Victorian Style in Graphic Design, Is It ‘Too Much’?

  • by Lois Nur Fathiarini
  • May 22, 2023
  • 3 minutes read


In the graphic design world, there are a lot of design styles that has very specific characteristic, including the well known Victorian Style. Victorian design style was developing very fast in the Great Britain when Queen Victoria reigns from 1837 to 1901. This marks a glorious era for Britain in the world, and Victorian design style not only grows in the Britain but also widespread to America and other European countries.

This particular design style was born as artists’ respond towards Industrial Revolution, which grows out from gothic architecture from the previous era. Along with the growth spurt of technology during Industrial Revolution, Victorian design style then grows in many aspects such as architecture, interior design, packaging, and other forms of design. The Victorian ‘look’ itself was deeply influenced by their nostalgia for objects from the past.

Visually, Victorian design style has a unique, complex typographic design with decorative borders, and most of its compositions are symmetrical. As the design style grows, bright colors also introduced which then also well known as Vintage design. We might notice some major characteristics that can be found in Victorian design style.

Realistic visualization

In line with the vast progress of printing technology, Victorian era designers find opportunities to reproduce images and photography, both in black and white design and in color images.

Narrative visual explanation

source: The National Archives

Paired with the ability to realistically print photographs and images, most designs are trying to explain everything in a massive way. Information can be find in every detail of a design, both on the images and texts.

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Extravagant, fully decorated pages.

source: Ali Seckin Karayol

This is very noticable for Victorian design style. Its pages are fully decorated, in borders, images and typography without leaving any negative space. This might be another result of the massive growth of printing technology in industrial revolution. Most of Victorian design style pages are full of ornaments so the design looks ‘busy’ and compact.

Decorative borders

source: Click Americana

The use of decorative border deserve another section because a bit later on its era, Victorian style tended to use less decorative borders, but still use ornate type and romantic imagery.

Complex Typography

source: All Professional English

Victorian era designers tend to mix so many typography directly and in a compact way; it seems that there’s no sensitivity about spacing and negative space on the typography. Typography through the Victorian era generally appeared in a curve or wave, and was commonly encompassed in a banner.

Meanwhile looking ‘busy’ and compact might not be everyone’s choice these days, Victorian style still influence some graphic designers and brands. After three quarters of a century later, the hand-lettered charm of this early style seemed to be just the thing needed for brands who has solid and traditional values. From barbershop, tattoo parlors, to your favorite local brew or chocolates; these kind of users might have their own sentimental for the region’s historic communities.

source: Ephemera Society of America

As conclusion, due to the massive growth of technology, the Victorian style era was a period of imitation and reproduction with many previous styles, including gothic and rococo revived, and often with more than one style influencing a single piece of design. Again, it might not suitable or appropriate for every business situation, but surely the progress of Victorian graphic design style has its infinite variations, and modern Victorian design obviously has its own charms.

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Hello! My name is Lois, I live in Jogjakarta, Indonesia. I am a tattoo artist and I also love sewing and making needleworks. I also do watercolor painting and illustrations.

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