Retro-futurism incorporates two overlapping trends which may be summarized as the future as seen from the past and the past as seen from the future.
The first trend, retro-futurism proper, is directly inspired by the imagined future which existed in the minds of writers, artists, and filmmakers in the pre-1960 period who attempted to predict the future, either in serious projections of existing technology (e.g. in magazines like Science and Invention) or in science fiction novels and stories. Such futuristic visions are refurbished and updated for the present, and offer a nostalgic, counterfactual image of what the future might have been, but is not.
The second trend is the inverse of the first: futuristic retro. It starts with the retro appeal of old styles of art, clothing, mores, and then grafts modern or futuristic technologies onto it, creating a mélange of past, present, and future elements. Steampunk, a term applying both to the retrojection of futuristic technology into an alternative Victorian age, and the application of neo-Victorian styles to modern technology, is a highly successful version of this second trend.
In practice, the two trends cannot be sharply distinguished, as they mutually contribute to similar visions. Retro-futurism of the first type is inevitably influenced by the scientific, technological, and social awareness of the present, and modern retro-futuristic creations are never simply copies of their pre-1960 inspirations; rather, they are given a new (often wry or ironic) twist by being seen from a modern perspective.
In the same way, futuristic retro owes much of its flavor to early science fiction (e.g. the works of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells), and in a quest for stylistic authenticity may continue to draw on writers and artists of the desired period.
Retro is a culturally outdated or aged style, trend, mode, or fashion, from the overall postmodern past, that has since that time become functionally or superficially the norm once again. The use of “retro” style iconography and imagery interjected into post-modern art, advertising, mass media, etc. It generally implies a vintage of at least 15 or 20 years. For example clothing from the 1980s or 1990s could be retro.
The style now called “retro art” is a genre of pop art which was developed in the 1940s and 1950s in response to a need for bold, eye-catching graphics that were easy to reproduce on simple presses available at the time in major centres. Retro advertising art has experienced a resurgence in popularity since its style is distinctive from modern computer-generated styling. Contemporary artist Anne Taintor uses retro advertising art as the centerpiece for her ongoing commentary on the modern woman.
Steampunk is a genre which came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s and incorporates elements of science fiction, fantasy,alternate history, horror, and speculative fiction. It involves a setting where steam power is widely used—whether in an alternate history such asVictorian era Britain or “Wild West"-era United States, or in a post-apocalyptic time —that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy.
Much of the visualizations of Steampunk have their origins with, among others, Walt Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea], including the design of the story’s submarine the Nautilus, its interiors, and the crew’s underwater gear; and George Pal’s 1960 film The Time Machine, with the design of the time machine itself. This theme is also carried over to Disney’s theme parks in the design of The Mysterious Island section of Tokyo DisneySea theme park.
Steampunk design emphasizes a balance between the form and function. Like the Arts and Crafts Movement, this blurs the line between tool and decoration. Various modern utilitarian objects have been modified by enthusiasts into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical “steampunk” style.Example objects include computer keyboards and electric guitars. The goal of such redesigns is to employ appropriate materials (such as polished brass, iron, wood, and leather) with design elements and craftsmanship consistent with the Victorian era, rejecting the aesthetic of industrial design.