landscape

The Transformers

This logo is one of the obvious ones. It has this cool robot-metal thing going on. And no retrowave logo can be without the barren desert reflection.

So masculine!

He-Man and the masters of the universe

So glossy, bold and masculine. Thick three-dimensional typography. Heavy colour contrast between the warm red and the icy blue tones of the chrome.

James White — Signal noise

It’s not per se a true 80s reference, but I’ve been following James White for a while. I actually think he makes a living out of making 80s retrowave logos. It is so inspiring to see how he takes inspiration from all kinds of 80s logos and mash them together into the most mesmerising artpieces.
Check out his amazing work at: https://signalnoise.com

It’s also interesting to see how the 80s retrowave style has reached the silver screen in recent years, especially amongst Marvels blockbusters «Thor: Ragnarok» and «Guardians of the galaxy».

The recipe

In short, this is my list of 5 things your retrowave logo should contain:

  1. Deep and dark colours. Think of deep space.
  2. A thick primary 3D typography with a chrome like finish that reflects a barren landscape. Preferably a desert.
  3. A secondary handwritten typography
  4. A wireframe grid in perspective to draw the viewer inwards.
  5. Lots of neon glow. Preferably cyan and/or magenta. The clue is to pop it out from the dark background.

Oh boy did my ego go all the way

For weeks I couldn’t think about anything else than chrome laden typography and neon lights. I woke up several times during the night with ideas on how to pop it just a little bit more. A new neon tube light I could add to the deep space background. How I could solve multiple layers of masking of gradients to achieve what I was aiming for.

My ego at the middle of the night

With or without sleep, for a guy that started designing apps in 2009 and that rejoiced in the skeuomorphic days of iOS it was truly wonderful to once again play with glossy surfaces, drop shadows, heavy gradients, lens flares and lazer lights again. Especially since such details are frowned upon in the modern day society where everything is supposed to be flat, minimal and ambientless.
(Note: I definitely agree with you that the era of content-first that came with iOS 7 was an important move to make us learn how to make UI around content. More on that in a different post).

That warm Darth Vader style neon strobe up against the icy cold chrome
Flares,check! Neon, check! Chrome, check! Barren landscape, check! Deep space, check! Wireframe, check!
All of its glory

Hold on, Pernille asked you for a sticker, not a desktop wallpaper

Well, yes. But again, you need to understand that my ego doesn’t work that way. It always wants to know what more can be found behind the next hill. Setting up camp is for wussies. Let’s move on! More! More!

Eventually I did get to the stickers, and boy did they turn out great! The holographic material gave the logo this extra dimension of chrome on top of the fake chrome that I had created.


Beers for everyone!

What’s great about FINN.no is that they really love to praise and make the people working there feel that they are appreciated. It is therefore very fortunate that I also co-own and act as a lead illustrator in a beer brewery in Norway called Skifjorden Bryggeri. That way I can supply FINN.no with beer and custom labels for their events, they can support my side gig and everyone at the event can hashtag their Instagram posts. Everybody wins.
And if you combine that opportunity with a kick ass retrowave logo. Boom! You’ve got yourself a custom made Tech Day beer for everyone at the conference.

One more thing…

As it seemed, over the next next hilltop waited a kickass title sequence for the logo. Apparently it also had a nice VHS effect to it to make it just a little bit more nostalgic.

Any good logo needs a good teaser intro. Music by JoeJeremiah

Check out the genius 8-Bit talent Joe Jeremiah

More than meets the eye

So it’s fair to say that this little project escalated to unreasonable heights. Especially for a rather small internal conference. But boy did me and my ego have fun doing it. How often do you get a chance to make an 80s retrowave logo on a holographic sticker and a custom beer label for a conference filled with a bunch of geeks like myself anyways?

“Stay hungry, stay foolish” — Steve Jobs

I am so grateful that FINN.no really knows how to treat their employees with little extra details. And most of all I am thankful that I get to live out my wet dream of pretending to be a designer in the glorious days of the 1980s.

FINN.no Blog – Product, Design, and Tech

Posts from the people building the world’s greatest marketplace

Thanks to Elvis Nuñez

Thuy Gia Nguyen

Written by

Ambitious and inspired designer and mentor. Been working with small and huge apps since 2009 with a strong focus on UX, UI and Animation. Currently at FINN.no

FINN.no Blog – Product, Design, and Tech

Posts from the people building the world’s greatest marketplace

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