Outrun, also known as or attributed with synthwave and retrowave, among others, is a relatively new aesthetic. It only recently came about and gained popularity in the 2010s. Outrun visuals and music evoke nostalgia, familiarity and longing of the 80s, even with people who were born long after they ended. Fast, boxy cars, neon colors and old computer graphics are staples of this aesthetics visuals. Outrun and synthwave music smooth synthesizers and basslines which help elicit those nostalgic feelings.
The name ‘Outrun’ originates from an old Sega arcade game of the same name. The game features much of what encompasses the outrun aesthetic today by featuring a Ferrari Testarossa, a favorite of the style, palm trees, and music that gives off distinctly 80s vibes.
Neon pinks and blues are the foremost used colors in this aesthetic and are contrasted with blacks. It is believed that this came about from the Color Graphics adapter developed by IBM in 1981 which could render and output high resolution images but was restricted to a 4-color palette, the default being white, black, cyan and pink. The extremely popular movie Blade Runner also utilized cyan and pinks within its world which helped cement these colors as staples of the aesthetic.
To further capture the 80s aesthetic, a grid is heavily featured within these works. In 1982, Tron released and used revolutionary computer graphics to create the iconic perspective grid for the movie. The idea of grids representing technology and futurism grew in this period and was seen in many forms of media from the hud Luke Skywalker used to blow up the death star in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope to the Uzi brochure seen below.
The music of Outrun, more commonly known as Synthwave, is known for powerful beats, pulsating basslines and synthesized melodies. Much of the early popularization of this music is credited to Kavinsky and the 2011 film Drive. More recently, tv shows such as Stranger Things have continued to further popularize the aesthetic.
I think this aesthetic will continue to grow in popularity and evolve as more people seek to lose themselves in the past rather than deal with the constant negativity of the present. I also think the colors are pretty and the music is good which helps.
- Chan, J. (2020, November 17). Outrun: The aesthetic deconstructed. Medium. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from https://medium.com/@cywjoel/outrun-the-aesthetic-deconstructed-dbd3cd8679b7
- SoundsRight. (2021, April 23). Outrun explained! (the original synthwave music genre). SoundsRight. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from https://soundsrightusa.com/outrun-music/
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