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Laser Grid is a visual design aesthetic that developed in the 80s. It is characterized by laser-like visuals on dark backgrounds, a grid motif, and airbrushed chrome effects. In architecture and interior design, right-angle shapes and a combination of black with reflective surfaces such as chrome and glass are typical. This aesthetic is the source of the 80s love of glass block walls and floor-to-ceiling mirror such as those found on closet sliding doors.

History[]

Early Vectorcore computer graphics were not meant to be recorded or transferred to film. Indeed they used special screens, nonetheless, they were used as early at 1972 to create animation. From then on and into early 80 they were commonly featured on computer screen in various movies from Star Wars to 2001: A Space Odyssay. The Grid constituted a major set design element in 1981's the Looker, bit the two movies that most imprinted it as a futuristic design on the popular psyche were 1979's Black Hole and 1982's Tron.

The laser grid's popularity was a consequence of how convenient, easy to draw it is as a shorthand for technology. This and the recent development of actual laser technlogy at the time also helps to explain its popularity amongst designers, for whom it is immediately reminiscent of gridded cutting mats. Despite the name and its sources, computers would not come to be central in graphic design until well into the 90s, and these grids continued to be drawn by hand even as they faded away into memory. The persistent use of Vectorcore visuals throughout the mid and late 80s is surprising as by then 8-Bit games had fully supplanted vector consoles.

As the Laser Grid (sometimes in a more Vectorcore-like presentation rather than a geometric grid) spread within the technosphere, it merged with the heavily airbrushed style ubiquitous in advertising at the time to create a visual that went heavy on chrome looks. The grid pattern then spread, in a limited fashion, to interior design creating a sleek, almost monochrome look that went heavy on reflective surfaces such as chrome, mirrors and glass blocks. The popularity of Art Deco revival at the time (Deco-Luxe) further contributed to reinforce chrome's popularity in interior design. As a result large mirrored surfaces became ubiquitous both inside and outside buildings, cladding the entirety of certain office buildings.

In logo design, many companies took inspiration from the striped logo of IBM, which was redesigned in 1962, causing the stripe motif to become ubiquitous in the late 70s and into the 80s: AT&T, Microsoft, Sierra Entertainment (to name a few), as well as the logos for Input and PC Magazine.

Although it was largely limited to the technosphere (and even then did not necessarily dominate the advertising language), Laser Grid visuals became a key part of Retrowave aesthetics like Synthwave and, to a lesser degree, Vaporwave. Less commonly, the grid motif also appears in Memphis Lite media.

Visuals[]

  • Grids, either in perspective or flat
  • Wireframes
  • Manually drawn Vectorcore graphics in light on dark background
  • Pinstriped logos and text
  • Glowing lines and other elements
  • Lasers
  • Heavy use of airbrush, especially to create a glowing or chromed appearance
  • Monochrome interior design leaning on glass blocks and chrome for visual variety
  • Chrome and glass combo
  • Large reflective surfaces

Media[]

See also Vectorcore, as the aesthetic is more or less directly descended from these games.

  • The Andromeda Strain (1971)
  • A Computer Animated Hand (1972)
  • Star Wars (1977)
  • The Black Hole (1979)
  • Adam Powers, The Juggler (1981)
  • Looker (1981)
  • Tron (1982)

Gallery[]

Visual design
Architecture and interior design

References[]

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