What's Old Is New Again: Modern Designs With an Eye on the Past

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Whether it’s a quirky cocktail bar, a vintage-inspired car or a throwback fashion trend, modern design tends to have one eye in the future and one in the past. Make no mistake, designers are artists who strive to push their craft in exciting, new directions. But you can’t know where you're going until you know where you’ve been. Every new design innovation is a culmination of what has come before it. The key is to know when to borrow from history and when to push away from it. With that being said, here are three forward-thinking, modern designs that definitely paid attention in history class:

The Broken Shaker

Located in the heart of the River North district in Chicago, The Broken Shaker is undoubtedly on the list for the greatest cocktail bars in the United States. The cocktail menu constantly evolves to reflect the whims of the bartenders, who prepare each drink with such a high degree of care that you almost feel bad taking a drink. That feeling quickly dissipates, though, because each cocktail is completely out of this world. Think of the bar itself as a surreal reimagining of the last tiki bar on earth. With its palm tree wall paper and tchotchke-heavy decor, The Broken Shaker embraces the tackiness of late '60s, early '70s style. This bar is the epitome of modern design: You’ve never seen anything quite like it, and yet, you feel like you’ve been there your entire life.

The Volkswagen Beetle

The original 1933 Volkswagen Beetle was designed to be a cheap car that anyone could afford. This was also true (to some extent) of the New Beetle, which was released in 1997 to widespread acclaim and even wider sales. Since then, the Beetle has maintained a steady but enthusiastic following. It remains a prime example of a truly modern car that stands firmly on the shoulders of its forebears. Taken as a whole, the 2015 model looks almost unchanged from the 1933 model. It’s not until you focus on a specific detail that the modern flourish starts to reveal itself.

Grunge Fashion

In the early '90s, grunge fashion was often characterized by (and criticized for) its lack of design. Unlike the very deliberate fashion trends of the 1980s, grunge was defined by a lack of intention. It could be composed of whatever was lying around, such as an unwashed T-shirt or one of your father’s old, plaid work shirts. Back then, grunge meant that you weren’t trying very hard, and that was cool. Now, grunge means you’re trying to look like you aren’t trying very hard. Modern fashion design takes this oxymoron into account. That oversized, red-and-black plaid work shirt has transformed into a dress, complete with belt loops so you can create contrast by way of an accessory. How’s that for intentional?

There are plenty of other examples of current fads that borrow from the past. From the revival of records and books to antique furniture in a modern house, most designs straddle the line between past and present. Some just do it more successfully than others.